A flexible and compact robotic solution from A&RT Systems is helping Australian plastic homewares manufacturer The Décor Corporation meet the growing demand for its array of versatile fridge container products – both in Australia and around the globe.

The turnkey robotic solution includes a number of ABB Robots, including the versatile IRB1200 and ABB’s flagship palletising robot, the IRB660. The system, designed and supplied by A&RT Systems, has streamlined the manufacturing, assembly and packaging of Décor’s products. Automating its manufacturing operations has enabled Décor to reduce costs while freeing up the production staff for more productive tasks.

Rising demand

Décor has been manufacturing plastic homewares products in Australia for more than 50 years. A homegrown success story, the company specialises in a breadth of homewares solutions that combine aesthetics, functionality, affordability and durability. From its base in Scoresby, Victoria, Décor manufactures an innovative range of plastic fridge containers enjoyed by customers around the world – from local department stores and supermarkets, to export outlets across Europe, America, India and Japan.

With global demand rising for its fridge container range, Décor required a high-end robotic solution that was reliable and flexible enough to grow with its manufacturing requirements. The company called on the assistance of A&RT, an automation equipment specialist and ABB authorised value provider based in Bayswater, Victoria. A specialist in robotic-based solutions that integrate robotics, automation and machine vision systems for applications in food, pharmaceutical, packaging and other industrial areas, A&RT was able to apply ABB products to provide Décor with an affordable – yet proven – robotic solution to meet its specifications.

Customer requirements

Décor required a robotics partner that could work with the company to design, build and integrate a system incorporating automation equipment, robotics and machine vision systems, with minimal lead time. Décor Managing Director Graeme Wilson said his company chose to work with A&RT as its supply partner for robots due to the organisation’s strong reputation in the industry.

“They came very strongly recommended, and they are a local company,” Wilson explained.

A&RT Managing Director Dale Collinson said the company’s expertise in the food & beverage industry made it the perfect partner to meet Décor’s requirements.

“We do most of our work for the food & beverage industry, and in some offshoots as we are with Décor,” he said. “We’re really proud to be working with Décor Australia – such a household brand – and helping them achieve more success in such a competitive market.

“We’ve worked with ABB over many years now, and with the background and history we’ve had with ABB, it was quite an easy choice in the end given the range of product, the fact that they’re in Australia in their own right, and we can get global support wherever our systems go.”

Turnkey system

A&RT was tasked with providing a turnkey system to manufacture and process Décor’s plastic tubs from the basic assembly, right through to complete palletisation.

“The system consists of four main cells – the first system being a valve assembly cell which integrates high-end vision, and an IRB 120 robot to assemble the valves in to the lids, forming up stacks of the lids,” explained Collinson. “Those lids are then moved to the second system. This is a tub assembly system which also uses an IRB 120 robot, which assembles the lids on to the tubs.

“From that stage, they get conveyed through into a case packing cell. The case packing system uses the new IRB 1200 robot – this robot is proven to be a great asset for ABB and has been fantastic for us to integrate in to our systems for case packing.”

The IRB 1200 is a new offering from ABB that is 15% smaller and 10% faster than previous machines. The compact robot is flexible, fast and functional, and was designed to address the requirements of the material handling and machine tending industries for flexibility, ease of use, compactness and short cycle times – while still maintaining large working envelopes.

“The speed has been better than what we expected, giving us fantastic flexibility and a really good asset into the case packing range,” said Collinson. “From that point we move on to the palletising system where we’re using an IRB 660 – a four-axis palletising robot – to palletise all of the products. Because of the slightly lower rates, we’re also handling pallets and slip-sheets within the system.”

Positive outcome

According to Collinson, using ABB equipment, the team was able to successfully provide a turnkey system that required minimal labour from start to finish.

“Throughout the process, we overcame various unique technical challenges which were driven by the Décor product range, including the various colours that we had to manage, as well as the variety of different cartons, lids, tubs and valves,” he said. “Integrating with third-party equipment, such as vision systems, really was critical to the success of the system, and that has been a major benefit with the ABB robots and the connectability they offer.”

Wilson said the most important benefit Décor received from the project is reduction in manufacturing costs.

“The robot system – even though quite expensive – has an amortisation of less than eight months which is excellent for us, and has reduced the monotony for our staff,” he explained.