FlexiLoad, automatic loading solution for cardboard-blank magazines that eliminates MSDs
29th October 2015
Operators generally spend over 50%, and sometimes as much as 80%, of their time feeding the
cardboard-blank magazine of a case packing system with consumables. Extremely timeconsuming,
this task is also a recognized cause of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). In tune
with its holistic vision of service to industry, which includes the peripheral advantages of
machines in addition to their intrinsic performance, Cermex, the case packing division of Gebo
Cermex, is presenting FlexiLoad, which handles magazine loading fully automatically for any
high-speed case packing system. Launched in October, the patent pending solution will thus
improve working conditions, and enable operators to devote their time to other, higher added
value tasks. Consisting of a 6-axis robot, a universal gripping tooling, and a PC-based software,
FlexiLoad can handle Regular Slotted Containers (RSCs), wrap-around blanks or trays. With
FlexiLoad, Cermex is addressing the requirements of industry by offering an innovative
response that can enhance the ergonomics of both new equipment and also existing installed
machinery, through a retrofit.
Return on investment that is both industrial and social
Musculoskeletal disorders lead to sick leave that is costly for companies and for their environments. By
automating a task that requires repetitive efforts by the operator, FlexiLoad makes a real improvement
to working conditions and to the productivity of the line. Such an improvement can, in certain countries,
lead to a reduction in mandatory contributions to state health insurance, which are indexed on the
numbers and lengths of interruptions for sick leave.
Going from spending 50% to 80% of their time to less than 10% (replacing empty pallets with full pallets)
on stocking up the case packing system, operators are available for working on other, higher added value
tasks. For example, the operator has more time for performing quality control operations or for sample
The positive return on investment in terms of organizational improvement and of productivity gains comes
in addition to the 100% industrial ROI in only one year for a line operating continuously round the clock,
thanks to the particularly attractive price positioning of FlexiLoad.
Return on experience based on a real situation: the figures speak for themselves
The test market configurations before the launch make it possible to quantify operator productivity gain
Before FlexiLoad installation
An operator devoted 45 minutes per hour (75% of his time) to loading the magazine at a speed of 60
wrap-around blanks per minute.
After FlexiLoad installation
The operator changed 2 pallets of 2,100 blanks (range of 35 minutes) per hour, taking the operator him 3
minutes for each change.
Footprint: 4 m2
Didier Saussereau Case Packing Product Manager: The launch of FlexiLoad is in tune with the
holistic approach being taken by Cermex, who no longer see the machine solely in terms of function or of
intrinsic performance. We are designing our equipment as an integral part of its overall environment,
including peripheral assignments and functions. This approach corresponds to an expectation coming
primarily from the mature markets of Europe and North America who wish to extend automation solutions
to ancillary tasks, with two aims: firstly to relieve operators of tasks that generate recurrent efforts that are
potentially disabling, and secondly to increase their availability for high added value assignments. In
addition, it is clear, for all of the industrial segments we serve, that improved operator ergonomics and
optimized consumables management are genuine sources of productivity improvement.
FlexiLoad, an autonomous robotized system
FlexiLoad consists of a 6-axis poly-articulated robot, one universal gripping head per packaging family,
and PC-based software.
RSCs are handled by tooling with suction cups, with the core of the head being made by 3D printing and
with directly integrated venturis. Wrap-around blanks and trays are handled by tooling with grippers.
Key to making the solution capable of operating independently, a detection system is incorporated into
the tooling for recognizing the presence and the positions of packaging on the pallet and in the magazine.
For strapped bundles of RSCs, the tool also has an additional system for cutting, extracting, and
removing the strap.
PC-based software made up of algorithms (identical to FlowDesigner or PalDesigner) generates the
operations on the basis of the data supplied by the detection system incorporated into the tooling:
- The following input data is recorded in the PLC: dimensions, position and configuration of the
cardboard blanks on the pallet (with the assistance of a large library integrated into the system);
- The level of consumables in the machine’s magazine is monitored;
- The operating cycle is corrected in real time so as to adapt the auto-generated theoretical cycle to
match the real operating conditions during the production phase;
- New formats can be created and implemented by the user, fully independently.
FlexiLoad can perform additional functions depending on the needs of industrial clients, such as
providing a system for shredding the straps around the bundles of RSC blanks, so as to reduce the
volume of the waste, or incorporating a magazine on wheels for storing recovered interlayer sheets.
FlexiLoad, a universal solution
FlexiLoad is compatible with any type of medium to high speed case packer (with throughputs of above
25 cardboard boxes per minute). The new solution is equally well suited to a sequential machine or to a
continuous one, and regardless of whether the cardboard magazine is flat or sloping. FlexiLoad also
adapts to process any type of packaging: RSCs, trays, or wrap-around blanks, regardless of the size of
the packaging, from large blanks to small trays.
The FlexiLoad automatic loading solution can be fitted to a new installation or to existing lines. The
detection system incorporated into the tooling makes the module totally independent of the existing case
packing system, both mechanically and as regards automation. A facilitating feature is that its footprint is
very small: FlexiLoad fits into the same footprint as the manual solution.
Finally, the robot adapts to most packaging pallet configurations available from cardboard manufacturers,
while also accepting large positioning tolerances. FlexiLoad can even generate logistics savings by
enabling higher pallet heights, because they are not limited by the height of the operator.
Cermexs ambition is to go even further by developing a collaborative version of the FlexiLoad solution.