In soup, on salads or as a garnish for meat, frozen herbs are popular seasonings. To prevent them from clumping together, turning black or changing flavor, they need a cold chain that’s perfectly maintained, even during packaging and transportation. For that reason, the French market leader DARÉGAL opted for Arctic automation. To supply all of DARÉGAL’s customers with herbs including basil, garlic and mint, two KR QUANTEC PA Arctic robots started work at the company’s Milly-la-Forêt site south of Paris at the beginning of 2021.
The first artic robots at the world
The KUKA robots work in the cold room at temperatures well below 0° C without protective suits, so their resistance to cold makes them ideal for food production. At DARÉGAL, they palletize small packages of frozen herbs at -25° C for delivery to restaurants and retailers. Before the robots came on board, employees had to perform this task manually on each of the packaging lines, which operate in three shifts, five days a week.
An introductory video on how kuka’s robots work (video: KUKA)
Better job conditions for workers
“We opted for automation to stop subjecting our employees to these difficult working conditions,” said Bruno Jarrosson, industrial director at DARÉGAL. Maintaining the cold chain was a decisive factor. For the automated palletizing line, DARÉGAL chose the KUKA KR QUANTEC PA Arctic because it is the world’s only palletizing robot that operates in deep-freeze applications without a protective suit.
Significat cost savings
The KR QUANTEC PA Arctic was created precisely for environments such as those at DARÉGAL. This cold-resistant adaptation of the service-proven KR QUANTEC standard palletizer also impresses with a reach of more than 3 m in a compact design, with short cycle times and high stacking precision for payloads of 120, 180 and 240 kg. “The robot does not require a special protective suit for the deep-freeze range down to -30° C, so the user achieves significant cost savings,” said Tanguy Lyvinec, Business Development Manager at KUKA. “Furthermore, the robot arm requires no special heating to work in the cold.” The KR QUANTEC PA Arctic thrives in sub-zero temperatures and up to 10° C.
Artic robots and workers together
KUKA integrator AB Process Ingénierie installed the system for DARÉGAL, overcoming various challenges along the way. In an area that measured no more than 80 m2, the two robots had to be installed to ensure the safety of employees who continued to work in their vicinity. The use of robots didn’t lead to any job losses, either: after retraining, the employees who previously handled the manual palletizing operation now run the automated system.
We had to install the two KR QUANTEC PA Arctic robots in the deep-freeze warehouse and ensure the safety of our employees. We managed to accomplish this exceedingly well (Bruno Jarrosson, Industrial Director at DARÉGAL)
Efficiency in cold storage with the Kuka SmartPad
“The flexibility of the system means that operators can adapt to individual scenarios on the user interface of the KUKA smartPAD,” said KUKA’s Tanguy Lyvinec. This versatility enables DARÉGAL employees to start any of 35 palletizing plans with just a few commands. The two KUKA robots organize and synchronize themselves to palletize various packaged products simultaneously. They enable the French global market leader in frozen aromatic herbs:
- to improve working conditions for employees,
- increase the quality of pallet production
- ensure a consistent cold chain.
As a next step, DARÉGAL is planning robot-assisted palletizing of unpackaged industrial products.
Suitable event to a very low temperature
The system raised another installation challenge: how to arm all components against the enormously cold conditions in the deep-freeze warehouse. “At such low temperatures, plastics quickly become stiff and breakable. For example, a rolled cable can withstand the cold under static conditions, but not in motion,” explained Brian Boulanger, CEO of AB Process Ingénierie.
After tests in a specially prepared warehouse and detailed adjustments at the customer’s plant, the deep-freeze system was ready to go into operation, combined with the palletizing software KUKA.FlexPal. This solution enables extremely fast commissioning and control of palletizing applications without extensive programming knowledge.