Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Georgia Nut and Formic Deploy First Robot in Company's History

Malcolm Kerr, Head of Growth and GTM Strategy  

Company: Georgia Nut

Industry: Food Production

Application: Palletizing

Robot: Yaskawa Motoman

The Company

Georgia Nut was founded in 1945 as a small shelling and roasting operation in Skokie, Illinois. As the decades passed, Georgia nut significantly increased their capabilities and product offerings, and now handles wholesale confections, contract manufacturing, and private label food production. Today, Georgia Nut remains a family owned and operated business.

Before working with Formic, Georgia Nut had no experience with automation in their 75+ years of business.

The Problem

Like most manufacturers at the moment, Georgia Nut was having a hard time keeping up with their production schedule due to a severe labor shortage and high order volume. On average, they were short staffed between 15-20 people per shift. 

Georgia Nut had been on the fence to get started with automation for years, but the upfront investment and performance risk prohibited them from getting started. 

Formic’s “robotics-as-a-service” model simplified the process of automating by providing a performance-based offering and removing risk from the equation. This enabled Georgia Nut to get started with automation despite having no prior experience with the technology.

Or, as their Distribution and Packaging Manager Matt Neuman, puts it: “Formic has some skin in the game, because they’re only getting incentivized when the machine is running, not when it’s down.”

To begin, Georgia Nut was looking for support with palletizing across multiple production lines to better utilize their labor resources in other areas of their production facility.

The Solution

To design the solution for Georgia Nut, Formic partnered with Sourcelink Solutions. The solution included a HC20 Collaborative robot from Yaskawa Motoman, a customized end of arm tool, a touch screen operator interface, safety scanners, and stand wheels for mobility between different packing lines. Depending on which lines are running on which days, the palletizer can be moved around with a floor jack in less than 30 minutes, which maximizes flexibility and system uptime.

Formic handled all of the equipment procurement, custom engineering, and installation costs, and will continue to maintain uptime and performance of the system. The moment the system does not hit the level of productivity Formic promises, Formic stepped in to resolve the issue without any additional cost to GNC.

Neuman added: “We had very limited issues at launch which is very unheard of. And every time we did have an issue, Formic was here with a snap of a finger. Often they were on their way before I even called, and many times, Formic was able to address issues with the equipment remotely.”

Like any automation system, designing the solution required overcoming a few challenges. Initially, there were some issues with boxes being taped improperly, which Formic and Georgia Nut addressed. Additionally, ensuring that the palletizer was working seamlessly across many varying product SKUs and lines required careful attention to detail and rigorous testing. 

However, since Georgia Nut is only paying for performance (and not engineering hours), both teams were incentivized to get the robot delivering results as quickly as possible with minimal downtime.

Formic also trained the Georgia Nut team to work alongside the robot and troubleshoot any issues that may arise. Whenever anything wasn’t working properly, their newly-trained robotic operators were on the case and often able to get the system back up and running smoothly with no intervention from outside the company.

The Results

The results of the palletizer solution implementation have been fantastic. The solution can pick up two boxes at the same time, which allows it to palletize up to 10 cases per minute. The Georgia Nut team can also log in to the Formic dashboard from their homes or cell phones and check in on production results at any time.

The impact on Georgia Nut’s business has been immediate and sustained. In Neuman’s words: “The robotic palletizer has really helped us reduce an individual at the end of the line… and we haven’t had to shut down a line since we implemented (the system), just because everything we’re running, we’re able to reduce that to one person.”

Georgia Nut can now repurpose labor in their facility to work on other higher order tasks and is in a better position to hit their production goals. 

Now that they’ve begun the process of automating, Georgia Nut is looking at other elements of their production processes for other opportunities to automate, and we’re excited to help them on this journey.

Formic is proud to partner with Georgia Nut - they have a fantastic team and were a pleasure to work with (and thank you for all of the product samples!).

Customer Story