Smart Flexible Depalletizer From Honeywell Designed to Boost Warehouse Productivity, Reduce Injuries

Honeywell's robot uses the latest machine learning and gripper technologies to help unload pallets without pre-programming.


The Smart Flexible Depalletizer is designed to minimize the need for manual labor to break down pallet loads.
Honeywell's new depalletizing robot uses machine learning and gripper advances to help unload pallets without pre-programming, addressing labor shortages and turnover.

Honeywell International Inc. yesterday announced its Smart Flexible Depalletizer, which is designed to help warehouses and distribution centers automate the manual process of unloading pallets. The Charlotte, N.C.-based company said its latest robotic innovation can reducing the operational risks of potential injuries and labor shortages.

Driven by machine learning and advances in perception and gripping technologies, Honeywell said its Smart Flexible Depalletizer minimizes the need for human workers to break down pallet loads. Such roles are at risk for safety incidents, experience high turnover, and are currently difficult to fill.

A typical midsize to large distribution center unpacks up to several thousand pallets per day, with the probability of errors, worker fatigue, and injury increasing during each shift, noted the company.

“Even when manual operations are running smoothly without injuries, the physical, repetitive task of unloading pallets is variable and limited by human constraints,” said Dr. Thomas Evans, chief technology officer of Honeywell Robotics. “Our Smart Flexible Depalletizer helps improve throughput by operating consistently without interruption over multiple shifts with minimal human interaction.”

“With the labor constraints warehouses and distribution centers are seeing in filling these manual roles, this solution can be an ideal fit to help keep up with daily order volumes,” he said.

Smart Flexible Depalletizer can pick mixed loads

The depalletizer's articulated robotic arm is guided by advanced vision technologies, which allow cases to be picked from a single- or mixed-SKU pallet on a fixed or mobile location, said Honeywell. The latest computer vision technology identifies the exact location of every case on the pallet, while perception software automatically recognizes a wide variety of packaging.

This technology allows for seamless handling of a continuous flow of pallets in any sequence without requiring any pre-programming or operator intervention, according to the company.

The machine learning and motion planning optimizes the movements of the robotic arm to ensure maximum picking speed and efficiency, claimed Honeywell. The control logic also senses the weight of each item as the robot lifts it and automatically updates its gripping response to transfer each product securely and effectively.

The more the Smart Flexible Depalletizer picks, the more it learns and continues to improve in quickly and efficiently unloading pallets, said the company.

“Reliable depalletizing rates are of growing importance as consumer preferences continue to accelerate the rate of packing and the increasing product mix warehouses and distribution centers handle every day,” said Evans. “These major technology improvements are driving fully automated solutions capable of meeting or exceeding the throughput of manual operations.”

“Not only do these solutions offer significant benefits to modern distribution centers and other fulfillment operations, the business case for their utilization is also increasingly attractive,” he said.

Honeywell to tout robot benefits at Pack Expo

A recent Honeywell study revealed more than half of companies are more willing to invest in automation because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its lasting effects. The same study showed companies see increased speed of tasks, greater productivity, and increased employee utilization as the top three potential benefits from automation.

In addition, Honeywell said its new robot can work with its own autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). This enables continuous operation of the system while providing the flexibility to stage pallets and empty stacks virtually anywhere the robot is capable of traveling, it said.

The Smart Flexible Depalletizer will be showcased at this year's Pack Expo International trade show in Las Vegas at Booth C-4436.

Honeywell Intelligrated said it offers integrated end-to-end automation, warehouse automation software, and lifecycle support services, regardless of the manufacturer, to improve throughput and keep workers safe. It is a unit of Honeywell International.

Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions (SPS) provides products, software, and connected systems to improve productivity, workplace safety, and asset performance for customers across the globe. It provides mobile devices, software, cloud technology, and automation, as well as personal protective equipment; gas-detection technology; and custom-engineered sensors, switches, and controls.

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The Smart Flexible Depalletizer is designed to minimize the need for manual labor to break down pallet loads.

Robot Technologies