Safety regulations and requirements change over the years. It’s good when development keeps up with technology and viable solutions are created together with customers which go beyond safety issues. SICK recently proved it can achieve this efficient combination of safety and productivity with complete safety solutions at two German locations of a major customer from the food industry. Both orders concerned the modernization of complex pallet handling systems. In these systems, Euro pallets are led from the unloading point to the inspection area and, if necessary, to the rejection area, and are then reloaded and approved. For purposes of compliance with operator responsibilities, the decision was made to modernize the systems and update them with state-of-the-art technology. With the new safety solution from SICK, the customer now has an answer to all safety issues which is not only future-proof and sustainable, but also increases productivity.
The goal was to find a general contractor who could manage all the planning, installation and commissioning work from a single source and also handle several projects at one time. SICK’s expertise won them over: As a complete solution provider in the field of logistics, it can give customers functional and sustainable answers to all kinds of questions. The presence of service employees all over Germany and the associated response time and flexibility for service and maintenance work were also deciding factors for the customer. The more than 80 SICK locations worldwide were also important points — if the customer decides to expand to other locations, it can expect clear cost benefits.
Complex processes, simple handling
The renovation of the pallet conveyor systems followed a master plan for classic all-round customer service. The first step was to identify and document the actual state of the system at the customer site in order to develop suitable measures. The SICK experts are specialized in these tasks and provided consultation from A to Z, from taking inventory to final approval and commissioning of the system. The modernization process was clearly structured in three steps.
The first step was implementation of the safety basics. In this case, this included conversion from two-beam light grids to devices with at least three beams, the renewal of door switches and the installation of safety fences, to name a few examples. These basic retrofits were followed by skilled implementation of state-of-the-art technology by modifying the actuator engineering and installing safety-related pneumatics. Finally, accredited examination and approval of the systems with initial inspection in accordance with the German Occupational Safety and Health Act wrapped it all up.
Individual solutions and management from a single source
The experience of the employees involved was also a huge help in the overall process. Hardware and safety engineering both come and go hand-in-hand. This results in a high level of flexibility when it comes to finding solutions, even for special applications. Ultimately, the goal was to integrate different tasks and services into the project. Project management, construction management, generation of the appropriate technical documentation as well as inspection and approval were also done by SICK experts.
Learning from experience
Close collaboration is a result of cooperation with partners. For example, it was also very helpful that the partner was able to provide active support in data recording. This was particularly valuable as important documents from more than 20 years ago were missing, either in whole or in part. So this successful partnership was one of equals. The customer provided support where it could, and was in turn trained and instructed on the new system by SICK employees.
Creating Safe Productivity
In summary, SICK is winning over more and more satisfied customers with its solutions in warehouse logistics and freight centers. These are two fields in which automated solutions, for example the pallet handling systems described here, have great potential for achieving more efficiency and higher throughput. The reason for this is extremely accelerated product handling as well as increasing warehouse and space costs. Goods must get from point A to point B at ever-greater speeds — the pressure on producers and suppliers is growing, and of course this must all be done safely. A development which SICK masters with intelligent sensor solutions. A logistical tour de force.