A meat product producer invested in a robotic packaging system to palletize 40 lb. cases. While visiting the plant, a Brenton sales person noticed that the vacuum tool on the system was consistently dropping the cases. The operations manager mentioned that the problem was chronic and had started within the past couple months. Unfortunately, the business that originally installed the robot was now out of business, so the plant did not have any service support to troubleshoot the robotic system.

The robot was being blamed for dropping the cases, but because the vacuum was functioning properly on the EOAT, the Brenton salesperson suspected that it was not the robot’s fault. To get to the bottom of the problem, Brenton arranged for a service technician to make a complimentary visit to assess the plant’s palletizing issue.

The technician inspected the robot as well as the tool. Both passed an examination. Brenton then changed the focus to the corrugated. Upon asking the plant if they had recently changed their corrugated, the plant said they had not.

The robot and EOAT were reviewed again, but still no issues were detected. The plant then approached their corrugated supplier. They questioned whether or not the composition of the corrugated they typically order had been altered. The supplier said it had not; They had no reason to believe that anything had changed.

Still suspecting that the corrugated case was the culprit, Brenton was able to obtain an old piece of corrugated from an employee’s office and compared it to a new case. A vacuum case test was performed onsite at the plant and proved that the new case was different. It was more porous due to decreased clay content and increased recycled material in the board. With this knowledge in hand, the plant once again approached their supplier, who in turn questioned their supplier. As it turned out, the original supplier (source of the corrugated) said that they indeed modified the material.

The robot was cleared off all wrongdoing. To help the plant get by until the suppliers were able to deliver new, corrected corrugated, Brenton made some modifications to the EOAT. It allowed the tool to run at a lesser rate in order to use up the porous corrugated in stock.

Look for Part 2, Get a Grip!, of Don’t Blame the Robot Series next month. The case study details a packaging plant that had difficulty determining a 6-month long problem of the robot dropping cases.

An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject and how to avoid them.
– WERNER HEISENBERG, Physics and Beyond