September 23, 2021

HoneywellSmartDepalletizer400x275Honeywell has announced a new robotic technology designed to help warehouses and distribution centers automate the manual process of unloading pallets, reducing the operational risks of potential injuries and labor shortages. The Honeywell Smart Flexible Depalletizer uses machine learning and advances in perception and gripping technologies to break down pallet loads.

The company said a typical medium- to large-size distribution center will unpack up to several thousand pallets a day, with the probability of errors, injuries and worker fatigue increasing during each shift.

“Even when manual operations are running smoothly without injuries, the physical, repetitive task of unloading pallets is variable and limited by human constraints,” said Thomas Evans, chief technology officer of Honeywell Robotics. “Our Smart Flexible Depalletizer helps improve throughput by operating consistently without interruption over multiple shifts with minimal human interaction. With the labor constraints warehouses and distribution centers are seeing in filling these manual roles, this solution can be an ideal fit to help keep up with daily order volumes.”

The depalletizer’s articulated robot arm is guided by advanced vision and perception technologies, which allow cases to be picked from a single- or mixed-SKU pallet on a fixed or mobile location, said Honeywell. The latest computer vision identifies the exact location of every case on the pallet, while perception software automatically recognizes a wide variety of packaging. This technology allows for seamless handling of a continuous flow of pallets in any sequence without requiring any pre-programming or operator intervention, the company said.

The robot’s machine learning and motion planning optimizes the movements of the robotic arm to ensure maximum picking speed and efficiency. The control logic also senses the weight of each item as the robot lifts it and automatically updates its gripping response to transfer each product securely and effectively. The more the solution picks, the more it learns and continues to improve in quickly and efficiently unloading pallets, Honeywell said.

“Reliable depalletizing rates are of growing importance as consumer preferences continue to accelerate the rate of packing and increasing product mix warehouses and distribution centers handle every day,” said Evans. “These major technology improvements are driving fully automated solutions capable of meeting or exceeding the throughput of manual operations. Not only do these solutions offer significant benefits to modern distribution centers and other fulfillment operations, the business case for their utilization is also increasingly attractive.”

Honeywell said the robot can also work in conjunction with pallet conveyance autonomous mobile robots, enabling continuous operation of the system, while providing the flexibility to stage pallets and empty stacks virtually anywhere the robot is capable of traveling. 

The company said it will showcase the Smart Flexible Depalletizer at this year’s PACK Expo trade show in Las Vegas. For more details on the new robot, visit the Honeywell website here.