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Cadbury’s Sheffield factory is benefiting from faster, more accurate palletising following the implementation of a GBP1.2m palletising system by CKF Systems, an ABB strategic industrial partner.

The system includes three ABB IRB 660 robots, all controlled by ABB’s Pickmaster 5 palletising programme.

It incorporates three independent robot-palletising cells, each comprised of an ABB IRB 660 robot complete with a vacuum gripper.

The system handles up to 22 cases per minute and incorporates a pallet-handling system including pallet dispensers and high-speed stretch wrappers.

Each robot station offers multiple line feeds that collect products from three separate conveyors.

The robots also have the ability to handle three separate pallet sizes.

The ABB 660 robots are capable of handling up to 250kg each, resulting in a multiple box pick-up to reduce cycle times and maximise throughput.

The four-axis design comes with a reach of 3.15m and is suitable for palletising bags, boxes, crates and bottles.

The Pickmaster 5 palletising software also contains all the features necessary to create a palletising application that offers flexibility for the shop floor, according to ABB.

The software is designed to enable the complete project to be configured offline using a graphical user interface, without the need for extensive programming and enabling changes in production.

Ian Schofield, product manager for ABB’s robotics business, said: ‘The IRB 660 robot offers Cadbury fast, flexible palletising capabilities that can handle multiple product lines in different pallet formats with ease.

‘The robots give Cadbury a versatile handling system that can be easily re-programmed to meet the needs of just about every palletising application,’ he added.

Cadbury’s new system was commissioned and installed over a 12-week period losing only 12 hours of production time.

Since being installed, the department has experienced a 22-week period of high levels of productivity and service levels of more than 99.5 per cent.

The robot system also helps to reduce Cadbury’s carbon footprint by increasing the pallet stacking height to 1.7m, resulting in more products stacked on one pallet.

Adding more products to a pallet means that a greater volume of stock can be delivered using fewer vehicles and warehouse space is better utilised.

Michelle Fitton, manufacturing manager for Cadbury’s gums and liquorice division, said: ‘It has made us more cost effective, has further improved our high standards of safety and is enabling the team to work more collaboratively than ever before, not to forget playing our part in improving the environment by reducing the number of vehicles delivering our products each year.’ Kevin Staines, sales director for CKF Systems, said: ‘The new robot-palletising system offers Cadbury the ability to process more products than before, while providing the company with a more efficient palletising system complete with the latest technology from CKF and ABB.

‘The system provides Cadbury with a multi-platform conveyor and palletising system, which has vastly improved productivity at the plant,’ he added.

Gloucester-based CKF provides conveyors and automated conveyor systems specifically designed for the food and pharmaceuticals industries.

Its systems range from stainless-steel conveyor belts to fully integrated turnkey operations, complete with the latest robotic technology.

ABB is a leading supplier of industrial robots, modular manufacturing systems and service. A strong solutions focus helps manufacturers improve productivity, product quality and worker safety. ABB has installed more than 190,000 robots worldwide.

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