Unilever Ploiesti installs Sidel’s central robotic palletising system to meet market demands

The challenge

Unilever, a world leading FMCG company, produces products that are used by 3.4 billion people every day in 190 countries across the world. Its nutrition factory in Ploiesti, Romania manufactures products for one of the company’s most well-known brands, Knorr. 

Unilever’s Ploiesti factory encountered difficulties in meeting the production requirements of a fast-evolving market. Production volume has increased significantly from 12,000 tons per year to 35,000 tons per year, with a corresponding rise in the number of SKUs from 200 to 1000. In addition, packaging lines increased from 14 to 28.

The factory’s existing end-of-line system struggled to manage the expanding range of brands packed on site.

The solution

Unilever Ploiesti called on Sidel’s palletising and packing expertise to implement a new central palletising solution, fundamentally designed to keep up with the increasing demands of products and the continuous production site transformations.

Sidel showcased its proposed project using virtual reality glasses which allowed Unilever to visualise the full installation, check the space constraints and solve potential issues related to platforms, the operators’ access and the raw material flows.

The centralised palletising system comprised of eight robotic cells; several hundred metres of case and pallet conveyors; four pallet handling shuttles; and two stretch wrappers. This consolidated system is connected to 28 packing lines.

The robotic cells are divided into two separate clusters - one with five robots, and the other with three. Each cluster has one central pallet magazine for all pallet types and sizes, an induction shuttle for full pallet discharge and one compact shuttle for empty pallet delivery is integrated underneath the robotic islands.  

The outcome

The central palletising system is integrated in the digital process and can achieve a production rate of up to 98 pallets an hour.

The palletising installation from Sidel uses an energy saving module for each robotic cell, which generates energy from the robotic arm deceleration and re-inject it into the network to be used by other equipment within the line. When a packing line is stopped for cleaning or changeover, conveyors enter standby mode as the photocells detect no products are being transported.

All eight robot cells were completed in less than eight months as the modular concept accelerated installation as each cell was commissioned individually and at once integrated into the factory’s live packaging operations.

"We’ve been impressed by Sidel’s design capability to fit the detailed palletising specifications we required in a compact area and simultaneously oversee the complexity and high throughput coming from the packing lines."

Iuliana Popescu Colt

Operations Manager at Unilever

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