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The power to palletise

11 October 2018

The robot-based ACPaQ solution from Swisslog and KUKA automates one of the most important areas of the intralogistics operations of successful retailers: creating customised mixed pallets for individual stores from single-SKU pallets.

Retailers are facing many challenges today, due to the growing necessity for them to adapt to their customers’ needs. This means offering a comfortable shopping experience and sufficient amounts of a wide selection of products through several channels – all while aiming to reduce costs and the daily workload of employees.

Head of Sales at Swisslog UK, Shane Faulkner, explains how in today’s competitive world, companies must be able to deliver the right orders to the right customers at the right time. “Errors and delays in order fulfilment can have a lasting negative impact on the brand – but maintaining high stock levels ties up capital and affects flexibility.”

He continues: “To address these challenges, Swisslog developed an innovative automated solution that fulfils retailers’ daily logistics tasks in an efficient and economical manner.”

Swisslog’s robot-based ACPaQ solution automates one of the most important areas of the intralogistics operations of successful retailers: creating customized mixed pallets for individual stores from single-SKU pallets. This innovative palletising system has a highly modular design. With the ability to be used in both ambient temperature and chilled zones, it combines robotics solutions for depalletising and palletising with CycloneCarrier shuttle technology and enables a fully automated process controlled by the SynQ warehouse management software. Compared to traditional methods, the concept doubles or even triples the speed of picking cartons in distribution centres based on store layout, item groups or item classes.


At the core of the ACPaQ solution is the RowPaQ cell featuring a state-of-the-art 5-axis jointed-arm KUKA robot. It is equipped with a flexible gripper with adjustable forks which allows it to pick up as many as four cartons at a time even if they don’t have the same size or weight. 

The gripper is a unique 4 fork row gripper that can handle multiple cases. It consists of a frame to which gripper forks are mounted. For maintenance or in case of repair each fork can be exchanged individually. Not only single SKUs but also units of different dimensions can be processed simultaneously. This unique gripper type allows for gentle handling of multiple products and various package types such as cartons, crates, trays or shrink-wrapped products. 

A RowPaQ cell is capable of setting down up to 1,000 cartons per hour in the exact location predefined by the palletising software. The solution is completely scalable and additional RowPaQ cells can be added to the system to increase throughput as required.

Intelligently connected subsystems

The high-speed shuttle CycloneCarrier serves as case buffer and storage system. The shuttle releases the cases in the correct sequence once an order is assigned.

The entire ACPaQ system is managed by Swisslog‘s intelligent warehouse management software SynQ. It selects the cases required for order fulfillment and creates retrieval orders and activates and controls all movements within the system. The entire storage system, its components and software are perfectly integrated to ensure a reliable and transparent operation.

Shane explains: “With ACPaQ, a distribution centre could do 3 million cases or items per week. A peak day would be 17% of this, which amounts to around 500,000 cases or items per day.”

Networking new and proven technologies

Robot-based palletising builds on an intelligently organised process. Before cartons can be palletised in sequence, they are first separated, loaded into trays and stored temporarily in the highly dynamic CycloneCarrier shuttle system. Even before the warehouse management system issues the palletising order, Swisslog’s software autonomously performs a complex calculation process based on product parameters to determine the best way to load the pallet. The cartons are then transported in the exact sequence from storage to the RowPaQ cell. After palletising is complete, it is shrink-wrapped and transported via conveyor directly to the right shipping station.

“Order picking by robots improves picking quality and quantity,” says Shane. “Thanks to the compact solution design and best-in-class robotic performance, our customers can benefit from optimised return on investment and reduced labour costs. The modular design allows small, medium, large and growing companies to increase their capacity and efficiently handle peak demands.”

ACPaQ technology for new dm-drogerie markt logistics centre

Recent contract wins with major retailers are testament to the capabilities of Swisslog’s ACPaQ solution. Last year, the automation specialist was selected by Europe's top-earning drugstore chain dm-drogerie markt to build a new logistics centre from the ground up. At the heart of the project, which marks Swisslog’s third major contract with the company, will be the ACPaQ technology.

Dr. Christian Baur, CEO of Swisslog Warehouse and Distribution Solutions and COO of the Swisslog Group, is convinced by the concept. "This project is the perfect marriage of KUKA and Swisslog expertise in one solution and demonstrates that we are the leading supplier of robotics solutions in intralogistics. We are extremely proud that dm-drogerie markt has again entrusted us with tackling this project."

As a full-service provider of automated intralogistics systems, Swisslog delivers everything companies need to optimise logistics from planning through to implementation. The order fulfilment and inventory solutions that make up Swisslog’s product portfolio enable companies to achieve the highest throughput at the lowest cost, efficiently handle large catalogues of SKUs, and accurately meet delivery demands and requirements.

Coca-Cola Amatil Picks ACPaQ – a fully automated solution for creating mixed pallets

Coca-Cola Amatil New Zealand has announced a major expansion planned for its Auckland Distribution Centre. The robot-based ACPaQ solution is a world-class innovation and is the latest development to emerge from the bundled robotics and intralogistics know-how of Swisslog and KUKA.

Swisslog has been commissioned to employ its robotic based order picking system, ACPaQ, which combines robotics solutions for depalletising and palletising, combined with the CycloneCarrier shuttle technology and enables a fully automated process, bringing high throughput and reliable picking of customers’ orders.

Amatil has been using a fully automated pallet storage system since 2007 and the expansion into robotic picking allows the company to meet rising customer demand while reducing costs and improving quality, efficiency and predictability in its operations.

John Truscott, General Manager Supply Chain for Coca-Cola Amatil NZ, says the new system will enable the business to keep pace with increased demand along with rising expectations on the quality of customer deliveries.

“We are excited by this technology and the advantages that the fully automated case picking system provides us. This will certainly strengthen our capabilities heading into the 2018 pre-Christmas period,” Truscott said.

“The whole picking system will be fully integrated using Swisslog SynQ software, which also controls automated delayering of single product pallets into individual cases.”

The heart of the new system will be three RowPaQ robot cells, which can each handle up to four cases simultaneously and stack up to 1,000 cases per hour into multi-product pallet loads ready for customer delivery.  This is a far higher throughput than existing mixed case robotic palletisers. These robots also have unique grippers designed for fast, gentle and accurate handling of almost any carton, shrink wrapped or foiled package.  The solution is completely scalable and additional RowPaQ cells can be added to the system to increase throughput as required.

The new solution also includes Swisslog’s multilevel shuttle storage system (CycloneCarrier) that quickly delivers sequenced cases to the robots, all linked with pallet and case conveyors. 

The ACPaQ system will be installed this year and replace a manual, voice directed picking system but will link with the existing automated pallet store to create a seamless operation.

Swisslog’s Sean Ryan said: “Coca-Cola Amatil are leading the way in applying new technology to support their long-term business requirements and we are excited to be working with them. The modular design of ACPaQ has been specifically developed so extra capacity can be added with increasing demand.”