ABB robots help Honeytop Specialty Foods to stack up their production

2011-12-06 - Honeytop Speciality Foods, a leading bread products producer in the UK, are picking, stacking and packing their pancakes faster and more efficiently with robotic automation.

Honeytop Specialty Foods understands that every aspect of its food production and packing process has to be efficient, hygienic, flexible and most importantly, productive. One of their most popular products, pancakes, was previously packed by hand, a process which was labor intensive and very inefficient. When they looked for an automated picking and stacking solution at its factory in Dunstable,Bedfordshire, they sought the help of ABB System Integrator RG Luma.

Flexible and reliable robotic solution
RG Luma selected ABB FlexPicker robots to be at the heart of Honeytop’s pancake picking automation. The IRB 360 FlexPicker robots are known for their speed and efficiency, but also their reliability and flexibility. FlexPicker robots are capable of handling an astonishing 110 picks per minute and stack the pancakes precisely and quickly. Each robot is connected via a series of conveyor belts, to an automated hotplate production line. The conveyor belt operates on a cascading system before preparing them for stacking and packing. This has dramatically reduced turnaround time between products and ensured that Honeytop can meet its customers’ tight deadlines.

Pancake handling at Honeytop in the UKABB Flexpicker handles pancakes at Honeytop Specialty Foods in the UK

Improved hygiene and productivity
Hygiene is one of the most important aspects of food production at Honeytop. The new automation system cuts out human error and ensures that no human hand touches the pancakes before they reach supermarket shelves. William Eid, Honeytop’s Director explains “We work in a competitive industry with very tight turnaround times and receive daily orders that are expected to be sent out to the depots within 12 hours of production. Despite our apprehension, the automation has achieved exactly what we wanted, and we are extremely happy with the way our business has benefited from RG Luma’s innovative robotic automated technology. In fact, we have not experienced one issue since the installation last year. The robots have already enabled us to absorb a number of overheads, thanks to a reduction in labor costs and improved productivity.”

“The robots have already enabled us to absorb a number of overheads, thanks to a reduction in labor costs and improved productivity.”

Camera recognition of products
A camera mounted in front of each robot locates every individual pancake’s position on the moving conveyor below. The image is then communicated to the robot, and the ABB PickMaster 3.2 software tells each robot precisely which pancake to pick. RG Luma designed the software so that it could recognize overlapping product.

RG Luma project engineer with Honeytop employee
Payback in less than one year
Andrew Jones, RG Luma’s Sales Director, says, “After three weeks of production, a brand-new product was introduced in less than an hour without the need for any new investment from Honeytop.” The versatility of the production line has dramatically reduced the changeover time between each different product. “That makes it much easier for Honeytop to meet its constant deadlines whilst always maintaining the high-quality pancakes that their customers demand from them,” he says. For Jones, this installation is a terrific example of how companies can benefit from robots. “Honeytop set us a challenge,” he says. “Working with ABB Robotics, we were delighted to provide a solution to that challenge which has given them both improved productivity and improved quality – and it paid back in less than a year.”

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    ABB IRB 360 FlexPicker picking pancakes at Honeytop Specialty Foods
    ABB Flexpicker at Honeytop Speciality Foods
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