The customer was looking for a solution for their current bread loaf line; the feeding and distribution system were not efficient and produced a lot of waste. The line was capable of 20,000 loafs/hr, but actual output was only 7,000 loafs/hr.
The core issue was the feeding and distribution of the bread after it had left the oven. The software was dated, and with a convoluted distribution layout it led to the belts frequently jamming. With no support from the previous OEM, it all needed to be replaced and redesigned.
Another area for consideration was the format the bread was sorted, as they were arranged into single files. The problem with this arrangement was that the belts were moving too quickly, it created problems when the bread was being picked, as the current setup was not quick enough to match the belt speed.
This created many miss-picks, resulting in the unpicked bread going onto a buffer belt. Unfortunately, the buffer system was not capable of handling the amount passing through it, resulting in further problems including a lot of waste and downtime.
Removing all the conveyors and redesigning the layout was the most practical and efficient way to proceed. Part of the design was to move from single file sorting, to having multiple rows of loafs on the belt. With this method we were able to reduce the belt speed but increase throughput. The reduced belt speed helped the robots pick consistently and reduce missed picks.
Redesigning the layout allowed for the robots and belts to be set up so the 6-Axis robots can pick from 2 different sides. On one side there is the feeding belt and on the other is the buffer line, this made the flow of bread through the line more seamless.
For the buffer system we worked alongside a company that specialises them to incorporate a 3m high spiral buffer to increase the capacity and minimise waste. Collaboration between AMP Automation and other companies is commonplace when building complete solutions. Some customers will prefer to have one company that can project manage the whole cycle; we can be the one point of contact for the customer and source and integrate machines/systems that we may not be able to offer.
Delivering the bread loafs on slower belts but increasing the pick rate and being able to handle different sizes and formations, meant we had to look at the design of the picker heads a lot more closely. Increasing the amount picked whilst not damaging the bread was a challenge we overcame with some clever designs.