The Case for Robotic Assembly of Custom Wood Pallets

To thrive in business today, companies must respond to increasing customer demands.

“As trends for stronger, more durable and sustainable pallets grow, the need to accommodate high mix – low volume production is essential for manufacturers wanting to stay competitive,” said Doug Wenninger, President, and CEO of Alliance Automation, LLC (Van Wert, Ohio). “In fact, a growing number of manufacturers are discovering that the implementation of robotic automation for the assembly of wooden pallets is helping to create a highly flexible environment where custom, higher margin products can be made.” Alliance Automation, a Yaskawa Motoman qualified integration partner, specializes in robotic pallet assembly, dismantling, and sortation.

The Benefits of Robotic Assembly

While suitable for long production runs, dedicated pallet assembly machines can be costly and require significant time to complete changeover. With a robotic pallet assembly system, typical changeover time is five minutes or less, providing a more consistent production method for high mix manufacturing.

Robotic automation also provides manufacturers with the flexibility needed to build custom, stringer and block pallets on the same system, supporting pallet sizes from 20 inches (50.8 cm) up to 120 inches (304.8 cm). Ideal for shorter production runs of 25 to 1,500 units, robotic pallet assembly can produce up to 50 block pallets an hour or approximately 60 stringer pallets an hour. To reach an acceptable return on investment, experts advise to consider running the automation at least two shifts.

As with any piece of capital equipment, adhering to a regular maintenance schedule can ensure maximum robot performance for years, optimizing return on investment (ROI). Yaskawa Motoman robots are designed to run production for as long as 15 years, long after initial investment is returned, resulting in future profit.

The ROI of Robotic Wooden Pallet Assembly

Robot systems are most profitable for facilities that produce a high mix of pallet types at a high volume, or over multiple shifts. Systems can assemble about one pallet per minute (480 per shift). Fixed machinery still makes the most sense when producing high volumes of the same pallet type and size. The biggest ROI benefits come from the robotic system’s ability to produce a variety of pallet types with minimal downtime due to changeover.

When pricing out a robotic system, a key element for companies to think about is the potential financial gain the robotic solution can provide over the course of a targeted payback period. With consistent productivity, the majority of companies can reach payback for capital investment within 18 months, and most likely, with consistent productivity and the manufacturing of higher-margin products, the payback will be sooner than decision makers expect.

Source: Yaskawa