A robotic win-win: good for business AND the environment

A mobile packaging system takes the factory to the raw material, eliminating a huge amount of energy usage [includes video].

These days the world is in need of solutions that are more than just another good idea; it needs solutions that simultaneously make businesses more competitive while lessening the impact of those businesses on the environment.

RM Group’s LTF 800 Mobile Packaging System does just that–and it’s a pretty inspiring piece of kit to boot. Essentially a full packaging factory enclosed in a regular truck trailer, the LTF 800 takes raw materials in one end, and pops them out the other end dosed, sealed, QC’d bagged and placed on a pallet, ready for delivery to the store–using an ABB IRB 460 palletizing robot to do the heavy lifting at a speedy pace.

RM Group has validated the system to deliver a blistering 22 bags per minute in the real world–and we’re talking heavy things like bags of sand here. The system can handle any type of aggregate or pellet product, such as sand, gravel, seeds, animal feed, etc., and could be modified to handle things like potatoes and onions as well.

Before coming to the PPMA Processing and Packaging Machinery Exhibition in Birmingham, UK, this week, I had heard about RM Group and the LTF 800 from a colleague. It was one of those sorts of inspiring conversations in which you felt you were hearing about something truly innovative with the potential to revolutionize how products are moved around the world to ultimately end up at your doorstep.

After getting a good look at the LTF 800 this week I feel validated in that initial reaction.

By putting the factory in a mobile truck-based platform and driving it to where the raw material is, such as a dock or a port, rather than driving product from the port to the processing plant you can accomplish several key things that all create a real win-win situation for business and the environment.

For instance, you cut down greatly on fuel costs by reducing transportation of raw material. The truck factory can be driven from processing site to processing site, thereby eliminating at least one leg of travel of the raw product from the port to the processing factory, for instance. This not only benefits the business’ bottom line, it reduces fuel usage and helps keep the air around us cleaner, as well as keeps the roads less cluttered with traffic.

Decentralized factories also make businesses more adaptable to rapidly changing consumer demands. You simply pull up the trailer factory to the dock, plug it in, turn it on and immediately start producing finished bags of product without any waiting. Compare this to the weeks or months it can take to commission a robotic automated bagging line in a fixed location, and you can begin to see the appeal. Plus, with one mobile unit, you may not have to build multiple factories because you have a single mobile one you can take anywhere you need to.

Large factory spaces are typically big energy hogs, costing a lot of money to heat and cool. Because the LTF 800 is in a compact, enclosed space, heating and cooling costs are a fraction of that of a fixed factory and can be precisely controlled–this is especially useful for raw materials that can be sensitive to temperature and extends the lifespan of the machinery inside the trailer. And an obvious side benefit: further reduced environmental impact from lower energy use.

Aside from these benefits, there are a whole host of others including very quick commissioning–on the order of minutes or hours, reduced or eliminated permitting and planning costs, and helping to meet peak demand at a fixed factory location.

How many times can you recall seeing a solution like this that so clearly provides multiple benefits for both business and the environment? I don’t see why this hasn’t caught on like wildfire yet.

In fact, it was so cool, I had to make a video on the spot:

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About the author

Prabhu Ram

Worked as a technology journalist for 2 years before joining ABB Robotics in 2010 in the capacity of Marketing Communication Executive. My activities includes email marketing, website content maintenance, and executing various social media promotions/campaigns for generation of leads. Expert level skills in Google AdWords and Google Analytics.
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