GRIPWIQ helps the seafood producer to get the most out of its robotic equipment and accelerate return on investment.

Whitby Seafoods

Whitby Seafoods is a family-owned business specializing in the scampi, goujons, and calamari. 

The family values have been maintained since 1985, so it is no surprise that the largest UK manufacturer of langoustines continues to focus on responsible seafood sourcing and sustainable production.  

Along with the sustainable packaging introduction, the company has invested in the automation of the packing processes, which seemed very promising regarding speed and efficacy. 

The line had three delta-type robots for packing bags of frozen seafood weighing between 190 grams and 1.8 kilos into cases, ranging from 8 to 28 bags per case. The end effector contained a configuration of 6 standard suction cups for lifting a particular type of bagged product, and the end effector needed to be changed to handle different bag sizes. The overall gripping solution contained four end effectors with four sets of different cup sizes to perform the packing of all bag types. 


The lack of end-effector efficiency affects overall performance

While the robotic packaging solution showed some great results, it quickly became clear that the standard suction cups prevented the scampi manufacturer from unleashing the full potential of their new equipment.

Patrick Thomas, the Head of Improvement and Innovation at Whitby, says, “The supplied standard suction cups had difficulty holding onto bags in new recyclable film at the required speed produced (…). Also, bags with irregular products such as Goujons, which also tend to be more generous in size, and bags with extra material and some of the heavier bag sizes also gave problems in general. The bags would hang down, and the swinging motion would cause them to ‘peel’ off the cups.

This issue resulted in a gradual reduction of the packing speed, which was far away from what the robots were capable of.

pick and place drops
gripper drop bag

Mr. Thomas continues, “There were other issues we had, such as the requirement for extra people on the line to deal with cases where bags were missing and to clear up bags dropped. Where bags did reach the cases but were badly placed, we saw issues at the case closer and palletization due to the irregular case shape, which could foul with the tape dispenser and case flap closer creating yet more waste and rework.”

The bottom line is that the lack of gripper efficiency can indeed be a big problem. “(…) We had to run slower than needed and were failing to get the return on the investment in the robots”, tells the Head of Improvement and Innovation.

The custom-tailored gripper is a game changer

The task of the GRIPWIQ team was to help Whitby Seafoods find a gripping solution that would enable the utilization of their new equipment at 100%. After a period of prototype testing and various adjustments based on customer feedback, GRIPWIQ has developed a gripper tailored for handling seafood products in loose packaging.

The CS-500 gripper has a domed shell that creates space for the excess bag material and some of the product during the lifting process. The shell is accompanied by an inverted silicone lip that provides a reliable grip and allows quick and safe movement of the bagged products. Moreover, the design of the lip allows the gripper to hover over the product, providing the optimum pick-and-place curve. 

As a result, the seafood producer can now pack their entire range of products with the same gripper. At the same time, the speed of the packing process is maximum, and the rework percentage is practically reduced to zero.

Patrick Thomas compares the performance of the end effectors saying, “[The PPM rate was] typically 120 to 140 split between the 3 robots but even at that we had dropped bags and poorly filled cases damaged at the case closer stage. Now each robot can run comfortably at 70 plus bags and have run the 3 at up to 200 ppm with the limit now being the supply of product. We can now pack all we produce the first time”.

How was your experience working with GRIPWIQ?

“Truly excellent. In the GRIPWIQ cups, we found a product that solved our issues. Some minor changes were made to accommodate our specific product with GRIPWIQ very much asking what we needed and pushing to get it to us and always very quickly. Nothing was too much trouble.

It has been easy and indeed a pleasure to work with a company that is so proactive and customer-focused and can provide such well-designed and made products”, says Patrick Thomas.

Key advantages

Single gripper for multiple bag sizes

High performance

Reduction of rework