Box to Robots: You Guys Cut Me Up

Box cutting has long been a “must do” for warehouse operations. Now you can add Omni-channel to the mix in terms of quickly accelerating the need for each picking and carton top removal.


Slicing off the tops of boxes is something that looks natural when a skilled warehouse worker deftly performs the task. On the other hand, I’ve also seen some nasty flesh wounds and a lot of unsaleable product resulting from the knife cutting a little too deeply. Training, practice, and cut-resistant gloves all can make a difference, but the task remains labor-intensive and sensitive to issues such as human error and absenteeism.

Automation is now available, however. TM Robotics has collaborated with Cornerstone Automation Systems, LLC (CASI) to offer an intelligent box-opening device (IBOD) that melds the best of TM Robotics’ Toshiba Machine robots with CASI’s smart box-opening software. TM Robotics notes the inefficiencies of manual box cutting, as well as the use of spinning blades that can negatively impact robot productivity and useful life. “Companies are looking for a reliable, safe solution that can accommodate the explosive growth of the box-cutting industry – and this partnership delivers on that need,” states a release from TM Robotics.

Explosive is the key word, with e-commerce in Europe expected to enjoy an 18.4 percent increase in sales from 2015 to 2016. More direct shipments to customers will translate into more boxes being opened at the warehouse, and the potential for more boxed returns

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Check out the video, at right.

“Our European customers have been asking for a safer, more streamlined box-cutting solution for a long time – and this CASI-built IBOD delivers,” said TM Robotics CEO Nigel Smith. “The special integration of our powerful, patented Toshiba Machine robot technology coupled with the sophisticated CASI software brings something to the market that our customers have never seen before – and they’re thrilled.”

The new system, which integrates seamlessly into warehouse logistics, can function at various cutting speeds and controls the length and depth of the cut, including a three- or four-sided cut.

The technology can handle a variety of case configurations. “The IBOD will cut the tops off different boxes sizes without the need of re-programming,” Smith explained. “The size of the box is automatically calculated by the machines sensors. This information is then fed to the robot to make the necessary movement.  The IBOD will also be able to make a different type of cut (height, depth or pattern) automatically based upon box sizes or by reading a bar code.”

“If the target ROI is not met often companies will examine investing in the IBOD due to health and safety improvements offered by the implementation of the box cutter,” Smith added. “This is a major discussion point in western Europe.”

This article was first posted in April 2016.