- Optimise the label application and scanning process
- Improve employee safety and efficiency
- Expand capacity by adding a new processing line with the same staff level
- Minimise the error rate
- Norbord chose ZetesAtlas for pallet identification
- The Zetes industrial labelling machine automatically applies around 1,400 labels to pallets every day.
- The labels are scanned automatically to register stock locations in the WMS.
- The forklift drivers no longer need to exit their cabs to perform a highly manual and repetitive task for every pallet.
OSB panels are used in just about every renovation project in the Belgian building sector. There's a very good chance that they are made ‘at home’ in Limburg, Belgium. After all, Norbord Genk is one of the world's largest manufacturers of wood-based panels – its 125 employees produce no less than 1,200 square metres of OSB panels per day.
“In our factory we grind and process logs into wood-based panels with dozens of different thicknesses”, says Steven Brouillard, Department Manager Finishing End Operations at Norbord. Then the panels are placed on a pallet and wrapped in film to form a standard package with a height of 900 mm and a maximum weight of 1.5 tonne. Next a label is created by the ERP software, applied to the pallet, and scanned in order to register the pallet, the panels and the stock location in the ERP system.
Applying and scanning 700 labels
In the past the labels were printed in advance using the ERP software. After the strapping time of around 90 seconds, the forklift operator exited the cab to manually apply the label to the package.
“For a long time we had a second employee stationed at the packaging machine, whose main job was to apply and scan the labels”, says Brouillard “With 700 pallets per day, that was no longer possible, and we also had plans to start a new line.”
In order to automate the process, Norbord opted for ZetesAtlas, an integrated solution for identification and serialisation. After pallet wrapping, the machine applies the label – always in the same place – and automatically scans the barcode with the stock location and batch number. Then ZetesAtlas ensures that the pallet is shown correctly in Norbord’s warehouse management software. The forklift operator enters the stock locations only once at the start of their shift. Once the pallet has been scanned, the operator takes it to the designated place in the warehouse with an area of approximately 40,000 square metres.
Automation boosts safety and reduces errors
Now Norbord has only one employee per line instead of two, as the automation solution eliminates the need for the forklift operator to exit the cab to apply and scan the labels. This dramatically improves safety, since there's always a risk of falling every time a forklift operator exits or enters the cab.
“What’s more, the error rate is now lower”, says Stefan Nysen, Systems Developer at Norbord. “In the past, operators sometimes forgot to scan the label before taking a pallet to the warehouse. Then our stock locations and quantities would be wrong, and you can't sell panels that aren't registered.
As many as five pallets a day could be involved. On the next day we read in all the pallets again to correct the ‘forgotten’ pallets. Fortunately, it didn't take too long, but avoiding all that is better.”
Fully integrated into operation
It's hardly surprising that the operators welcomed the new industrial labelling machine with open arms. Nysen states: “After the installation, the operators were very enthusiastic. They wanted to learn all about the system right away, so they could restart it themselves if anything went wrong during the night shift. Fortunately, the interface is very user friendly.”
“It's not easy to link industrial machines to ERP or WMS software. For us this worked out very well with smooth cooperation between our engineering and IT teams on the one hand and Zetes on the other hand. Instead of running on its own in a remote corner of the warehouse, our machine is fully integrated into our operation thanks to the ZetesAtlas identification software.
“Thanks to the fast delivery, we were able to start up the second line with this technology and did not have to recruit any additional staff for a short transition period.” Steven Brouillard, Department Manager Finishing End Operations at Norbord
Brouillard adds: “We talked with a number of different suppliers for this project, and Zetes made a very professional impression right away and immediately understood what we needed. We started in March 2019 with the first contact, and six months later our two machines were already running at full speed. Thanks to the fast delivery, we were able to start up the second line with this technology and did not have to recruit any additional staff for a short transition period. We were also impressed by the short response times, and it's nice that we can call Zetes whenever we want. Looking back, we could ask ourselves why we waited so long.”