Automation From Kuka Systems Helps Beverage Companies Achieve Major Savings By Streamlining Distribution

The recently deployed system can process 5,000 cases per hour. It features KUKA Systems' automated high speed layer-picking system as well as its layer-forming and mixed palletizing cell.

STERLING HEIGHTS, MI and Augsburg, Germany, Aug. 11 - When leading beverage companies want to streamline retail distribution, they turn to KUKA Systems to design and install integrated pallet-building lines that provide a major increase in throughput over manual operations. KUKA Systems recently deployed one such layer palletizing and case picking line for one of North America's leading beverage companies, helping lower overall supply chain costs. Such a setup permits beverage makers to move completed order pallets from a large regional distribution center directly to major retail outlets, shortening the distribution pathway. Previously, these pallets had been assembled manually at smaller, often overburdened local warehouses, which is time- and labor-intensive.

The kind of automation and centralization is essential to the changing beverage industry. Many manufacturers have adopted a similar strategy of building customer-ready pallets regionally. Not only can an automated pallet-building line handle large volume, it also ensures greater order fulfilment accuracy and more efficient marshalling of completed pallets. Less manual lifting and fewer forklifts darting about a warehouse should result in fewer workplace accidents and lower insurance rates.

The recently completed installation marked the first time KUKA Systems North America served as general contractor, utilizing technologies it had launched previously with other food and beverage makers. "We've been a supplier of specialized technology solutions, and were able to draw on those experiences to serve as general project contractor," says Aaron Corcoran, Director - Logistics, KUKA Systems North America. "This success underscores our strength as an integrator, building on our experience designing and installing automated production lines for the automotive, aerospace, alternative energy and other manufacturing sectors."

The recently deployed system can process 5,000 cases per hour. It features KUKA Systems' automated high speed layer-picking system as well as its layer-forming and mixed palletizing cell. Handling of the highest demand products - approximately 65% of the customer order volume assembled at that regional center - is fully automated. That cell features KUKA Systems' state-of-the-art layer pick head on a robot arm that lifts cases from underneath, reducing the risk of product damage associated with traditional robot- or gantry-mounted grippers that use clamps or vacuum technology to grab cases from the top or sides.

"By combining KUKA Systems' patented layer-picking and mixed layer-building technology with strategic order sequencing logic, our system is able to handle peak volume while optimally building and staging pallets for loading onto trucks," says Corcoran. "KUKA's overall design of layer-picking and layer-forming provides a system that works intuitively, reliably and accurately, which is the goal of any world class automated order picking system in the logistics world."

About KUKA Systems - North America (

KUKA Systems Corp North America, a Michigan-based company, is part of the KUKA Systems Group of Augsburg, Germany, a leading global supplier of flexible automation systems for the logistics, automotive, aerospace, energy and industrial solutions sectors with more than 3500 employees worldwide. The company is a world leader in automated picking and palletizing systems and logistics for warehouses and distribution centers. Its fields of competence include end-of-line palletizing, depalletizing, mixed product palletizing, and engineering and consulting services in connection with overall warehouse and distribution center storage and order fulfillment generation.

Featured Product

Universal Robots - Collaborative Robot Solutions

Universal Robots - Collaborative Robot Solutions

Universal Robots is a result of many years of intensive research in robotics. The product portfolio includes the UR5 and UR10 models that handle payloads of up to 11.3 lbs. and 22.6 lbs. respectively. The six-axis robot arms weigh as little as 40 lbs. with reach capabilities of up to 51 inches. Repeatability of +/- .004" allows quick precision handling of even microscopically small parts. After initial risk assessment, the collaborative Universal Robots can operate alongside human operators without cumbersome and expensive safety guarding. This makes it simple and easy to move the light-weight robot around the production, addressing the needs of agile manufacturing even within small- and medium sized companies regarding automation as costly and complex. If the robots come into contact with an employee, the built-in force control limits the forces at contact, adhering to the current safety requirements on force and torque limitations. Intuitively programmed by non-technical users, the robot arms go from box to operation in less than an hour, and typically pay for themselves within 195 days. Since the first UR robot entered the market in 2009, the company has seen substantial growth with the robotic arms now being sold in more than 50 countries worldwide.