First publishedon www.AggBusiness.com
The IRB 460 ABB robot being put to work by the Day Group
ABB Authorised Value Provider (AVP) RM Group designs and installs mobile packaging systems using IRB 460 palletising robot to reduce capital expenditure and logistics costs.
London, England-headquartered aggregates supplier Day Group handles over three million tonnes of construction material each year. The company has been running for over 70 years and as a family-owned business has a dependable history of providing high quality products.
The company sources large quantities of both primary and recycled aggregate from a number of quarries across the UK, all of which require bagging before customer deliveries are made. This poses a logistical problem, as transporting heavy loads of aggregate over hundreds of miles increases both handling and energy costs. The alternative, building on-site factories for the purposes of bagging, also requires capital expenditure.
Having recognised these challenges, Day Group approached ABB AVP RM Group. The two companies had already worked together on previous projects when Day Group rented RM Group’s mobile packaging plant.
Comprised of a trailer equipped with an IRB 460 ABB robot inside to palletise the bags, the mobile packaging plant provides a versatile, efficient and easily transportable solution for bagging products at source. Day Group realised the benefits immediately and ordered its own fleet of nine mobile packaging plants which have been deployed around its many quarries.
Llewelyn Rees, managing director at RM Group explains: “When companies like the Day Group buy a quarry, if they go for planning permission for buildings, it can take a couple of years. With the mobile system, it’s literally there, and it’s bringing the raw material out of the quarry immediately. As soon as they have an asset, they can remove the materials.”
The efficiency of the bagging process is greatly assisted by the compact and lightweight design of the IRB 460. Capable of operating at up to 24 cycles a minute, the robot can perform the process quickly with less inertia on the trailer. In addition, its zero tail swing and small footprint means it can fit within the confines of the trailer. The inherent flexibility of the mobile solution means it can be used anywhere to handle a wide variety of different products.
Malcolm Burton, yard manager at Day Group’s South Cerney and Southampton depots, explains: “Our biggest challenge is meeting changes in customer demand. Each company we supply wants different products. The adaptability that the IRB 460 offers means we can palletise a vast range of aggregates from nought to three millimetres through to 40 millimetres. It can even take track ballast if need be.”
The IRB 460 also adds flexibility in terms of production capacity. Burton explains, “It ticks over at 15 bags a minute, but it can go up to 22 bags if required.” This flexibility allows Day Group to respond quickly to changes in demand, which tends to vary according to the seasons. The aggregates supplier is at its busiest during the summer months with demand tailing off slightly in the winter.
Comprised of a trailer equipped with an IRB 460 ABB robot inside to palletise the bags, is proving a highly efficient mobile packaging plant for the London-headquartered Day Group
The nature of the products being demanded can also change with the seasons. Day Group experiences high demand for salt for gritting purposes during the colder months. Again, the mobile packaging system adds value to this application by allowing the packaging process to be transported directly to the docks. The salt can be bagged straight from the ships and distributed from there. This significantly reduces fuel costs which would be incurred if the salt were to be brought to the packaging plant.
Burton also notes that process mobility can significantly reduce downtime. “If we have a depot that has a breakdown, we can pack the lorry up and it can be at the other site tomorrow. Production is unaffected; the product can be stockpiled and fed straight onto the lorry, packaged and delivered to the consumer.”
Remote assistance is included so that in the event of a breakdown at Day Group, the issue can be resolved in the shortest time possible. RM Group’s eWON package allows users to dial into the system and view PLCs and HMIs using cameras to identify the problem.
Rees explains, “Nine times out of 10 we can identify where the issue is. In the past, a supplier would send an engineer but this could take anything up to a week. Remote access means we can be there instantly.”
The remote monitoring system usability is also maximised by Day Group staff. As a manager of two yards, it’s an advantage that Burton can log on to his laptop and diagnose the problem from wherever he is. “If I get a problem at one of the sites, I can help the lads resolve it over the phone. It’s definitely been worthwhile having the cameras and software installed,” he says.
Based in mid-Wales, RM Group originally started as a packaging services company. Discovering that much of the equipment on the market failed to meet its requirements, the company began manufacturing its own packaging equipment. It wasn’t long before RM Group realised the benefits that robots could bring to packaging applications across its customer base and began to integrate them into its systems.
Since it began business, RM Group’s customer base has grown to include sugar factories and animal feed suppliers through to coal products and aggregates. With the help of ABB and the range of robots on offer, RM Group is expanding into the food industry this year.
Inventiveness is key to RM Group’s success. In recognition of the company’s track record as an experienced robot systems integrator, ABB awarded RM Group AVP status in 2015. Llewelyn Rees explains: “We’ve always had a philosophy of never standing still. You can’t sit back and just sell machinery. Customers are always asking us, ‘Could you do this differently, or could we make that?’ Our strong point is that we’ve never said no.”
It is this forward-thinking attitude that has made RM Group’s use of the IRB 460 in its mobile packaging lines such a success. Rees envisions that the Day Group installations and similar projects could be replicated across the UK. He adds: “The more mobile packaging plants that are taken up, the better it will be for the environment. More mobile plants will mean that companies could significantly reduce their fuel usage by eliminating the need to transport large quantities bulk materials over long distances. There are benefits to be had not only for the customer but for the UK as a whole.”
For the Day Group, the IRB 460s and the mobile packaging application are part of the aggregates supplier’s plans to grow, with Burton concluding: “If we get bigger, no doubt we’ll be seeing another mobile packaging line in the not too distant future.”