Robotic Case Depalletizing System

Project summary

MWES provided a comprehensive robotic depalletizing system for Widmer Brothers Brewing that would unload cases of empty bottles as part of the bottling process.

The Challenge

This firm’s initial case depalletizer was a semi-automatic system that required manual labor to hand-move cases of glass bottles. Moreover, being a manual operation created safety and health problems for workers from repetitive motion and constant twisting. Lastly, the incoming pallet loads were being delivered at half-height, when full height was desired because of vertical space limitations at the firm’s facility.

The Solution

MWES provided this firm with a fully automated robotic depalletizing system that included a robot with a vacuum end-of-arm tool (EOAT), an infeed pallet conveyor, an empty pallet outfeed conveyor with pallet upstacker, and a case conveyor where the cases are dispensed and aligned. The robot picks an entire layer of cases from the incoming pallet and places them on the dispensing conveyor. Singular cases on the dispensing conveyor are vision inspected to ensure their positioning is correct as they move to the next stage. Once the pallet is empty, the empty pallet indexes over to an outfeed conveyor where pallets accumulate in a pallet stacker before being conveyed out of the system.

The operator loads full pallets of cases onto the infeed conveyor from a forklift and selects the case type being processed via the system controls. Once a pallet arrives at the pick zone the robot proceeds to pick cases off the pallet one layer at a time. The layers of cases are placed on the case conveyor. As the cases transfer on the conveyor the conveyor’s vision system ensures that they are oriented so that the cases form a single file line with the short side leading. The singulated cases advance to a 180-degree-turn belt conveyor and onto an incline conveyor for further bottling.

Once the pallet is empty, it cross-transfers to the outfeed conveyor where there is the empty pallet upstacker. The upstacker stacks the pallets up to pieces 15 high. After that, the operator removes the full stacks from the outfeed conveyor with a forklift.

Impact to the Customer

The bottle depalletizing system provided our customer with a pallet destacking time of 3.5 to 4 layers per minute, which translates to a 20% increase in production. Additionally, the robotic system helped with the elimination of safety problems of back strains and joint damage to the workers, along with allowing for full-height pallets to be processed.

Midwest Engineered Systems has a wide range of experience in building robot palletizing and depalletizing automation. If you’re looking to improve your material handling throughput, we have the knowledge and experience to make the project a success.

Contact us to learn about how Midwest Engineered Systems can automate even your most complex and challenging operations today!

“We are very pleased with the integration by Midwest Engineered Systems using the KUKA robot. They provided a solution that was rejected by two other equipment manufacturers because of the difficulty of fitting the system into an extremely limited space. I would certainly use both MWES and KUKA robots in any future packaging automation products."

About Widmer Brother Brewing

Widmer Brothers Brewing Logo

Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) is an independent, publicly-traded craft brewing company that was formed with the merger of leading Pacific Northwest craft brewers – Widmer Brothers Brewing and Redhook Ale Brewery – in 2008. With an eye toward preserving one-of-a-kind beers and brands by allowing them to shine and grow, CBA was joined by Kona Brewing Company in 2010. When Kurt & Rob Widmer founded Widmer Brothers Brewing in 1984, they didn’t confine their brewing exploration to strict style guidelines. To this day, Widmer Brothers continue to create craft beers with a unique and unconventional twist on traditional styles that are award-winning and please a wide range of craft beer lovers. 

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