Automated packing cell boosts efficiency and cuts costs

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European Conveyor Systems has completed a compact, cost-effective packing cell with a high degree of automation that minimises manual handling and staffing levels at Vauxhall Motors' aftersales warehouse in Bedfordshire.

Vauxhall previously used an external subcontractor to pack and deliver 100,000 sets of brake discs and pads a year to dealers and distributors throughout the UK.  The new installation, which cost a similar amount to the annual contract, allows the packing to be carried out in-house by two operatives and is capable of dealing with considerably higher throughput if required in future.

Cartons are erected, labelled and strapped automatically and are carried by the conveyor from start to finish in a horse-shoe-shaped layout that gives good access for fork lift trucks.  Staff only have to handle empty cartons unaided, as packed cartons are handled with a vacuum lifter.

Once assembled, each carton is carried to the packing position where the operator takes the required quantity and type of pads and discs from a bulk consignment on a height-adjustable platform beside them.  Once a brake kit is complete, the conveyor carries the carton to an automatic labelling machine where the appropriate bar-coded label is applied.  The carton is then strapped and conveyed to the despatch point where an operator uses a vacuum lifter to put it in a stillage for onward delivery.

The conveyor has extruded aluminium side frames with an integral rail that allows photo-electric and other signalling devices to be fitted at any position without drilling, which has provided flexible installation and easy modification in future.  The use of zero-pressure accumulation conveyors with motorised rollers has increased the adaptability of the system, as well as accurate controllability.

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