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Single shift robot installation gets Greencore automated with zero downtime

16 May 2011

Greencore Prepared Meals, Warrington, has successfully implemented its first automated packaging line for its high output lasagne products without any disruption to production. The end of line system comprising two Kawasaki FD50 robots, conveyors and guarding was delivered, installed and made available for commissioning during a single weekly hygiene shift.

Other than checkweighers and metal detectors, Greencore’s production before the robot palletisers was very labour intensive.  Ongoing implementation of LEAN principles led to several process improvements that cleared the way to make automation justifiable.

Previous experiences of equipment supply and implementation led Greencore to adopt a very ‘hands on’ approach choosing to project manage several suppliers including Kawasaki Robotics and conveyor business First Engineering.

Jo Rice, Continuous Improvement Leader and also project managing the installation commented, “We developed the layout of the system in partnership with Kawasaki Robotics – we had a confined space to work with and Kawasaki’s know-how together with our process knowledge helped everything to run exactly to plan and very smoothly.

“Our customers, in particular the leading supermarkets, are committed to continuous new product development (NPD) which meant that Kawasaki were continually being requested to add new palletising programmes during the development process. This functionality of the system together with Greencore’s overall investment in the system has been positively acknowledged during customer visits to this site”.

Introduction of the system has seen the development of technician roles responsible for each line – this is a new function as previously one individual would be allocated a single item of equipment. Initial trepidation of capabilities to support the technology has been unfounded as individuals have been kept involved throughout the development process.

“Kawasaki provided very good training before the equipment was installed and in addition involved our personnel during the commissioning process”, continued Jo Rice.

The lasagne line produces packs which are assembled assembled into boxes by the case erector. The boxes travel along the conveyor to the robot pick up area where they are located by the robot’s vacuum gripper. The robot then picks up the box, at a rate of ten a minute, and places it in the correct orientation onto the pallet stack.

Each of the two robot cells are designed for easy manual input and out-put of pallets. A mechanical ‘Vee’ location allows pallets to be manually driven into the cell and accurately located.

Space was very confined and the Kawasaki robot’s compact design together with well designed diagonal positioning of the light guard system, has allowed an uncompromised capability to palletise with very easy and safe human access if required.

Commissioning of the system was complete within two weeks allowing operators, previously manually palletising cases, to be allocated to less repetitive work in other areas.

“From the start of this project we have been delighted with the system’s implementation – in particular the planning and preparation which made installation straight-forward. Kawasaki’s training, to such a high standard, has also paid dividends allowing technicians to take more responsibility than before and free our engineers to concentrate on other areas.

“Greencore’s equipment supplier philosophy is to develop long term relationships that produce benefits throughout its sites – this system has proved to be successful and a strong starting point for us in the use of robotics”, concluded Jo Rice.

For further information, please contact Jim Carr:

Kawasaki Robotics UK Ltd
, Units 6 & 7, Easter Court, Europa Boulevard, Warrington WA5 7ZB Tel +44 (0)1925 713000 email:

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