Production ‘rising’ sharply thanks to robotic solution

A robotic palletising solution from Endoline is said to be delivering ‘significant productivity gains’ for Carr’s Flour Mills.

With consumer demand for flour rising during the Covid-19 pandemic, Carr has more than doubled its production for one supermarket chain from 120 to 250 tonnes per week. 

Installing an Endoline Robotics’ palletising system, powered by a Fanuc M710 robot, has enabled the flour miller to manage an output of 167,000 bags of flour per week.

Carr’s supplies major retailers across the country, along with local Cumbrian stores close to its flagship site, Silloth Mill. 

Pre-pandemic, Silloth Mill was packing 1.5kg bags of self-raising and plain flour for a supermarket chain. However, at the start of March 2020, Carr’s increased output by 50% . 

Doubling its manual packing staff from eight to 16 to manage the rise in output, Carr’s pushed forward with plans to automate the process. Having met Endoline Robotics at the 2019 PPMA Show, Carr’s had placed the order for the palletising robot. 

“We had always planned to automate the line. However, faced with the unprecedented rise in demand we employed a further eight manual workers on a short-term basis, until Endoline were able to quickly install the robot,” said Ben Clark, operations director for Carr’s.  

Implementing shift patterns to man the production line, the M710 palletising robot was needed to keep the operation running 24/7 without the additional staff, while increasing the quality of the stacked pallet. 

The M710 features a robotic arm with a specifically engineered, smart, self-cleaning vacuum gripper. Manoeuvring ten 1.5kg flour bags from the bag packer at once, the robot gently collates them into the required palletising pattern. At a speed of 74 bags per minute, the system palletises the flour to produce neat small pallets, placing interlayers for increased stability. 

The robot boasts an infeed product collation system with two separate safety zones and two palletising positions for continuous operation. This is said to eliminate frequent start-stopping of the upstream bag filling equipment. Once the first pallet is filled with the required amount the robot continues palletising onto the second pallet, and an operator replaces the first one, taking the filled pallet for stretch-wrapping. 

The pallets are then delivered to the retailer and placed on the floor for customers to pick products directly from the pallet.

Ben added, “We were constrained by the manual process. Endoline’s robotic solution has enabled us to redeploy the original eight workers to other, more skilled areas of the business.”