Updates and announcements from the manufacturing arena

Powerful packing
Morrisons fresh produce depot in Rushden, Northamptonshire has installed two automated Brillopak crate loading potato cells, UniPaker, taking productivity and efficiency to a whole new level. Capable of orientating packs quicker than any human being, the robot arms “never miss a beat,” according to site manager Andy Day.

Believed to be Europe’s first single pick potato packing cell, the UniPaker robotic pick and place cell was engineered by Brillopak in collaboration with the Rushden team. At speeds of at least 75 packs per minute for each cell, the two UniPaker systems cradle bags of potatoes, each weighing from 0.5kg up to 2.5kg, loading one at a time into crates, following multiple sets of presentation formats. The installation, which forms part of a warehouse-wide efficiency improvement investment, has resulted in a 90 per cent reduction of labour.

Both UniPaker case loading cells house two high-payload Omron Delta robots. Working simultaneously alongside each other, the robotic spider arms deftly loads potato packs individually into crates in set patterns at the programmed orientation. The robots do this with a degree of dexterity and rotation that would not be feasible with a layer-based automated handling system.

Clean, empty crates are fed automatically into both cells at a constant pace by two Brillopak Crate DeStaker systems. Once filled, the crates are stacked and palletised by an end-of-line robotic system.

Absolut solution
Siemens Digital Industries Software is now collaborating with The Absolut Company regarding Siemens Opcenter™ Execution software, part of the Siemens Digital Enterprise Suite, Manufacturing Execution System (MES) solution. The company will conduct a pilot of Siemens Opcenter Execution Process (formerly known as SIMATIC IT® Unified Architecture Process Industries) in one of its three factories in Åhus as the first step of an enterprise-wide roll-out across the three factories which produce spirits for global distribution.

“The Absolut Company always strives to have best in class manufacturing where Industry 4.0 will be a key enabler to deliver on future consumer demands. We are happy to have Siemens Digital Industries Software as a key partner on this journey,” said Anna Schreil, VP Operations at The Absolut Company.

Siemens Opcenter Execution is part of Siemens’ offering for the consumer-packaged goods and food and beverage industries. The solution has been developed to cover the entire value chain, from reception of incoming material to distribution of produced goods, including quality control, product planning and scheduling as well as reporting, trends and advanced analysis. Siemens Opcenter Execution Process can help The Absolut Company to increase traceability, to manage orders more efficiently and to monitor production in real time.

Hot investment
As part of the total £6m investment plan for expansion of its Bridgnorth Series facility, automotive casting specialist Grainger & Worrall has installed two new, partially automated melting towers at a cost of £1.5m. The investment provides a significant increase in efficiency, and reduction in process time and energy consumption. Further enhancing the company’s capability and capacity, the melters can now process two tonnes of dual alloy ingot types per hour simultaneously, up from 800kg. As well as offering distinct health and safety benefits for operators, the semi-automated process is fully traceable, providing precise control of timings and temperature to help optimise the melting process.

“Installation of the two melting towers, which was a huge undertaking that required the facility’s roof to be raised by two metres, negates the downsides traditionally associated with batch processes: the peaks and troughs of process flow and the requirement to sustain furnace heat even when not in use, leading to production inefficiencies and a high level of waste energy,” says Andrew Hough, Grainger & Worrall facilities director. “Melting tower design enables the pre-heating of the next batch of alloy ingots using the waste heat from the furnace below. Ingots can be pre-heated to 400oC, providing a vital process head start before melting occurs at 750oC at furnace level. Two different types of alloy ingots can be utilised, which is a key benefit for the current automotive industry, where different alloys are frequently used depending on final application: engine block or head, for example. The running of two melters enables us to offer increased production flexibility, which provides a further time advantage for our vehicle manufacturer customers.”

Pioneering project
Nissan Motor Ibérica is coming close to finishing the testing phase of a pioneering exoskeleton project before integration into production lines at Barcelona’s Zona Franca plant. The external exoskeleton devices help reduce the stresses normally placed on the muscles of line workers by up to 60 per cent, lowering the risk of work-related injuries and enhancing overall wellbeing.

The Catalan Automotive Industry Cluster (CIAC) is sponsoring the project to introduce exoskeletons into the automotive industry, with the Eurecat Technology Centre and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) also taking part.

Nissan Spain has facilitated the extensive testing of the exoskeletons in a real production setting, trialling five different models that support the legs, shoulders and back since the start of 2018. Feedback from the 14 participating employees helped Nissan identify the two models offering the lowest weight, highest level of and best performance.

These two models, further tested between May and July 2019, provide optimum shoulder support for workers performing overhead tasks during a significant percentage of their shift. Made of light alloy materials, the futuristic devices weigh between 1.5 and three kilograms.

Look in the lab
In a surprise move, Maserati is opening the doors to an exclusive and usually off-limits location: the Maserati Innovation Lab. The Brand’s engineering hub, inaugurated in September 2015 and located on via Emilia Ovest in Modena, is for the first time sharing with the outside world its fundamental role as the Brand’s beating pulse, driving research technology, development and planning.

The Maserati Innovation Lab is a state-of-the-art facility where the cars of today and tomorrow are developed. Here, the digital processes support the product development, applying the exclusive Maserati formula which, by means of an integrated approach, prioritises the human factor right from the initial phases. Concern with customer needs has been scrupulously incorporated into the virtual simulation process thanks to an exclusive mix of hardware and software.

The digital processes supporting product development take place in three major areas: the Static Simulator, the latest generation Dynamic Simulator featuring DiM (Driver-in-Motion) technology and the ‘User eXperience’ development labs.

News in brief
Gold award
OnRobot’s One System Solution has been awarded the gold medal in the Industrial Automation category of the LEAP awards. The software was recognised for making robotic applications faster and easier to implement by seamlessly integrating any OnRobot product with a wide range of leading collaborative and light industrial robot brands.

CEO of OnRobot, Enrico Krog Iversen, sees OnRobot winning the prestigious Gold award as recognition from an industry ready to embrace solutions that break down barriers to automation. “With the One System Solution, we have created a single robotic system that speeds up deployment, making it easy, fast and cost-effective for manufacturers to build collaborative applications.”

Relocation aanouncement
Fast-growing industrial automation specialist Sewtec has revealed it will relocate to a 75,000 sq ft facility in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, as the business continues to implement its transformation strategy. Sewtec has signed a 15-year agreement to lease an existing building in Silkwood Park near junction 40 of M1, which is more than double the size of its current premises in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. A multi-million pound investment will see Sewtec create a state-of-the-art design and manufacturing facility. Expected to be operational by March 2020, all 130 employees will relocate and the business estimates that more than 70 new jobs will be created at the site in the next three years.

Benefits access
Nearly half (45 per cent) of manufacturing workers say they miss out on workplace benefits, according to research by Benni, the innovative employee-paid workplace benefits solution. Kyle Addy, Voluntary Benefits Director at Benni, commented that access to the right benefits can have a very positive impact on morale and foster loyalty in a fluid jobs market. “Our research suggests that not only is building the right benefits package across all industries key to retaining talented employees, but that workers also want access to health and protection benefits, whatever the sector.”