An end-of-line automation project has tripled the productivity per head at an apple supplier to Tesco


Apple producer Adrian Scripps has installed a range of equipment from Brillopak that has seen the packing hall productivity rise to match increasing growth in products.

A complete end-of-line automation project with Brillopak has seen Adrian Scripps, Tesco’s top apple supplier, triple productivity per head. The project saw Brillopak install two PAKStations, four UniPAKer robotic crate packing systems, four Crate DESTAKers, two bale arm closers, four vertical accumulation units and three robotic palletisers. Thanks to this investment, Adrian Scripps has tripled productivity from between 2.5 to 5 packs to 15 packs per person per minute. This, in turn, has enabled the packing hall to align its capacity with increased production that has resulted from replanting orchards, introducing new varieties and adopting new farming methods. 

“Any equipment investments in our packing house have to stack up against investments in our orchards,” says James Simpson, managing director of Adrian Scripps.

“In our sector it has been difficult to automate; you might assume that apples flow easily because they are round, but they don’t…and pears are even more awkward, so there are considerable handling challenges to overcome,” he continues. “But we have invested significantly in automation so that we can pack apples more efficiently and it is paying dividends; our productivity per person has been accelerated by robotics.”

While every single apple is still hand-picked, the company’s sorting operation has been automated for over 30 years. Here, fruit is transported through a pre-sizing machine in water channels; where imaging technology checks the colour, sugar content, internal quality, size and shape of each individual apple, identifying any blemishes and imperfections. Apples are then graded by weight, quality etc before same category fruit is packed into 300 kg plastic crates and transferred to the packaging operation.

“This means that the packaging operation is presented with a uniform product that has already been sorted and graded,” says Simpson.

Brillopak’s PAKStation gave Adrian Scripps a flexible semi-automated solution on two of its four lines. However, with the vast majority of the company’s production in one single format, and volumes increasing year on year, it wasn’t long before Adrian Scripps was ready to upgrade its other two lines to a fully automated workflow and installing two completely new packing and palletising lines.

The company considered other packing systems, but it was the inherent flexibility of the award-winning UniPAKer robotic crate packing solution that once again convinced Adrian Scripps to partner Brillopak on this project.

Each of the four UniPAKer crate loading cells at Adrian Scripps houses two delta type robots, each performing a single pick. To maximise packing speed, the crate is dynamically loaded as it is moving;  working alongside each other, the robots take it in turn to partially fill the crate, picking individual packs off the infeed conveyor and positioning them precisely in the crate at the programmed orientation.

Each UniPAKer is fed by a Brillopak crate DESTAKer, an automated crate destacking solution that rather than picking up the entire stack and relying on gravity to despatch the bottom crate, it clamps the bottom crate down, lifts the rest of the stack up and then despatches the bottom crate.

Each line also incorporates a vertical accumulation unit just before the entrance to the palletiser. Brillopak supplied three compact robotic cell palletisers capable of operating at a rate of up to 30 crates per minute.

Adrian Scripps now has a fully automated crate packing operation with six packing lines each capable of running at up to 75 ppm, giving the company the uplift in capacity it needed.

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