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Flexible ‘robot hands’ pack delicate herbs

It takes great finesse to cultivate and deliver tasteful, fresh herbs. It requires intelligent automation to ensure that production is efficient, competitive, and creates a good work environment. That is why Denmark’s largest producer of herbs and mini plants, Rosborg Food Holding, chose to invest in sensitive, flexible robot grippers from On Robot to handle the plants.

Inside the 120,000 square meters of greenhouses in Odense, Denmark, mint, dill, estragon, miniature roses and other small delicate plants grow in an advanced production facility equipped with state-of-the-art technology. A total of 130 employees produce, pack, sell, and manage 28 million herb plants and 12 million mini flowers annually under the product names Gloria Mundi, Økologihaven and Eurostar plants. By focusing on streamlining and automating production, they are able to handle the growing demand and wide range of products, and deal with significant seasonal fluctuations.

REDUCING MONOTONOUS WORK

“We are constantly working to optimize the productivity and profitability of our processes by automating the monotonous, heavy tasks that employees would prefer to avoid anyway. Robot technology also helps us reduce the amount of overtime and temporary workers,” says Henning Jørgensen, partner and operations manager, Rosborg Food Holding.

The Danish nursery has produced spices and mini flowers for both retail and restaurants since 1980. In 2013 a new owner began the process of radically modernizing the company’s entire production. Investments for 37 million Danish kroner were made in the installation of new high-efficient greenhouses equipped with automation technology and robots. At the same time, Rosborg has expanded its range of products to meet the growing demand for other types of herbs than those traditionally used in Scandinavian cuisine. Besides robots and employees, they also utilize 10 different kinds of beneficial insects, which eliminate pests on the plants in the greenhouses.

ROBOT HAND WITH FINGERTIP SENSATION

One of the latest investments in automation is a flexible packaging line featuring a “cobot” from Universal Robots, fitted with an RG6 gripper from the manufacturer of robot grippers, On Robot. The two “fingers” of the robot gripper have built-in intelligence and advanced technology that mimics the way humans instinctively use our sense of touch when we grab things to move them.

The automated packaging solution is so intuitive to use that staff without robot experience easily can switch the solution to packing other types of products by changing settings on the robotic arm’s touch screen. The RG6 robot gripper’s software is installed in the robotic arm in the same way as an app on a smartphone.

“We were looking for a gripper to lift herbs and flowers gently without squashing them. We chose an R6G gripper because of its wide and gentle grip, as well as precise and flexible abilities. Our new solution with the cobot and gripper automates the task of folding cardboard boxes and placing cut herbs into the boxes. We were looking for the fastest repayment time. We already have our next project lined up which is to buy another cobot and gripper to feed a cutting machine that cuts the herbs. The arm and gripper will locate and gently grab the plant, turn them to place them on the line to the cutting machine,” explains Henning Jørgensen.

SEASONAL FLUCTUATIONS MADE PROFITABLE WITH ROBOTS

Henning Jørgensen sees a huge potential for Rosborg to use several collaborative robots and grippers, i.e., “robotic arms and hands” because the repayment period is so short.

“We want to ensure a larger surplus capacity for daily operations, so that we can also double our production in peak season, during Christmas, New Year and Easter, without losing profits on overtime and replacement worker expenses. As it is today, our earning shrink during large productions periods. Employees in production are also very positive about the prospect of collaborative robot technologies helping them produce more efficiently and minimizing overtime,” says Henning Jørgensen.

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03/05/2018 - On Robot



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