The real benefits of improved manufacturing throughput can be realized only if the equipment at the end of the line can keep up.
For many industries, palletizers are the final link between product cartoning and shipment. To maximize bottom-line results, manufacturers turn to automated palletizers that complement the efficiency of upstream systems.
Columbia Machine, a leading supplier of palletizers in North America, manufactures equipment designed to meet the diverse needs of the food and beverage, personal care, tissue towel and chemical industries.
In fact, the company boasts more than 3,500 installations and the most complete line of conventional and robotic palletizers available.
In addition to the palletizer division, Columbia Machine provides load transfer solutions and complete systems integration.
The family-owned, global company is headquartered in Vancouver, Washington. One of the company's newest machines, the HL7200 high-speed inline palletizer, is redefining the high-speed palletizing market. “We know our customers are dealing with multiple changeovers and a very fluid situation,” said Ted Yeigh, sales director, Columbia Machine. “The HL7200 is extremely flexible in terms of both case or package size and package type. It's also built for optimal performance and safety.”
The HL7200 palletizer is fed by an accumulating package conveyor and is designed to place virtually any type of package onto a pallet – from cases and shrink-wrapped bundles to unwrapped trays and milk crates. Simply put, the HL7200 palletizer automatically builds complete pallet loads for unitization or shipping. Completely programmable, the HL7200 enables seamless changeovers – facilitated directly through the operator interface.
“This is the first conventional in-line palletizer that allows the user to add a pallet pattern or modify an existing pattern simply from the operator interface,” Yeigh explained. “The system's advanced software plus the infinitely adjustable automatic lane positioners enables this flexibility.”
In fact, once programmed, the system automatically adjusts to pallet parameters associated with product SKUs by scanning barcodes as packages enter the system. The machine recognizes the new SKU, facilitates a fullor partial-load discharge based on the last case of the previous load, and begins palletizing the new product.
No operator intervention is required. The HL7200 palletizer's control system is designed around a single EtherNet/IP™ network infrastructure and based on a Rockwell Automation platform that includes an Allen-Bradley® ControlLogix® controller, Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® 525 AC drives and an Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus 6 graphic terminal.
The solution combines a tightly integrated programming environment with standard, unmodified Ethernet to streamline integration with ancillary equipment, such as barcode readers, and enable direct connectivity with plant-wide networks.
Allen-Bradley Guardmaster® safety relays help manage some of the functional safety requirements. “Safety is a key priority for Columbia Machine and the HL7200 palletizer features an industry-leading safety package that includes Category 3 electrical safety components,” Yeigh said. “Our machine incorporates a trapped key access system and meets OSHA requirements for minor servicing.”
OSHA standards allow a minor servicing exception to lockout/tagout requirements for machine maintenance that is deemed to be routine, repetitive and integral to the production process, provided certain criteria are met. To meet this criteria, the palletizer incorporates appropriate guarding and interlocking – and leverages the PowerFlex drive's Safe Torque-off capability.
Safe Torque-off removes rotational power from the motor without powering down the entire machine. This functionality helps protect personnel from hazardous energy – and also enables the machine to be restarted more quickly.
“Efficient operation is a key requirement for high-speed palletizers,” Yeigh said. “Our customers specify Overall Equipment Eff ectiveness (OEE) of 99 percent for this equipment. That equates to about four minutes of downtime in an eight-hour shift.”
The HL7200 palletizer is designed for non-stop operation and can palletize 75 to120 cases per minute, depending on pack pattern. “At Columbia Machine, we recognize no two palletizing applications are alike,” said Yeigh. “We build our equipment with standard components – which we configure to address the uniqueness of the customer's application every single time.”
Columbia Machine counts on the breadth and depth of the Rockwell Automation portfolio to help satisfy customer demands. “The extensive Rockwell Automation product line provides us with the control options we need,” Yeigh said. “And Rockwell Automation is the industry standard. It's what we know and like and what our customers know and like.”