Digital Twins for Palletizing

Jan. 6, 2023
Nortura, a Norwegian food producer, uses Rocketfarm’s digital twin tech to upgrade its palletizing operations.
Nortura is a major supplier to the Norwegian grocery market, as well as to hotels and restaurants. The company’s 31 production units process 350,000 tons of meat and eggs each year.

In 2015, Nortura began using 3 collaborative robot (cobot) palletizers outfitted with Universal Robots’ UR10 cobots in its Sogndal factory. This robotic palletizing  system used an early version of what would become Rocketfarm’s Pally palletizing software. Rocketfarm is a Norwegian software company.

Rocketfarm describes its Pally software as being designed to make robots easier to install and operate for palletizing operations. With its digital twin capability, Rocketfarm says it can verify a project online within an hour and connect users with system providers around the world.

According to Rocketfarm, digital twins enable them to deliver users with a project report including performance and installation data as well as a video of the complete proposed palletizing process. User only need to provide basic product and production specifications (such as pattern, box size, and pallet size) and the algorithms in Rocketfarm’s technology can configure a cobot palletizing system using Universal Robots’ cobots.

Robotic palletizer upgrade

After using the cobots in its Sogndal factory for five years, Nortura wanted to upgrade the customized software they were using to future-proof its cobot operations and keep up with increasingly faster production requirements.

The upgrade for the cobots included:

  • An update to Polyscope, Universal Robots’ software for creating no-code graphical user interfaces.
  • Installing Rocketfarm’s Pally palletizing software.
  • Removal of the legacy vision system.
  • Replacement of the grippers.

Using Pally’s Pallet Builder function, Nortura was able to create new palletizing patterns with interlocking layers to replace the shim paper routines used in previous patterns. This decreased the running palletizing cost and led to a 30% higher output in the company’s palletizing operations.

While automating palletizing operations may appear simple, Emil Nissfolk with Kameleon Robotics, a Norwegian distributor, integrator, and Universal Robots partner, said, “Installing the right palletizer is more complex than you think. The upfront verification from Rocketfarm is extremely accurate and has become a must have when proposing palletizing solutions to customers.”

Upgrade benefits

The Polyscope software upgrade with the new user interface allows Nortura’s engineers and operators to interact with the robots, make changes to the palletizing patterns, and integrate them into the robot more easily. 

Another benefit Nortura received from this upgrade is the ability to export live palletizing data from Pally. This allows operators access real-time insights on its palletizing operations, ensure the robots are running smoothly, and optimize the production line as needed.

Examples of the insights provided by this data flow in Pally include “CPM on current pallet,” “CPM on previous pallet,” and “time remaining on pallet.” The “time remaining on pallet” data lets operators know how long they can focus on other tasks before needing to remove the full pallet.

Required downtime and ROI Nortura initially expected a full week of downtime for this upgrade, but Rocketfarms says it only required eight hours of downtime per robot.

A key advantage provided by Rocketfarms’ use of digital twin technology was the ability to quickly determine which key changes would be most beneficial for Nortura’s operations. It also allowed Rocketfarms to demonstrate for Nortura how their palletizing operations could be improved with the update. The detailed information provided to Nortura helped them to determine the ROI for the upgrade more quickly. 

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