Validating the Robot Assembly Line Design

Continuing investment in the business lead to new technology being introduced at Chep, automating processes in cleaning, inspection, and repair. Using simulation Chep validated that the design was "right" and the investment in machinery and equipment would provide return to shareholders quickly and effectively.

Simulation uncovered several design flaws that would have meant costly redesign.


Key Facts

  • Chep were investing in new technology to automate their processes.

  • SIMUL8 was used to validate the design and ensure ROI on the new equipment investment.

  • The simulation showed up key points to be addressed in the proposed design.

  • Experimented with their ideas in a risk free environment to find best solution.

"You can't design systems like this without simulation, and the earlier in the design process you use it the better."

Clive Atkinson, Project Manager, Chep

The Challenge

CHEP is the world's leading pallet and container pooling company. CHEP, part of the $11 billion Brambles Group, operates in 38 countries across 6 continents, providing equipment pooling services to many industries.

Pallet and container pooling is the shared use of high quality pallets and containers by multiple customers or users. CHEP maintains their customers' pallet pool and ensures that all pallets are in good condition by cleaning, inspecting and repairing any damages in their service centers.

CHEP provides pallets for more than 100,000 customers, including Wal*Mart, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg's, Kraft, Nestle, The Home Depot, Unilever, Hewlett Packard, Ford and GM.

CHEP contributes about 40% of the Bramble Group's Revenue. Efficient processes in the service centers are vital to maintain this. Continuing investment in the business has lead to new technology being introduced, automating certain processes used in the cleaning, inspection, and repair processes.

This process has led to complete redesign of the flow of pallets through the service centers, but the problem is how is it possible to ensure that the design is "right" and the investment in machinery and equipment will return to shareholders quickly and effectively?

The Result

CHEP's Industrial Engineering Department turned to simulation. SIMUL8 was chosen as "the most user-friendly package."

Even in a crude form the simulation showed up key points to be addressed in the proposed design. Maximum buffering sizes were found to be larger than predicted, due to the random nature of the delivery of damaged and undamaged pallets into the process. If this had not been uncovered by the simulation then, at best, costly redesign would have been required.

Armed with the learning and understanding form the simulation, Clive is now confident in the design and is in an excellent position in his negotiations with equipment suppliers.

As simulation skills improved a detailed simulation of various machines was built, and SIMUL8 Components created. SIMUL8 Components are custom reusable objects that can be placed onto a toolbar and easily reused in future simulations, reducing build times further.

What's next for CHEP?

SIMUL8 has been used in numerous other projects at CHEP to answer questions like "if we improve reliability of a machine does it increase productivity" - this is not as obvious as it sounds and depends on downstream process not acting as bottlenecks.

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