Warehouses are increasingly concerned about the automation of processes involved in the picking and packing of products for the fulfillment of e-commerce orders.
Palletizing is still a highly manual activity in many warehouses, even with the availability of automated palletizing solutions.
Automated palletizing solutions are currently available as conventional and robotic palletizers. These are the basic options for improving the efficiency and flexibility of palletizing.
Emerging trends related to the flexibility and efficiency of palletizing that are pushing the boundaries are highlighted below.
The incorporation of software into palletizers improves efficiency. Experts have identified that the application of technologies such as AI and WES/WCS is important for improving flexibility.
Many palletizer vendors already equip solutions with WES/WCS capabilities. Conventional palletizers apply WES/WCS. Technologies applicable to robotic palletizers now and in the future include artificial intelligence, vision technology, and machine learning.
The integration of technologies in automated palletizers is aimed at both security and improved efficiency.
Technologies make robotic arms more adaptable. The user-friendliness of palletizers is also improved with software integration.
Industry leaders are exploring the integration of more technologies to improve the efficiency, security, and adaptability of palletizers. Warehouses are seeking solutions with improved software integration too.
The flexible robotics trend is based on the limitation of conventional palletizers. Conventional palletizers are suited to single-line infeed environments with low SKUs. On the other hand, robotic palletizers are suited for enhanced flexibility. They take up small spaces too.
For conventional palletizers to deliver the same efficiency as their robotic counterparts, they cost a lot more and require much more space.
A multi-line palletizer, for example, can be coupled close to production lines and designed to require fewer conveyors and minimal floor space as well as operating costs and capital.
The efficient integration of other automated solutions is a developing trend in the industry. These solutions are not limited to conveyors but could also include available and future solutions such as automated stretch wrappers, AS/AR or shuttle systems for storing and retrieving cases and pallets, and automated mobile robots.
More warehouses are seeking the easy and efficient integration of solutions in palletizers. They are requiring that vendors build solutions with interfaces that allow different systems to work together seamlessly. This has become the trend with environments with integrated end-of-line solutions
Semi-automation is a developing trend geared towards improving the efficiency of picking and packing. Semi-automated solutions improve the speed of operations and can be upgraded into fully automated solutions, a feature that could drive the appeal.
With semi-automated solutions, warehouse staff gets to work in an ergonomic environment. Features of these semi-automated palletizing solutions also include visual instruction for operations on how to build pallets.
Industry experts acknowledge that semi-automation is a possible route for warehouses to explore in line with the emerging trend.
Trends regarding the flexibility of palletizers indicate the existing gaps and the need to fill these gaps and push existing boundaries to achieve highly flexible palletizing.