Our customer was using an automatic guided vehicle (AGV) that didn’t have any powered conveyor. They needed a machine that could move 500 pound, 30- by 60-inch pallets from the AGV to an operator workstation. Tuff Automation custom-designed the conveyor pictured above to solve the problem.
A Tuff solution
The machine we designed does a lot in a small amount of space. Our engineers and parts fabricators had to be efficient and precise in their work. Furthermore, the finished product needed to withstand heavy-duty part handling 24/7. Tuff Automation is uniquely equipped to handle these requirements.
Here’s what’s included in this complex line:
Six-strand chain transfer with lift and extend mechanism – This transfer handles three pallets at a time and uses an electric drive and pneumatic lift. The extender reaches into the AGV, lifts three pallets simultaneously, and conveys them into the conveyor line.
CDLR conveyor with accumulation – Pneumatic blade stops accumulate and meter pallets. The rollers are covered with Ultrex sleeves to handle accumulating pallets.
Tip-up/positioning mechanism – This part of the line pneumatically tilts 25 degrees at the operator unload station. A pneumatic clamping mechanism positions the pallet at a 25 degree tilt, and secures it for operator unload.
Two-strand chain transfer with lift and extend mechanism - This extender picks a single empty pallet off the conveyor line and extends to deliver it into the AGV.
Custom designs, custom solutions
Our lead times are highly competitive, and we use only materials of the highest quality. If you have questions about how Tuff Automation can customize a product for you, contact us.
Tuff Automation has made build lines for a few different companies, and we have experience in every part of the process. We specialize in outfitting build lines with custom controls, programming, and pneumatics.
Structure and customization
Build line projects start with the bare bones from a company that supplies modular design solutions. They provide conveyor, lifts, structural components and more. Then we put the lines together to customer specifications and integrate the necessary hardware. Tuff can also provide custom bracketry as necessary, making the final product as suited to customer needs as possible.
Then we make it all work.
Plumbing and controls
Tuff installs all the wiring and pneumatics required to get the machine running and the components functioning.
Tuff also provides controls and programming. We can incorporate torque tools with or without reaction arm feedback, cameras, function testers, FAM units, ovens, pallet lock/unlockers, barcode readers, RF read/write, and reporting to SQL servers for production monitoring. Model year changes are included.
Finally, Tuff will provide complete installation, runoff, and support for our build lines.
Tuff stackers can be customized to stack or destack any kind of pallet, tote or container, keeping material organized and your employees safe from injury.
How they work
Stackers are large machines that move pallets or bulk materials into vertical stacks for shipping or improved storage density. Destackers perform the opposite action, individually moving materials from the bottom of a stack onto a conveyor.
Customized stacker designs to meet your needs
Tuff Automation builds automated stackers and destackers to match any specification. Tuff stackers are ideal for handling and organizing standard or custom pallet designs, as well as many stackable raw materials, and can be integrated with or without controls.
Tuff stackers can run with pneumatic, electric, or hydraulic power. Stacking and destacking speeds can be customized from 2-3 units per hour to several parts per minute.
Add flexibility to your material handling system with a Tuff extendable conveyor
Static conveyors can only offer so much flexibility, and if you are working with different part sizes on a day-to-day basis, they may not be the best candidate for the job.
Move product dynamically
Extendable conveyors offer the flexibility that a standard conveyor lacks. They also promote safety. In addition to fostering a speedier loading and unloading process, extendable conveyors minimize the need for operators to carry heavy materials and make working conditions more ergonomic.
Tuff Automation designs, builds, and integrates extendable conveyors of all shapes, sizes, colors, and other specifications you might have.
Extendable conveyors in action
Tuff designed an extendable conveyor to integrate in a sheet metal stamping process. The conveyor (pictured above) has two belts that can be set to run at different speeds. Parts enter the conveyor at an angle, and the two belts straighten them out as they travel.
This particular conveyor is manually operated and can be moved in, out, up and down. The speeds of each belt can be adjusted, which makes this conveyor incredibly versatile and capable of handling parts of all different shapes and sizes.
This conveyor tangibly improved the processes at the customer’s facility. They reported that their Overall Equipment Effectiveness improved by 25 percent, and the conveyor cut their process timein half. Maintenance is also a lot easier—replacing the belts on these conveyors only takes 30 minutes. The process engineer said it takes longer to take the belts out of the crib than it does to replace them!
What you get with a Tuff extendable conveyor
Tuff extendable conveyors have a number of different features that optimize flexibility and convenience for you.
Speeds up to 450 ft/min
2-year warranty on parts
Can be stationary mounted or with casters
Come in standard or nonstandard lengths and widths
High-cycle lift processes don’t have to mean short equipment lifespans. Pneumatic lifts are a long-lasting, cost-effective alternative to scissor lifts. They’re a perfect high-cycle solution, made in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
More powerful than a scissor lift
Ordinary scissor lifts are rated for a lifetime of approximately 200,000 cycles. The vertically mounted cylinders on our pneumatic lifts make possible a lifetime of several million cycles. If your application exceeds a cycle time of 45 cycles per hour or 500 cycles per day, you’ll see the return on investment on a pneumatic lift in no time.
Robust, custom design from Tuff
Tuff’s pneumatic lift is simple. It’s a direct lift design that significantly reduces side loading forces. Pneumatic lifts are easy to position precisely—which makes them an excellent fit for automatic loading or unloading applications.
Tuff lifts are typically designed to handle between 500 and 3,000 pounds, but we can customize them to handle even heavier loads. We also offer a model that is powered by an electric motor to facilitate longer strokes, multiple precise positions and specific applications.
Best of all, they require minimal work to maintain. Tuff lifts are made with off-the-shelf components, making part replacement easy and inexpensive.
Our customer needed a Tuff conveyor for their robot cell. It had to work through a lot of machining debris and withstand the weight of several raw engine block castings.
We developed a two-strand top roller chain conveyor. Raw castings travel from a machining station along the conveyor, accumulate using indexing stops, and are positioned using a lift and locate device. Once located, they are unloaded by a workstation robot.
The top roller chain conveyor makes heavy duty part accumulation easy, and the design minimizes obstruction by debris.
Custom Designs, Custom Solutions
Have a process that could benefit from rugged equipment like this? We can make one suited to your exact specifications.
Check out our latest top roller chain conveyor in action:
This post is a guest blog written by Cisco-Eagle‘s Scott Stone.
Safety should be a pervasive part of the warehouse, integrated and woven into every task, whether performed by machine or human. Every employee—new hires, veterans, and managers alike—must be responsible for the safety of not only themselves, but their colleagues.
A safe workplace doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen with the implementation of the most state-of-the-art safety automation. It doesn’t happen with an annual training session. It simply doesn’t happen by accident, or without a lively safety culture that starts at the top—but it doesn’t stop there.
How can a culture of safety be created and promoted?
It happens when people are given consistent safety training and safety is held in utmost importance by the organization. A majority of accidents are a result of human error, and the only way to reduce incidents is to train employees on the safest methods to complete their job.
In warehousing, some of the most common injury categories include slips, trips, and falls; ergonomic-related pains (lifting, reaching, pulling, and pushing); and material handling incidents, such as dropped boxes and forklift accidents.
A workplace that values safety drives productivity, increases revenue growth, and can ultimately have long-term effects on employee engagement, retention, and loyalty.
Let’s take a look at how and why safety training with personnel unlocks these benefits:
Employees See Problems First
Employees usually see safety problems before management—if they know what to look for. Leaders should make safety a priority. The more safety is discussed, emphasized, and practiced in every aspect of the workplace, the greater impact it will have on employees, collectively and as individuals. Systems to allow employees to report safety issues should be encouraged. That input should be given priority and follow-up.
A common warehouse leadership mistake is to make assumptions about what employees know and understand of safety issues and systems. When working in complex warehouses, where there are many different activities, dozens of people, and lots of machinery, safety becomes more complicated. Even the simplest of actions—things like crossing a forklift aisle, loading a truck or picking an order from racks—are opportunities for devastating accidents. Employees must be thoroughly trained on safety precautions and protocols as well as reminded about safety best practices in periodic training.
With an integrated safety culture, knowledge and training, employees become a warehouse’s best accident deterrent. They can self-police each other and report and correct safety concerns with infrastructure or machinery.
Reduce Injuries, Increase Productivity
According to OSHA, businesses spend roughly $170 billion a year on costs associated with occupational injuries and illnesses. However, with established safety and health management systems, organizations can reduce injury and illness costs by 20 to 40 percent, OSHA data shows.
There is a universal desire for a safe workplace, but in order to create and maintain a safe environment, training programs must be in place. Dedicated time for training at specific intervals—as well as continued on-the-job emphasis of safety—is necessary.
In warehouses, training should go beyond general workplace safety and address specific safety concerns and protocols for each particular task or functional area. Equipment safety and job-specific safety training should be done for new hires and on an ongoing basis. Safety training refreshers help prevent bad habits from developing. Training on personal protective equipment, accident prevention, and emergency procedures stress the responsibility of each individual to be a part of creating a safe workplace.
Employees who operate or work near forklifts should receive specific training. Forklifts cause more than 10,000 job-related injuries per year, according to OSHA data. Many of them could be prevented with diligent safety training.
Safety Automation Doesn’t Replace Training
With today’s technology, safety rules can be automated, controlled, and monitored in warehouse management systems (WMS). Designated lanes for pedestrians and material handling equipment, motion sensors, intelligent safety gates, and guard rails can augment existing systems and training.
These precautions can never replace the importance of safety training—making safe decisions can never be automated. Safety automation technology, systems, and employees should work together for all of it to be effective. None of these technologies are designed to replace the human mind’s capacity for decision making. They help enhance trained employees’ ability to keep themselves out of harm’s way.
Carousels, palletizers, robotics, and sortation systems help make warehouses safe because they replace live employees who could be working in dangerous areas. Automation has positive impacts on safety and ergonomics within the warehouse. That being said, personnel still need to understand the safety protocol and implications of working in the vicinity of these machines.
Consider this thought from Perry Sainati of Belden Universal Joints: “Automated safety can be a slippery slope. Because while it only stands to reason that you want to take advantage of the latest advancements in safety—like hi-tech sensors and alarms, electronic safety curtains, avatars, and diagnostic and modeling software—when it comes to warehouse and plant safety, the moment you start relying on technology over training, vigilance, and common sense, is the moment you start asking for trouble.”
The Goal Is a Culture of Safety
A Gallup research study, “State of the American Workplace,” found a correlation between well-managed teams with highly engaged employees and improved safety. Comparing the top 25 percent of teams with the bottom 25 percent, the top quartile had 50 percent fewer accidents! There were productivity benefits as well; engaged employees were less likely to call out sick or leave the position, the study found.
Training is the foundation to building a culture of safety. What we mean by that is workers, managers, and operators should all be on the same page when it comes to nurturing a safe, injury-free environment—all employees should feel that safety is their responsibility. With consistent training, a safer workplace can be created and maintained, and, in turn, the business side of the warehouse can reap the benefits.
Scott Stone is the Director of Marketing for Cisco-Eagle, a provider of integrated material handling and storage systems for industrial operations. Scott has 25 years of experience in industrial operations and marketing.
Every year in May, we invite the eighth grade class at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic School to visit Tuff Automation to learn about the careers one can hold in an establishment like ours. Students come through our doors, clipboards in hand, ready to take notes, and we hope that they walk back out of them with a new understanding of material handling and a budding interest in the science and math behind it.
We started the day by introducing Tuff Automation and briefly explaining what material handling is. Then we showed a video that compiled footage of machinery we’ve made here at Tuff, so students could see some of our products in motion. Once that was finished, we began a tour of the facility.
The students learned all about the occupations of mechanical engineers, controls engineers, shop managers, welders, builders, and technical writers. They got to see some projects in progress, and learn all about the steps that go into taking a machine from paper to product. Perhaps the coolest thing the students got to see was the laser cutter, shear press, and brake press in motion. They were intrigued about how the laser cutter made such precise movements, and the sheer amount of weight the brake press wields to effortlessly bend steel into perfect angles.
After we finished the tour of our facility, we walked the students across the street to our neighbors at Savant Automation, where they received a comprehensive presentation of the company’s history and product line. Students got to see Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV’s) as they looked in the ‘50s and even got to see some modern ones zipping around Savant’s shop floor. They learned about the different applications of AGV’s and toyed with the sensors of the ones on the floor to see them stop and go again.
When the students had to leave to go to the next destination on their career exploration field trip, we hope they walked away from Tuff and Savant feeling the way many of us do at the end of a day at work: like we’ve just been in an episode of “How It’s Made” on the Discovery Channel. We hope that this feeling engendered in them an eagerness to learn more about the truly grandiose processes behind the products they interact with on a daily basis. We hope that they know that they can get a cool job without a college education, if that’s what suits them.
Most of all, we hope that they allow their experiences at Tuff and Savant to shape their aspirations for the future.
The long and short of what we want to communicate in this post is succinctly contained within its title. We work with robots. We’ve programmed them, we’ve built their supporting components, and we’ve created end-of-arm tooling for them. Is your interest piqued? If so, read on.
Automation begets efficiency
Robotics is a growing field in automation that’s been making complex and delicate processes more efficient and precise. Robots are widely becoming more popular in material handling processes, but many hesitate to incorporate them into their processes due to the investment they require upfront. We’re here to tell you that in the face of rising costs and liabilities incurred by using personnel, the investment pays off.
One project we completed was built and programmed for an automobile seat assembly line. Our client is always looking to make their assembly process leaner, so they opted to automate the off-load process of seats from the build line. Implementing a robot in their assembly process enabled our client to use the employees who would otherwise be doing the heavy lifting to do work on other parts of the assembly process.
Tuff builds, wires, and programs
Our client ordered the Fanuc robot, and we at Tuff Automation designed and built the axis it rides on and its end of arm tooling. We also did all the wiring, installation, and robot and PLC programming. The final product operates at the end of the line and matches completed seats with their ship pallets using Internal Build Numbers (IBNs), and it looks something like this:
Conveyors have been such a significant part of our culture for so long, it’s easy to ignore their roles in our daily lives. Chances are, you probably didn’t wonder how long the conveyor has been around when one appeared in the famous chocolate factory episode of I Love Lucy:
Or think anything of any of the handful of times conveyors have appeared in film and television. But the truth is that conveyors have been used for a number of different applications for over 200 years. Check out the infographic below for a detailed visual history of where conveyors started and where they are today, with information and data courtesy MHEDA.