From pneumatics to robotics: How Summit Helped Liquibox Take the Leap
The Challenge: A new system of machines to meet skyrocketing demand
Liquibox is a sustainable packaging company with a primary focus on liquid consumables. A key feature of their liquid-dispensing packaging is their essential and versatile value tab (VT). The VT allows the safe, leak-proof, and sanitized dispensation of any products delivered in Liquibox packaging.
Unfortunately, their original 306 pneumatics machine was failing to consistently create and deliver quality VTs. Described as a “poor performer,” the 306 machine frequently produced low-quality products, struggled with material-feeding issues, and failed to note damaged or subpar VTs. Productivity eventually slowed to the point where Liquibox needed two operators on the machine, one of whom was required to manually feed materials into the machine to prevent blockage.
Liquibox knew they needed a change. Based on pricing, reputation, and development process, Liquibox selected Summit Engineered Automation to help them transform their VT production approach from pneumatics to robotics. “Summit came to us with one of the strongest solutions for the most affordable price,” said Jim Koski (Manager, Fitments NPD & Automation Engineering at Liquibox). Based on their positive reputation and a standout proposal, Summit and Liquibox got to work collaborating on the ideal VT machine.
The Solution: Simple, automated robotics to improve quality and save time
Summit met weekly with Liquibox to determine the most cost-effective, quality-oriented robotics solution. Unlike many of Summit’s clients, Liquibox didn’t need a reinvention of their process — they needed to improve their outdated machinery while maintaining food and beverage safety.
Working through Summit’s unique, flexible internal process and online project visibility tool, Liquibox finally arrived at an affordable robotics solution that proved to be a perfect upgrade to the 306 machine.
“Pneumatics systems only have about 5 million cycles per year vs. robots at 26 million,” explained Todd Baurenfeind, President of Summit Engineered Automation. “Robotics are more proven technologies with more reliable references for life expectancy and quality, so it’s not surprising to see how they solve problems.”
Liquibox’s new system was based on using 3 Epson T-series robots which are very affordable at approximately $7500 each.
Results: Labor savings, waste elimination, and a vision for the future
Liquibox went from one struggling machine requiring two operators to three machines requiring a total of two operators. “It’s one of the best performing machines we have in the factory,” said Koski, “it never stops running.” With robotics able to run year-round, Liquibox is now easily able to meet VT demand through overproduction during lower-demand seasons.
Product quality is also up as the new robotics machines perform automatic quality checks on products, including fail-tests.
Despite the initial success, Liquibox did face an unexpected issue with their robotics solution. Although the new machine passed the FAT (factory acceptance test). Once installed on Liquibox’s floor, there was a rattling caused by one of the feeder bowl frames. Summit came out to assess and fix the problem after hearing concerns from upper management. “We tried troubleshooting, but we couldn’t find any issues except the framing,” said Koski “Summit fixed it at their cost and it worked. They also added a vision system for maintenance.”
Liquibox is already working with Summit on a new project. “Their approach is collaborative and agile,” said Koski, “every process has challenges, but overall it was a great process.” When asked what differentiates Summit, Koski further explained, “You don’t find out what a supplier is made out of until you have problems. Summit came to help after it was clear our feeder manufacturer wasn’t going to support us.”
With a new project in the books, Summit is thrilled to be a part of Liquibox’s bright future.
Looking for custom automation and machinery for your next project? Contact Summit Engineered Automation today.