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Improvement of Food Sortation System Performance Using Arena® Packaging Optimization


The Challenge

Funnel pies from a wide conveyor belt into a single file line, without colliding.

The Arena Solution

Since the system had been installed already and was in operation on a daily basis, the Rockwell Automation Arena consulting team was called to build a model using Arena packaging optimization software. Simulating a packaging process flow model to vary the current system would allow the packaging manufacturer to conduct analysis without disturbing the actual system or building costly prototypes. The model was built to represent the sortation system, input conveyor, and exit conveyor. The Arena model was constructed to allow selection between two types of release mechanisms, one which was timer-based and another which was sensor-based. An animation of the packaging process flow was developed in Arena so that analysts could observe the movement of pies and keep track of vital statistics during the course of the run.


The packaging optimization model was used to test a strictly sensor base system, a timer-based system, and a combination of the two. The third option was selected because, during simulation runs, the sensor-based system increased the number of high velocity pie collisions that occurred, and the timer-based system built up too many queues inside the sortation system. The combination alternatively brought together the best of the first two options and has proven 95% to 98% effective in meeting the system objectives.

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A large packaging system company in Glasgow, Kentucky, produces continuous, plastic-chain, curving conveyors used primarily for food production. In addition to conveyor systems this packaging company also produces a complete line of transfers for handling products at the start and end points of the conveyor. Conveyor systems running an optimal packaging process flow is imperative to the product’s success.