Traditionally, pallet-pattern programming has been a set-it-and-forget-it standard that operators would rarely update or upgrade. The native software is plenty reliable, but it’s resistant to change. Creating a new pattern can require a technician, a laptop and, most important, time. On-site assistance or training can be costly.
Now comes OptiStak from Schneider Packaging Equipment. Not only does it eliminate the need for a laptop, it also turns pattern changes into an easy and far less painful process.
The initial idea was to create a program that could skip a step between building a pattern in the virtual space and loading it onto the machine. The on-machine, HMI-based technology would also include more robust capabilities than the standard-issue software that came with palletizers.
With OptiStak, not only is the 3-D interface exceptionally intuitive, it also automatically optimizes palletizing based on the inputs. Those configurations can then be customized – directly from the HMI – in any way the operator sees fit, including labels-out presentation or alternative stacking patterns. Customers who are early adopters are calling it the most user-friendly interface they’ve ever seen. “I can go on the floor and put in the dimensions and quantities and that little machine just makes it happen,” says a project engineer in the wine industry.
In this particular case, “that little machine” is Schneider's Robox paired with OptiStak software. Its fluidity is an especially important feature for the winery, which currently produces a wide variety of bag-in-box products. The team at the winery can change patterns on the fly without downtime--and with game-changing speed. In fact, what used to take as much as an hour now takes less than half that. It allows the company to keep up with the explosive growth of its production.
The winery produced about 1 million cases annually six years ago. Today, operations palletizes more than 5 million cases annually. The firm plans on adding several more robotic palletizers as they near completion of a 300,000-square-foot addition that will be dedicated to filling and packaging operations.
"OptiStak is the solution to a widespread problem," says Andrew Buyck, Schneider's Controls Designer and Lead Developer of the company's proprietary OptiStak software. "No longer do you have to have someone digging out a laptop they haven’t touched since they bought the machine, hoping it still works, and hoping that the software licenses haven’t expired.”
Buyck takes a lot of pride in Schneider’s progressive approach to the future, which is embodied in products like OptiStak. “We’re constantly on the leading edge and always trying to make things better,” he says.