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An end to bottlenecks

08 December 2017

An automated pallet conveying system designed and installed by Gebhardt-ECS for one of Europe’s biggest paint manufacturers is enabling up to 100 loads an hour to be delivered directly from production to specific storage areas in a separate warehouse without intermediate handling.

The layout of the site, with a service road separating production from warehousing, had presented major logistical problems in the past, and pallets had to be handled several times before being put away in the warehouse.  With over 50 pallet-loads of paint an hour being manufactured currently and expansion planned in the future, the company decided to automate the transfer from production area to warehouse.  

Following careful investigation of various alternatives, the contract for this project was awarded to Gebhardt-ECS, whose System 500 pallet handling system had already been installed successfully at many locations in the UK and elsewhere throughout the world.  The ability of the company to act as principal contractor to manage this complex project, including the design and construction of a covered bridge over the service road, was also important.

Instead of being loaded by lift truck on to a trailer and then driven to the warehousing for off-loading and put-away, pallets are now carried from production to one of five specified storage areas within the warehouse without further handling until they reach their take-off points.  The system allows for three types of pallet and a variety of load configurations with a maximum weight of 1500kg per pallet.
A shuttle car on rails with integral powered conveyors links three spurs in the production area to the start of the new conveyor system, where each pallet is shrink-wrapped by a specialised machine and then labelled with a unique bar-code denoting its storage destination.   From here the pallets pass into an elevator, across a covered bridge spanning a site access road and into a lowerator that delivers them to the storage warehouse.  Bar-code readers at this point and various other decision points on the system direct the pallets to one of five areas in the warehouse, where conveyor spurs allow them to be taken off by lift trucks.

The elevator and lowerator travel at up to 0.5 metres/sec and are able to carry two pallets at a time, enabling them to handle up to 98 units an hour.  As a key element of the whole materials handling system at the site, they are designed and built to a high specification and fully integrated into the system to ensure long-term reliable performance with minimal maintenance.  

Extensive use of zero line pressure accumulation in the system allows over 250 pallets to be held on the conveyors, excluding turntables and powered roller modules.  As well as ensuring that loads do not touch during transit, the Gebhardt-ECS accumulation system typically requires only a single 0.55kw motor for 20 metres of conveyor, keeping power consumption to a minimum.  The design is purely mechanical without complicated controls or compressed air.

In order to provide a logical system with safe, convenient control, Gebhardt-ECS created a detailed functional design specification with the customer that incorporated all HMI, control and software requirements.  Installation and programming of the control system was undertaken by a specialist controls manager, who was also on hand throughout the commissioning period.