Cobots Take Repetitive Tasks Off Workers’ Hands

At Atria Scandinavia in Sweden, 30 employees work alongside three collaborative robots to increase efficiency in the line where gourmet and convenience foods are packaged. The company has deployed two Universal Robots UR5 robots and one UR10.

Johnny Jansson, Atria’s Technical Manager, says “Our goal is to get reliable product lines where we can produce efficiently and effectively while keeping our staffing costs down. As a food producer, it is extremely important for us to minimize downtime, so we can supply fresh goods at a competitive price.”

Atria cites one of the best advantages of the collaborative robots is their ability to automate nearly any task while also being serviceable in-house as opposed to their legacy equipment, which routinely required outside contractors for repairs and caused too much downtime. The complete installation, programming and training process took about 2 months.

“We were completely new to it,” Jasson says. “I didn’t know anything about robots the first time I saw them. My colleagues were not familiar with the technology either. So, I’m actually impressed that we did it as quickly as we did. The UR robots are very different from other brands, as they are very logical and intuitive to work with.”

The UR5 robots are primarily used for labeling and folding boxes and the UR10 for palletizing cases, enabling the line to complete preparation on 228 items per hour. Although the company packs foods ranging from shrimp to olives, the changeover is easier with the cobots: the legacy machine took six hours to convert while the UR robots take about 20 minutes, a significant increase in hours that can now be dedicated to production.

Jasson points out that another benefit of the Universal Robots easy programming is that it allows him and his team to develop and revise applications as the need arises. "It simplifies the deployment of robots when we can build solutions for our production in-house,” he says. “We can go back and forth between the workshop and the production line refining applications as we build them. For example, we developed a small wheel to fold the edges of the cardboard boxes that the food products are packaged in. This solution probably wouldn’t have been conceived if we had been sitting in front of a computer planning the robot application.”

Atria recouped its investment in three cobots within a year while also reducing their packaging waste by 25%.

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