Unilever 2018

The challenge

Every year, the Unilever factory produces a remarkable 500 million items (or 100,000 tonnes of liquid product). All are hair and skincare products marketed under the Dove, Fair & Lovely, Lifebuoy, Vaseline, Clear, TRESemmé and Sunsilk brands. The global player in the consumer goods market was looking to use state-of-the-art technology that, combined with a modular design, ensured faster, shorter, and highly responsive production lines, cutting lead time to market. With eight formats to handle at 350 products/min per line and multiple changeovers per day in a maximum of ten minutes, the entire set of Sidel competences was required, from robotic product collation to shrink-wrapping and palletising.

The solution

Sidel supplied 19 machines across the different production lines of the 100,000 square metre Unilever facility, including packers and shrink-wrappers for premium pots of skin cream or tubs of facial cream in cartons. To fulfil the changeover needs, changes were applied to case erecting and packing as well as to case sealing and palletising: either universal systems without adjustments or simplified/adjustable tooling, or fully automatic/auto-adjustment processes. The packer is a secured Pick & Place solution with a gantry case packer that allows for fast and simple changeovers thanks to its quick release systems for tooling. The case erector and case sealer work reliably at speeds of 40 cases per minute. Lastly, the shock-free, electronic spacer infeed system secures a high product protection at the layer preparation of the high-level layer-by-layer palletiser.

The outcome

Sidel accomplished the remarkable task by taking a robotic approach to the product collation stage, where its designers removed many of the mechanical parts typically used. This ensured easy access to the heart of the machine and therefore a streamlined solution. Unilever and Sidel’s robotics and shrink-wrapping experts opted for product management through six robots, using FlowDesigner®, Sidel’s flow management and product tracking intelligence for gentle bottle handling and continuous batch preparation. This feature allows for precise product positioning on the shrink-wrapper infeed conveyor and fast changeovers.

"“We have a unique capability to propose complete end-of-line solutions for unstable bottles or bottles with complex shapes, without allowing mass flow accumulation. Our expertise answers the very demanding requirements of the Food, Home and Personal Care sectors, such as care handling of sophisticated containers, ultra-flexibility, and the high demand for line speed increases.”"

Jean-Philippe Beduneau

Strategic Key Account Director for Unilever at Sidel

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