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KUKA robot palletizing fish crates at Pakfish

In one of the main branches of Poland's food industry, fish processing companies increasingly see the potential of process automation. In Rusko, near Darłowo, the first fish palletizing robot from KUKA began operating at Pakfish, with integration by Stawiany.

Fish-product manufacturing manual or automated?

Pakfish, began operations in Darłowo in 2005, and moved to nearby Rusko in 2016. The Rusko plant now processes approximately 80 tons of fresh fish each day to ensure a supply of fresh fish during months when catches of specific species are limited. Pakfish's storage of frozen raw fish serves major fish processors – especially companies that make canned food.
The company is located near the Baltic Sea and has focused on dynamic development since it began operating. The Pakfish board constantly looks for ways to improve production processes and simultaneously minimize the impact of strenuous tasks on its workforce, including manual palletizing of fish crates before freezing. On average, each crate weighs approximately 10 kg. The first robotic palletizing station for fish crates arrived at the Pakfish plant in 2020 and immediately reduced the strain on personnel.

We’re simply short on personnel, and this is hard work that required automation. Our daily output is approximately 80 tons of frozen fish. We need these fish crates to be placed on pallets and someone has to do it. Moving 80 tons of fish daily, even divided among four people, is a lot

Jacek Skotarski, Pakfish production manager

See in the video why the fish industry should be turning to automation.

More accurate fish processing, higher production, reducing the risk of injury to workers

Automation of palletizing fish crates using a KUKA robot

To optimize production, Pakfish cooperates closely with Stawiany, a Polish company that develops custom machines for the food industry. Run by Ireneusz Stawiany and his son, Jakub, Stawiany provides smoking chambers, filleting and slicing machines, and other proprietary equipment designs. The Pakfish board asked Stawlany to design and install a complete line to palletize fish crates.

“We have worked with Stawiany for ages, and their machines and ideas have proven invaluable. They persuaded us to opt for KUKA robots – and it was a very good decision,” said Jacek Skotarski.

The fish crate palletizing station is the last stop on the automation line built by Stawiany. A fully automated process inserts a preset amount of fish in a crate, which the robot then places on the pallet for transport by a conveyor system. What's critically important is that the robot can palletize crates that come from two independent sections, one fully automated and the other that includes a manual film-coating process.

Keeping the pace of work and higher stacks of crates

The main challenge of this automation project was to match the robot’s operating speed to the fast pace of the fish dispensing device.

“We could not slow down the fish dispensing process, so the robot must process two crates at a time to keep up. The essential element was the time available to transfer and then place a predefined weight. The crates are relatively soft and cannot be squeezed too tightly. At the same time, the space for gripping is limited because there are fish everywhere,” said Jakub Stawlany. “Selection of the correct gripper was the main challenge. The gripper’s design had been improved a while back. We also needed to prevent the fish from moving throughout the transfer – primarily during the robot's acceleration, as this would create difficulties during freezing. The fish must be distributed evenly so they fit in the freezing racks.”

The station designed by Stawiany reduces the burden on Pakfish’s personnel, makes it possible to stacks pallets higher – and provides substantial benefits to the customer. Now, the Pakfish board may consider introducing robots into more processes – beginning with the palletization of fish after freezing.
Historically seefod-food processing has been labor-intensive, difficult and repetitive, under increased temperature. 

Automation solutions for the food industry 

The KUKA portfolio dedicates solutions for the modern food industry, including special robot versions for use in cold storage rooms. To ensure the highest efficiency and safety, KUKA uses food-grade grease on robots from every load class.

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