Thursday, August 30, 2012

Accumulation: The Key to Keeping the Line Running Efficiently.

As newer faster material handling equipment is being developed and deployed in manufacturing plants throughout the world, the problems of optimizing the production line still lies in the hands of its accumulation areas.  Accurate efficiency of the entire system is measured by the product output at the end of the line.  Accumulation is the key component to ensure that the system can in fact remain viable.

Accumulation areas are integrated into high speed production systems to ensure that bottlenecks of a given system are able to run regardless of temporary disruptions in supply or demand of its product.  To ensure a bottleneck always has a continuous supply to pull from, products are stored or backlogged.  This type of accumulation is referred to as “normally full”.  Downstream of this operation there must be a capacity to store products in the event the next operation were to temporarily stop.  This type of accumulation is referred to as “normally empty”.    

Knowing where these bottlenecks exist will determine where accumulation is needed and what its capacity should be.   The true bottleneck of a production line could be it slowest process or a place that has frequent starts and stops.  Once this operation(s) are identified, the next step is to analyze the processes which are both up and downstream of it.  The key factors being the frequency and duration of stoppages for the up and downstream processes.  This information is required to determine the capacity and type of accumulation that is to be employed.

Nautilus Dynamic Accumulator From Arrowhead Systems
Nautilus Dynamic Accumulator
Once the placement and capacity of accumulation has been determined, the products being handled must be considered in order to select the correct accumulation technology.  There are two main types of accumulation, inline accumulation and off line accumulation.  Inline accumulation is typically performed on a trunk line conveyor and allows products to be stored and consumed in a first in first out (FIFO) manner.  Offline accumulation stores products on an auxiliary piece of equipment which is integrated with the main trunk line.  Offline accumulators can be configured to run in FIFO or last in last out (LIFO) fashion.  Products that require batch lot tracking or specific timing within their packaging process are candidates for FIFO accumulation.

The most traditional form of LIFO accumulation is a bidirectional table.  A bidirectional table is best suited for handling round products.  It also offers the highest density of round products and therefore is the best value per square foot of floor space.  When handling non-round products a multi-zone flow through table is a better fit.  This style of table can also effectively handle round products.  A flow through table is considered to be a virtual FIFO accumulation. 

Arrowhead Systems offers a vast array of accumulating technologies and methods of operation.  Our offering covers the entire spectrum of very simple to complex mechanical and electrical systems tailored to your needs.  We pride ourselves in paying close attention to the factors mentioned above in the selection and integration process.  This ensures our customers are getting the most value per dollar spent and square foot allocated to accumulation of their products.

Example of a FIFO Accumulation Table
FIFO Accumulation Table

Example of a FILO Accumulation Table
FILO Accumulation Table

Example of the Nautilus Dynamic FIFO Accumulator
Nautilus FIFO Dynamic Accumulation
Example of a FILO Accumulation Table
FILO Accumulation Table

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pail Palletizing

5 Gallon Bucket

We have all seen the pallets of 5 gallon buckets lining the aisles of our favorite home center whether it is for paint, drywall pre-mixed joint compound or blacktop sealant, they are all available to the consumer for easy one stop shopping.  When you decide to pick up one of these full buckets of paint, you realize that it is really much heavier than you anticipated as you struggle to get it into your cart.  Now start to think about how these buckets get onto those pallets.  It usually involves a work force stacking pails onto a pallet at a slow painstaking speed.

In the paint manufacturing industry, those companies recognize the most difficult and time consuming part of the packaging process originates from hand palletizing of these 5 gallon pails.  This bottle neck in packaging slows down production rates and costs companies money as employee injuries increase due to the repetitive motion and heavy lifting.  The need for higher production rates and the constant increasing medical insurance premiums, have all lead companies to rethink the way they palletize their product lines.

Pro-Pal Pail Palletizer
Pro-Pal ® Pail Palletizer
Many paint manufacturing companies have started using pail palletizers to assist in their production needs.  Our Pro-Pal® Pail Palletizing machines are modular in construction.  They operate as stand-alone machines or can be placed in an existing system to include automatic pallet dispensing, top sheet or top cap placement, and full pallet accumulation.  Due to their modular design, these units can be configured to suit almost any floor layout.  The Pro-Pal® Pail is easily customizable to join existing lines and its heavy duty construction will meet the most demanding production schedule.

The Pro-Pal® Pail Low Level Palletizer offers many features which make it both versatile and dependable. By low level, we mean that the pallet remains at floor level, in front of the machine throughout the loading process.  Low noise and smooth operation, accident preventative guarding, and remarkable ease of maintenance are just a few of the many benefits of this system.

The system works by having pails being fed into the machine by conveyor and diverted into lanes.  Each pail is automatically positioned for label orientation assuring that the labels will always face out at both ends of the pallet.  Pails travel downstream and are nested into a pattern for pick-up.

Mechanical gripper heads are used to grip the individual pails.  Different quick change gripper heads and storage fixtures can be utilized to grab a variety of different product sizes.  The mechanical gripper heads are used for heavier 5 gallon pails, while vacuum gripper heads are used for smaller packages like 2 gallon pails.
The Pro-Pal Pail Palletizer accepts a wide range of pallet sizes allowing product layers to be stacked in nested patterns to solider patterns or whatever configuration you may require.  The pails are lifted and moved to the far side of the pallet, where they are gently lowered by a frequency driven gear motor.  Servo driven motors are also available that will increase speed and accuracy of the palletizer. The cycle repeats itself, placing additional pails on the near side of the pallet and is continued until the required number of layers has been completed. 

Pro-Pal Pail Palletizer utilizing a robotic arm
Pro-Pal ® Pail Palletizer
Utilizing a Robotic Arm
The completed pallet is then transported to the pallet conveyor where it is either removed by a fork lift truck operator, or continues to an automatic stretch wrapper.  An empty pallet is automatically dispensed by the pallet magazine and is held by pallet stops in the load position to accept new layers of pails.  Under normal operating conditions, the Pro-Pal® Pail series palletizers operate on demand and require only casual operator attention.

The Pro-Pal® Pail Palletizer is a versatile machine that can be easily customizable to your production needs.  This palletizer can be integrated into a robotic arm system for greater precision and higher production rates.
As manufacturers continue to make efforts to streamline their packaging process, and as employee safety and tight time constraints shape productivity, the Pro-Pal® Pail Palletizer offers several time and cost saving benefits.

To learn more about the Pro-Pal® Pail Palletizer visit our website at

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Arrowhead Systems Inc. at Pack Expo 2012

Arrowhead Systems will be participating in the Amazing Packaging Race at the 2012 Pack Expo held at the McCormick Place October 28-31 in Chicago, Illinois.  Come down and visit us we are in booth (N-3332) and check out our latest innovations, we would love to meet our customers in person. We also will have a full-sized bison head on display!