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A puck reject, return and store system, designed and manufactured by Autarky Automation, is helping Unilever increase productivity and reduce maintenance costs.

Installed at Unilever’s Home and Personal Care factory in Leeds, the puck reject, return and store system, based on Schuco modular conveyor components, forms part of an integrated high-speed filling, capping and labelling line used for a range of roll-on deodorants.

The roll-on deodorants include brand names such as Dove, Sure, Impulse and Lynx and use Unilever’s design of inverted container, where the pack stands upright on the cap.

This keeps the liquid deodorant permanently in contact with the roller dispensing ball and ensures that the product is always ready for use.

The production process starts with empty containers being automatically placed in specially-designed pucks in which they remain during the filling, capping and labelling operations.

At the end of the line, containers are de-pucked and then packed prior to shipping.

Empty pucks from quality control points along the line and from the end of the process are automatically returned to the initial pack orientation unit using the Autarky Automation system.

In addition, during product and puck change-overs they are diverted to Autarky Automation’s custom-built puck washing, drying and storage facility; this incorporates a stainless-steel tank, high-pressure cold wash and cold air blower, with storage for up to 900 cleaned pucks.

Chris Fletcher, project engineer for Unilever, said: ‘We operate three roll-on lines, of which the first was built specifically for the new design of pack and two were subsequently converted from handling earlier versions of the same products.

‘In each case, we have worked closely with design and mechanical engineers from Autarky Automation to develop dedicated systems that meet the demands of our products and, just as importantly, enable us to minimise our maintenance and operating costs.’ The solution developed by Autarky Automation uses standard conveying and handling modules from the industrial automation division of Schuco Design, including separate lift and alpine units that raise pucks to the washing and storage areas located above each production line.

These standard modules are then combined with a range of customised components to create an integrated system with a number of features.

For example, each of the 26 motor-drive units on the three lines uses a lubrication-free belt and clutch arrangement, rather than traditional chains and sprockets.

The arrangement is quieter and smoother, even at faster speeds, and requires only occasional maintenance.

It as also fitted with clear inspection windows so that the condition of the unit can easily be checked at any time.

Similarly, the problems of trap points that are associated with conventional conveyor-to-conveyor transfers have been eliminated through the simple expedient of using two Schuco conveyors with a 15-degree offset.

This enables pucks to be transferred smoothly, while making the conveyor line safer for operators.

Autarky Automation

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