Dutch palletizer Verbruggen targets Chinese potato market: “Flexibility is key in China”
“We have developed a specialized palletizer for the Chinese market. The design caters for specific situations we encountered whilst visiting our Chinese clients. Other functions, that are not used frequently, we have stripped off. For example, trucks are often not loaded with pallets. Instead, they are loaded with bags piled on top of each other. The trucks are loaded and off loaded by hand. It takes at least four people to unload a truck; two that are standing in the truck and two that are standing in front of the truck to receive the bags. Time-wise this will cost half a day. This is ten to twenty times slower than when the process is automated.
In addition, it requires heavy manual labor. Bags can be as heavy as 50 to 70 kilograms. To meet this problem, we have edited our original palletizer design and we have added a belt for automated unloading,” explains Ning Fan of Verbruggen, a Dutch palletizer design and construction company.
“The unloading belt makes it possible to off load the bags directly from the truck onto a pallet and into the warehouse. The trucks in China are all of different size; there is little to no standardization. Therefore we introduced a flexible unloading system, with a belt that can reach six to twelve meters inside a truck. Regardless of the size of the truck, our solution will fit.”
Flexibility is key
“Sometimes people compare our machines to locally produced robot arms (a popular tool used in China). They do not realize that our machines can do fully automated unloading, which cannot be done by robot arms. A robot arm can pick up a bag from the steel rack floor and place it on a pallet. It cannot, however, take a bag from a truck. Unloading still needs to be done manually. We approach the market step by step. Once clients see the advantages of the unloading belt, then we will explain the advantages of a palletizer.”
“A challenge in China is that almost nothing is standardized; the trucks vary in size, the pallets vary in size. Generally, big pallets are used. Because the pallets are stacked by hand, which is less accurate with overlapping format. To give the stacked pallets more stability, the pallets are made larger. This is also necessary when a robot arm is used, as a robot arm is also less accurate. On top of that, different companies use different pallets, which implies that pallets cannot be re-used between companies. In order to meet these challenges, it is a prerequisite to be flexible and come with flexible solutions.”
Verbruggen in China
Verbruggen is based in the Netherlands and has 25 years of experience. The company serves clients in 36 countries worldwide. In total, the company has sold over 1,000 machines on the international market. Solutions range from smaller sized machines with a capacity of nine bags per minute to larger machines with a maximum capacity of 40 bags per minute. Bags size can vary between 2.5 up to 750 kilograms. The machines are designed for hard and homogeneous or globe shape products such as potatoes, onions, rice, and fertilizers. Machine parts are mainly made in Europe. All machines are assembled and tested in a factory in the Netherlands.