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Alliora is located in Fougères, a small town in the Brittany region of northwestern France, where it manufactures boxes for a range of clients in industries like board games, cosmetics, and champagne.
Antoine Bruno, general manager and president, said Alliora had wanted to add automation to its production lines for a while. Unfortunately, its first experience was difficult. Industrial robots were too complex. The company bought one, but it was never able to get it to work properly.
Meanwhile, the need for automation remained as Alliora was forced to hire many temporary workers to meet seasonal demand. “Having lots of temporary workers on a line can cause the line to slow down,” he said.
That’s not all: the job is physically demanding, and employees develop musculoskeletal disorders from the repetitive tasks. “The boxes are quite heavy, and after a while, you start to get back pain,” said Patricia Chevalier, production leader at Alliora.
Alliora needed something that would solve these issues while being easy to install and program.
Alliora’s team did some research online and approached Sterkelec, a local distributor of robotic products and solutions. Davy Pourrieau, Sterkelec’s product manager, toured Alliora’s workfloor. After discussing the issues they faced, he recommended that it automate the palletizing process.
Pourrieau recommended the Robotiq Palletizing Solution. It consists of a collaborative robotic arm from Universal Robots and a vacuum-based end-effector. Since this solution lets end users quickly create different programs, it was perfect for Alliora, which manufactures a unique product for each client.
Bruno gathered his team, and Pourrieau demoed the solution. The team was enthusiastic. Bruno instantly knew it was the right solution for them. With Pourrieau’s help, it was a fast and easy implementation.
As Éric Bleau, Alliora’s production director, said, “I am not a roboticist. I’m not an automatician. But Davy Pourrieau explained it to me right away, and within 45 minutes, I understood how the system worked.”
It’s been a few months since the first Robotiq Palletizing Solution was integrated on one of Alliora’s production lines, and it has made a difference. The cobot’s presence allows Bruno to hire two fewer temporary workers during high production periods, which helps stabilize the production line.
“Robots allow us to have much smoother production lines, and that’s exactly what we were looking for,” he said.
The production team is also giving positive feedback. “We wondered why we hadn’t thought of it before, because it’s such a huge relief for the staff,” said Patricia Chevalier.
Bruno estimates the ROI at 18 months, which is fast. It’s a successful experience that he plans to replicate soon — the goal being to add a Robotiq Palletizing Solution on three or four more production lines.