Multi-million cycle robot replaced after almost 20 years


A new Kawasaki robot has just been installed to replace an older version which completed an estimated two million fault-free lifting cycles for one of Ireland’s leading producers of pallets.


Mid Cork Pallets & Packaging has two sites, one in Clondrohid to the West of Cork and the other in Dunboyne near Dublin. A new Kawasaki robot was installed at the Cork production line almost two decades ago, where it has performed flawlessly without requiring anything more than routine maintenance. In mid-2020, mindful of its age, Mid Cork Pallets decided to replace the unit with a new robot rather than refurbish the old one. Having benefited from 20 years of exemplary service from the older Kawasaki robot, the business was keen to replace it with the latest version from the same manufacturer, and in September of 2020, a brand-new Kawasaki ZX165U robot was commissioned at the plant.

Mid Cork Pallets & Packaging enjoys a hard-won reputation as a premium quality pallet producer. Production rates are high with around 5,400 standard Euro-pallets manufactured each day. The company’s new Kawasaki ZX165U robot is tasked with moving compressed and moulded ‘air blocks’ used in the manufacture of these (and other) pallet products. Gripping trays of up to 96 blocks at a time, the robot uses side clamps to take them from a conveyor and then rotates them through more than 180° to deposit the trays directly onto a pallet assembly machine.

As with most factories, Mid Cork Pallets & Packaging can ill-afford unscheduled downtime. This was identified as a critical element when discussing the replacement robot with Kawasaki Robotics and its approved Integrator on the project, KTM Systems. Peter Mason, Managing Director of KTM Systems, recalls: “From the outset, it was declared vital that the 72-hour installation and commissioning window provided by the customer was adhered to without fail. The time allocated covered the removal of the old Kawasaki Z-Series robot, installing the new Kawasaki ZX165U that replaced it, and line training for Mid Cork Pallets staff so that they could become operational immediately”.

Mid Cork’s Martin O’Mahony observes “Our choice of robot was a simple one really, given the excellent service record of the existing Kawasaki robot that had been with us for almost 20 years. We needed a replacement that offered even greater speed, and which could also grow with our business given that output is forecast to continue increasing significantly”.

Another consideration, which both Kawasaki Robotics and KTM Systems were made aware of by production staff early in the discussions, was ‘ease of use’. They were well attuned to a certain way of operating the previous robot and were keen to keep the transition as simple and straightforward as possible. “To this end, we used a bespoke, proprietary controller from Kawasaki Robotics, complete with its own standard software,” said Peter Mason.

The robot and controller package was installed and commissioned well inside the agreed timescale and became operational on 30th September 2020 at the Clondrohid site. “Although we used the latest generation of controller hardware and software from Kawasaki Robotics, the in-house training provided by the installation team focused mainly on the differences between the old and the new. As a result, our key line staff found the transition seamless and quickly understood how to programme the new robot and get the best from it. We’re extremely pleased with our new Kawasaki robot and are expecting at least another 20 years of sterling service from this one too” concludes Martin O’Mahony.

Commenting on another successful installation for one of its most valued customers, Kawasaki Robotics Sales Manager Ian Hensman observed: “It is surprising how many of our older robots are still providing sound and fault-free service after decades of hard use. In this case, our customer chose to replace and upgrade rather than refurbish. The latter would have been cost-efficient, but the older robot may not have provided Mid Cork Pallets with the expansion capacity that their future growth calls for”.



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