Leicester (UK)-based BS Handling Systems has installed an 18.5 metre long pallet roller conveyor for SCA Wood UK Ltd at its Melton facility. The pallet conveyor was installed as part of SCA Wood UK’s plan to automate the palletisation of its softwood shavings bi-product. SCA Wood UK produces and distributes high quality wood products for the timber industry across four sites in the UK. At its 20 acre Melton timber production facility, it produces its own make of quality dust extracted softwood shavings for the equine market under the brand name Thoroughbred.
Selecting the right supplier
Russ Ellis, Production Development Manager at SCA Wood UK explains: “Previously we were using a manual system to move the pallets stacked with our Thoroughbred shavings. However we were never really happy with the system and from a health and safety perspective, it was no longer meeting our requirements.
“Therefore we came to the decision that it was time to automate the manual line. We discussed the project with four or five suppliers, including companies who we had worked with before on different tasks. During the tender process, a newly appointed member of staff recommended we contact BS Handling Systems, as he had previous experience of working with them in the retail sector. So they actually came into the tendering process relatively late.
Reassurance with BS Handling Systems
“From our initial correspondence with BS Handling Systems, the level of professionalism they showed us gave me a lot of confidence that they were highly capable of completing this project. First impressions are not always correct, but their extensive knowledge gave me peace of mind that they really knew what they were talking about and that they would be able to deliver the right solution for us.
“Beyond the first impression, they then had to deliver in terms of specification, price and delivery schedule. As the discussions progressed and they made the necessary site visits, they continued to tick the other boxes for us. As well as their high level of competency, BS Handling System’s quote was very competitive.
“Ultimately for me, however, it’s not necessarily just about the cost. With BS Handling Systems, I felt the value for money they were offering us was far better than their competitors in terms of the quality, delivery, specification and installation promise.”
Designing the right solution
“The challenging part of the installation was producing a solution that could not only automate the movement of pallets, but also incorporate our existing processes. This included our baling machine which packs the shavings into bales, a robot arm for the movement of packed bales, a scissor lift to move the pallet during the stacking process and a shrink wrapping machine with turntable which wraps the pallets. So in terms of the broad specification, we were fairly clear on what we wanted, but as with most projects, the devil is in the detail.
“BS Handling Systems came up with a solution which we then tweaked as we went through the thought process; they were extremely helpful throughout and always open to design improvements. In addition, we had to ensure the solution met all the important health and safety requirements. Again, they were extremely flexible in accommodating such additional changes.”
The system starts with the softwood shavings being filtered and bagged by a baling machine. The baling machine connects to a conveyor which transports the packed bales to the robot arm. The robot arm then individually picks up each bale and systematically places it onto the pallet. On average, each pallet holds 42 bales.
As the weight increases, the scissor lift lowers the pallet incrementally to meet the start of the powered roller conveyor. Once the pallet is full, it then joins the conveyor line and is transported to the shrink wrapping machine in the centre. The pallet is then moved onto the turntable which rotates the pallet to enable the bale stack to be wrapped.
Once wrapped, it progresses along to the end of the conveyor line where up to four pallets can accumulate before a fork lift truck moves them for storage. The conveyor line has been optimised to meet SCA Wood UK’s target of producing 51 pallets per day.
Minimal downtime during installation
Ellis continues: “The other aspect that BS Handling Systems was really helpful with, and arguably was integral to us giving them the work, was their willingness and ability to work with us to keep the line running during installation.
“Throughout the majority of the installation, we were able to negotiate with them to keep the line operational whilst they were working on it during the day. As our operation is 24 hours, 5 days a week, when BS Handling Systems had finished for the day, they left the line in a condition that meant we could keep it running overnight.
“The installation process took one week and during this period they kept downtime to the absolute minimum. Halting the operation was only necessary for an hour or two whilst they completed electrical work or for safety reasons if they were working within striking reach of the robot arm.
“Given the challenges of integrating our existing machinery and keeping the line operational as much as possible, we were extremely happy with the way BS Handling Systems controlled the installation process. Naturally, there were some initial teething issues that needed attention, but they were quickly sorted. Since then the line has run smoothly without any issues. I don’t think you can get a better recommendation than that,” concludes Ellis.