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Robotics Case Studies

FANUC System Sorts and Palletizes Eight Different Products Simultaneously

by Cathy Powell
FANUC America Corporation

FANUC System Sorts and Palletizes Eight Different Products Simultaneously


Jefferson Smurfit Corporation, headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., is one of the nation’s most broadly based paper, paperboard and packaging companies.  It is also the nation’s leading collector, marketer, recycler and exporter of waste paper.

A product line that consisted of a wide range of folding cartons kept employees at Jefferson Smurfit’s  North Wales, Pa. plant loading pallets by hand.  Since production requirements were so diverse,  manual stacking seemed the only system flexible enough to handle the company’s requirements.  While this method had worked for many years, plant manager Rick Huff realized that time, labor and energy could be saved by changing the stacking process. 

“When you considered all factors – labor costs, three production shifts and manpower utilization – it became obvious that it was time for a change,” he said.

The company needed a system that was compact and flexible enough to handle eight different products, three slip sheet sizes, trays and a variety of pallet configurations within the company’s pre-defined space.


Jefferson Smurfit selected FANUC Robotics North America, Inc. of Auburn Hills, Mich., to supply the robotic palletizing system and Stokes Material Handling Systems of Doylestown, Pa. to provide sortation conveyors, pallet handling equipment and a stretch wrapper.

Working in partnership with Jefferson Smurfit, the suppliers developed a solution capable of sorting and palletizing eight different products simultaneously.  The system was also designed to handle both trays and slip sheets depending on the case size, and flip any cases without tops to accommodate stacking requirements.

The system consists of two identical cells, each containing a heavy-duty FANUC Robotics M-410iW palletizing robot, a four-position pallet turntable, four infeed conveyors, a tray former, three slip sheet magazines and three tray magazines.

The system, which stacks up to 14 cases a minute, has allowed Jefferson Smurfit to increase productivity by 30 percent over manual palletizing and reduce labor costs substantially.  And, because the system is programmed to recognize all of the manufacturer’s carton variations, product changeover is fast and easy.

Huff said, “Automating such an elaborate operation was a very detailed process.  Fortunately, FANUC Robotics and Stokes Material Handling were experienced and professional enough to make the transition smooth and successful.”

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