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Joint Venture between RTS and Excel Conveyors to Boost Service of RTS Robots in the Bakery
:: 09 July, 2008
RTS Flexible Systems is a leading solutions provider for the food and consumer goods industries, specialising in robot integration for creative handling and automation systems RTS is an acknowledged leader in the automation of tin exchange and storage systems using its innovative Crocus gantry system, of which there are over thirty operating in the UK.
However, when RTS was contacted by an independent UK bakery wanting to automate its tin exchange operation, a site visit revealed that the Crocus gantry system couldn't be accommodated within the space available and an alternative needed to be found.
RTS UK sales manager Roy Fraser takes up the story.
"Reducing or eliminating tin damage is a key requirement of modern plant bakeries and we have developed solutions based on robotics and the application of leading commercially available components, integrated with our own technology.
For this customer application we devised an alternative solution to Crocus using floor conveyor systems and a conventional 6-axis arm robot, to perform the operation the gantry would normally perform".
Whilst the production process itself is similar to home baking, the volumes - from 6,000 to 9,000 loaves per hour - are vastly different, so automated storage and retrieval of tin 'straps' (four bread tins welded together with a strap around them) is essential in today's high-volume bakeries.
Large numbers of these 'straps' are continuously circulating around the bakery producing specific types of loaves, and at some stage the bakery schedule will require a change from making, for example, white sandwich bread to making wholemeal batch bread.
The tins that are circulating therefore need to be removed and a different type of tin introduced - a change-over that could be required two or three times a day.
At the time, the customer was conducting these changeovers manually.
The systems developed by RTS carry out the operation in parallel, taking one set of tins off-line and putting another set on at the same time.
The tins are replaced into, and retrieved from, a 'tin store', which holds all the different types of tin ready for the exchange.
Having devised the floor conveyor concept, RTS researched conveyor companies and talked to three or four before deciding on Excel Automation.
As Roy Fraser explains, "Excel was selected because we were impressed with the conveyor systems supplied to its established customers in the automotive and other industries, and its management team showed a clearer understanding of the requirements of our project".
Following the initial meeting RTS put together a proposal based on integrating Excel conveyor systems with an ABB 6-axis robot.
The Excel applications engineering and sales teams both provided detailed input on the RTS user requirement specification for the conveyor system; and the result was an order from the customer for four tin storage systems, requiring six large floor conveyors.
Commenting on the relationship that developed between the two companies, Roy Fraser says that besides integrating the conveyor and robotic systems, RTS and Excel also had to learn to work together.
He adds that even though both companies were going through a learning curve the project was delivered on time, to specification.
Each of the six conveyor system is 20 metres long and 2.5 metres wide and carries loads of up to 14 tonnes.
A critical technical element of the design was the need to move a very heavy load distributed over the length of the conveyor, and position it very accurately.
Roy Fraser says Excel met the challenge, and the quality of manufacture was to a very high standard and the system very robust.
It was also installed quickly by a very professional team and met the customer's expectations.
Summing up he says that following this first floor conveyor installation, an enquiry was received from another independent bakery with a similar requirement for a tin storage system and RTS was again successful in winning the contract.
"We went to Excel for the two conveyor systems required, and this time their performance was even better than on the first project, because we'd been through a learning curve and knew how we could work together".
He adds that the second installation was so successful that the customer has since come back for two further tin storage systems.
In total, ten conveyor systems of this type have been supplied since RTS began working with Excel on this type of application.
About RTS Flexible Systems
Welcome to RTS Flexible Systems, a leading solutions provider for the food and consumer goods industries.
Specialising in creative handling and automation, RTS solutions will:
increase capacity generation, enhancing throughput and ultimately the profitability of your operations
improve product yield reducing the cost per unit and improving profit potential
meet the exacting hygiene demands of the food sector, reducing the risk of food contamination
Providing end-of -line packaging systems, our solutions are based upon robotics and leading commercially available components integrated with our own vision technology to identify, track and analyse the products they are handling.