The importance of automation


Automation is expanding in the food Industry, which is the 2nd industrial sector in our Country, because companies which operate in this line aim at having bigger competitiveness on foreign markets and retrain national supply. Investments in automated systems purchase to reduce manual operations allows improving process times and control strategies that are useful for production stabilization.  Warehouse automation also protects food from the contamination due to the use of traditional industrial machinery; it reduces waste and increases shelf-life, ensuring greater consumer protection. The importance of automation explains the choice of Pastificio Carbone, who bought two mobile bases “Compatta” by ICAM, for the warehouse’s logistic reorganization. With a factory of about 3,000 square meters, PAC has three production lines with a production capacity of about 200 kg/day and has flexible systems which allow proposing varied packaging solutions. The pasta factory operates through dealers who handle the distribution of two large families: “short fresh pasta” (orecchiette, cavatelli, strascinati, ferretti, fusilli calabresi, trofie, strozzapreti, paccheri and calamarata) and “long fresh pasta” only durum flour or durum flour and eggs (troccoli, scialatielli, egg tagliatelle, chitarra, tagliolini, fettuccine, pappardelle and normal or thin lasagne). The raw materials are Italian, and products with 90 days shelf-life are packed in protective atmosphere with single pasteurization.

Warehouse automation in the food industry

The PAC storage area is 500 square meters, divided into two functional areas: cold storage for finished products’ picking and packaging storage. The biggest investment is in the area devoted to the refrigerating room (300 square meters) which led to a storage capacity increase from 100 to 500 Udc of fresh pasta. In the area intended for packaging (200 square meters) automation has generated an increase of 100 pallets from 50 to 150 UdC (cardboard pouches). These results have been achieved thanks to Compatta, ICAM’s storage system composed of shelves mounted on mobile bases which slide on rails integrated in the floor. Thanks to the motorization system, the movable bases allow accessing the stored material by opening only the corridor in use. Considering the same space, these bases allow increasing storage capacity by over 80% compared to a traditional system with static shelves. Space optimization also allows refrigerating room storage (up to -40°C), to replace any storage solution for frozen products. The concentration of goods and the consequent reduction of empty spaces preserve temperature, reducing energy consumption.

Output, quickness and energy saving

In “Compatta” plants, the Relax system spaces the shelves uniformly if the system is not working, to allow air circulation in the refrigeration rooms or to introduce water in case of fire. The Lux system allows power savings thanks to the automatic switching of the lights only in the corridor in use. The Picking system allows rapid picking operation thanks to the subdivision of the main corridor in two or more accesses. The system that is installed into the CAP packaging area has a height of six meters; it can contain 150 Udc with 800x1200x1920 mm dimension and 775 Kg weight, with n. 2+basis load level height, for a total of three among mobile and fixed shelves. The modular mobile shelving is the same throughout the whole warehouse. Mechanical movement is controlled by motor adapters which are coupled to the drive wheels of the trolley for a linear, synchronous and parallel handling. The electrical system consists of a general and a peripheral electric panel. The general panel includes PLC system and control inverter. It warns in real time the intervention of safety photocells which are placed on the system and activate emergency buttons. The system control logic, with data transmission based on Compobus field bus, allows handling the mobile basis individually even in emergency situations and to subsequently implement other diagnostic, management and remote control functions. Peripheral electric panel which is placed on each movable trolley includes button-panel for shelves’ handling, a button for instant stop of the system in case of danger, and a flashlight to indicate the shelves’ movement. Remote controls for remote opening of the desired corridor ensure the activation of a dedicated operating cycle that involves the system’s starting, with cycle consent, each time the operator moves away.