Automated packaging tech helps streamline snack and bakery operations
Kellogg’s uses packaging automation to create efficient production lines with the capacity for high throughput volume. This entails using automation in areas where manual labor may struggle to keep up with rapid rates of product output. “Our automation systems handle tasks such as placing products into containers and transporting them to the end of the line, as well as filling unit loads and loading them onto trucks via forklifts. The product mostly remains untouched by human hands until it reaches the retailer,” says David Sosnoski, director of packaging engineering for salty snacks, Kellogg Co.
Robotics plays a significant role within Kellogg’s packaging automation initiatives, offering a diverse range of options, from basic and simple robots to advanced collaborative robots (cobots). “Cobots are designed to replace repetitive human tasks that do not require a larger, fully automated solution,” Sosnoski says. “They have proven valuable in filling the middle ground between tasks that are too complex for traditional automation but exceed human capabilities in certain areas.”
Automation that displays flashes of creativity
More complex icing and decorating systems are replacing traditional waterfall icing operations. For example, Inline Filling Systems recently developed a swirled icing decoration on top of a fully baked cake. The system relies on servo pump fillers feeding a pair of eight-across nozzle manifolds attached to two ABB robots applying a distinctive, programmable decoration pattern over an Auto-Bake Serpentine production line.
The Deco-Bot is a self-contained robotic decorating, glazing, depositing and spraying system with a built-in conveyor and quick hookup for heated and non-heated pumps. “Cobots are not the speed demon robotics you see on a caged line. They serve a different purpose,” he explained. “They help manufacturers with the labor crisis with a small footprint while being easy to clean and set up, and they are very safe.” It’s not uncommon to see 10 to 12 cobots decorating cakes night and day on the same production line.