A pedantic clean-up in the food industry
European manufacturers of food work in accordance with an impressive hygiene scheme. Protective overalls, shoe protection, and hair and beard nets are compulsory items for everyone who enters the clinically clean production areas. One distinct trend is an effort to keep cardboard boxes and wood pallets outside of zones that have extra requirements for cleanliness and hygiene. That’s where we enter the story – wearing our protective outfits, of course!
Dirty things must not come in contact with food, of course. But food needs to get from a clean production area to the stores through the dirty outside world. For this purpose, products are packed into cardboard boxes and put on pallets. It’s a procedure that includes two hygiene challenges. Firstly, the boxes tend to shed small pieces of cardboard or dust when they’re being handled, whether by robots or humans. Secondly, pallets come in on trucks that can’t possibly be as clean as one would wish for.
“Automation nerds like us always believe we can make things even smarter.”
For everything that’s not clean
At Rosti GP we solved both problems with an innovative automated solution. By creating an intelligent system of conveyor belts, we managed to tie the flow of packages from 15 production units directly to packing and palletizing robots in an adjacent hall. That way cardboard boxes and wooden pallets were separated from areas where absolute cleanliness is required.
Another good thing is that truck transport was minimized. That meant machines could stand closer to each other, utilizing available floor space much more efficiently. When palletizing was concentrated to the same separate area, all the other steps in the process, like the handling of insert sheets and bar reading of pallets, also went more smoothly for the operators.
Private consumers can relax
Actually, nobody needs to worry about hygiene in the European food industry. The production environment is always extremely clean. Still, logistics and efficiency can always get better. Automation nerds like us always believe we can make things even smarter. Rosti GP’s next move will be the introduction of self-driving trucks (AGV:s). The new areas for palletizing are already prepared for that optimization. And we’re happy to step into our protection outfits once again.