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Next Level Palletizer Machines Are Mixing It Up

Palletizer machines have seen rapid tech advancements recently. Now smart robots can automatically handle pallets regardless of shape, size, or orientation.

Posted December 2021 Back to Resources

Next Level Palletizer Machines Are Mixing It Up

As the most efficient way for businesses to store and move items, pallets are an essential component of product transit. After all, post-production manufacturers and other enterprises need to send assembled parts to customers. At present, this usually entails an unwieldy error-prone process in which workers move the pallets manually. But palletizer robots can assist in these efforts, instead of manipulating pallets automatically.

Palletizer machines save time and money and decrease worker injuries. For example, one of the most common pallet worker complaints—lower back pain—is easily avoidable with the use of palletizer robots. Using robots cuts down on the potential for accidents in the workplace—the more they handle, the less your human force has to.

However, many palletizing machines lack intelligence capabilities, essentially just slotting boxes as programmed. Or they require an ASRS system or a large amount of sortation, which could cost millions of dollars. More rudimentary machines often face challenges such as handling different containers, selecting which container to put where, and speed and accuracy. But certain new palletizers are incorporating some of the most advanced artificial intelligence available to assist in the process of moving boxes, solving for these problems as efficiently as possible, and making robotics the way to go for your operations.

Palletizing machines vary in terms of their intelligence. 

Single-SKU versus Mixed-SKU Palletizer Machines

One can consider palletizer machines to fall in one of two camps: “single-SKU” and “mixed-SKU.”

Traditional palletizers only handle objects of the same shape and size. Each product has a unique stock-keeping unit (SKU), which serves as its identifier. Thus, these palletizing machines that handle only one product type are generally referred to as “single-SKU palletizers”.

Meanwhile, mixed-SKU palletizers conveniently combine different containers as necessary. For instance, you may have five different size boxes, each containing a different product or SKU. Whereas the single-SKU palletizer would not know what to do, the mixed-SKU machine can recognize and deduce how to handle each one individually. This approach makes for a higher total throughput: move more cases in less space and time.

The technology that powers each type of palletizer differs in some regards. Single-SKU palletizers merely move objects into predetermined locations. By contrast, mixed-SKU palletizers must intelligently determine which objects to put where, and in what orientation. This calls for more advanced software.

Some examples of industries that use mixed palletizing include third-party logistics (3PL), and businesses that sell products directly to customers. These businesses often have to handle various, often unpredictable object combinations. Mixed palletizing makes the process of sending products to where they will be used more economical, accurate, and safe.

Smart Automation Enhances Mixed Palletizing

Robotics suppliers like Vicarious now offer smart automation for palletizer machines! Savvy artificial intelligence that works like a human brain makes these palletizers far more competent. Each operates with an artificial neural network that allows it to conduct its own decision-making processes, in conjunction with the usual capacities of a palletizer.

Smart automation allows machines to handle objects regardless of their specific size or shape, or even of lighting conditions. The intelligence automatically finds how to reach and maneuver the object, using its own mental models. Machines consider the objects and available space, then work through possible arrangements to decide on the best location. This takes palletizer machines to the next level and makes the entire process far more efficient, as boxes can be stacked in mere seconds.

Smart automation allows palletizing machines to pack mixed pallets efficiently. 

Automated mixed palletization makes more effective use of available space than other methods, intelligently assessing which arrangements make the most sense. As the robots work through various units, you wind up with a well-organized collection, as if human laborers had done the job.

These machines also let you depalletize just as easily as you palletize. Taking parts off of pallets requires a somewhat different, yet comparable skill set to set them up. During the depalletization process, object recognition puts the right pieces in the right places no matter what. Automated palletizing and depalletizing helps you keep pace with the speed of production, instead of having to adjust output processes to compensate for this laborious step.

Smart robotic palletizers offer many of the same advantages as humans, but without the itinerant downsides. These machines eliminate numerous manual verification processes that slow down shipping, while also decreasing error rates. As such, you can prevent immense frustration for customers and businesses from shipping failures.

Automate Your Palletization Process With Vicarious

Palletization has resisted automation for years due to the complexity of arranging products efficiently. Placing parts on mixed-SKU pallets requires more cognitive capacity than an average robot has, and so many businesses have continued to labor inefficiently instead. However, more advanced tech solutions like Vicarious’ artificial neural network systems are now bringing innovative ideas into industrial robotics.

Smartly mixed palletization eliminates the need for humans to sort or arrange products—instead, the robots automatically detect parts and place them correctly. Both able to be programmed for specific arrangements and capable of operating independently on complex mixed palletizing needs, these advanced machines optimize your process to save your operations time. These solutions also make efficient use of warehouse space, so you can save on rent as well.

If you’re ready to enhance your palletizing while trimming costs, it’s time to consider automating. With an automatic robotic palletizing system, you can assemble the pallets you want efficiently for customers. Vicarious smart palletizers manage practically any size and weight unit, and their Robots as a Service (RaaS) business model allows you to scale operations without expensive upfront investments or risk. Reach out to Vicarious and get started now!