Kent apple producer Adrian Scripps is leading the sector in terms of automation – and Brillopak’s award-winning UniPAKer robotic crate packing cell is the cornerstone of its intrepid approach.
Adrian Scripps’ commitment to automation has been key to building and maintaining its market-leading position as Tesco’s largest apple supplier. Few apple packing facilities have adopted robotics, as they haven’t found solutions that enable high speed packing without damage to fruit, so instead they elect to stick with manual methods. However, by putting its trust in Brillopak’s pioneering UniPAKer technology, Adrian Scripps has seen a threefold improvement in productivity per person.
“Apples are not an easy fruit to handle because they bruise very easily. This, combined with the need to execute a range of crate patterns, made this project a challenge that couldn’t be met by a mechanical system. Brillopak rose to the challenge,” says James Simpson, Managing Director of Adrian Scripps.
Adrian Scripps is one of the UK’s premier growers and packers of English fruit. Several varieties of apple – Braeburn, Kanzi, Jazz, Opal, Gala, Red Prince and Bramley – along with Conference pears and blackcurrants, are grown on five farms totalling 750 hectares. The family owned farming business is one of Tesco’s key apple suppliers – a relationship that stretches back more than 30 years and has seen much change in the way that fruit is handled at the company’s centralised packing facility on Moat Farm.
“Our existing packing system was working flat out at 15 cycles per minute; we soon worked out that we could put apples into the flow wrapper much quicker than this,” recalls James. The company considered other packing systems, but it was the inherent flexibility of the award-winning UniPAKer robotic crate packing solution that convinced Adrian Scripps to partner Brillopak on this project.
“We looked at mechanical systems where the pack is turned to orientate it, but the flexibility of the UniPAKer won us over – it is infinitely programmable and allows you to make very small adjustments to get the pack to the exact target location,” explains James.
Each of the four UniPAKer crate loading cells at Adrian Scripps houses two delta type robots, each performing a single pick. The benefit of a single pick is that it eliminates the need for accumulation. To maximise packing speed, the crate is dynamically loaded as it is moving; working alongside each other, the robots take it in turn to partially fill the crate, picking individual packs off the infeed conveyor and positioning them deftly and precisely in the crate at the programmed orientation. The robots perform this task with a degree of dexterity and rotation that would not be feasible with a layer-based automated handling system.