What does the ichneumon fly Trichogramma brassicae have to do with Kassow Robots’ partner, IBK IngenieurConsult, and KR1205 cobots? Quite a bit, it turns out. BIOCARE, a medium-sized company that manufactures biological pesticides for conventionalas well as ecological agriculture, began using robots in their production in 2022 – cobots from Kassow Robots, in fact.
The solution was designed by IBK IngenieurConsult GmbH, a Kassow Robots sales partner. The results are impressive: the use of a number of these lightweight robots enables four times the volume to be produced by half the employees – and quality to be increased at the same time. We spoke with Sebastian Beitzen-Heineke, who heads the company jointly with his sister Elisa, in the second generation of the family business. BIOCARE GmbH is based in Dasseln, in the German state of Lower Saxony.
Our business inorganic pesticides is doing very well. The end product is small pellets punchedout of cardboard, which farmers spread on the fields by drone or launcher. Our goal is to meet the huge demand for these products in the best way possible. That takes growth! At the same time,I wanted to link that growth with innovation. As an initial example, I decided on the automation of the packing plant for pellets with ichneumon fly larvae asan organic pesticide. Because I saw great potential in it for an improvement inquality. And then it took off. I found IBK IngenieurConsult as a partner and after just two weeks, I had an exciting overall concept in 3D in my hands.That’s when I heard about Kassow Robots for the first time.
Because I wanted to bring in outside ideas, and I wanted to get a partner who would be there for us when needed, even after implementation. I probably never would have ventured into robotics on my own,and I never would have expected it was affordable. IBK delivered a proposal that was innovative and well-conceived, and they advise me honestly and on equal terms. That persuaded me. I know now that these cobots are economically feasible and that this investment is justified. The cobots from Kassow Robots are very user-friendly. I’m extremely happy with them, not to mention with the great support from IBK.
In the system, in the first production stage, holes have to be formed in the cardboard that are then filled with beneficial organisms. That used to be done with a needleboard, where the balls were pierced with extremely fine needles. But that was in part imprecise, and resulted in cardboard fibers that could swell withmoisture, causing the holes to close up again. IBK designed a complete solution for us consisting of a laser system and a cobot as a helper. One of us presses the start button every morning. Nobody has to be standing next to the cobot. The machine and the cobot run autonomously for about four hours. We work according to a “four-container principle”: three of the containers are full, one is empty, and they’re shifted automatically. At the end, when the machine is empty, we have three full containers.
Sometimes people ask why there’s a fence around the system. There are two good reasons for that. For one, the safety code calls for a protective fence around the laser machine. And second,the robots need to be able to operate at top speed. We take full advantage of this capacity, so that the parts for the fast-working laser are installed as quickly as possible. A Double gripper enables the cardboard to be changed extremely quickly, and it’s immediately ready with the next piece of cardboard.The goal is maximum efficiency. And cobots don’t just help with the fitting ofthe laser machine – additional KR1205s come into play in the packing ofthe ichneumon fly eggs.
It isn’t really possible to measure the productivity increase down to a percentage point. But the bottom line is: with only half the workers, we achieve four times the volume, along with a quality increase. That is, this solution gives us greater efficiency and an improved product all at once. And it promotes my team’s further development. When you have to constantly install the same workpiece, that’s not a workplace that really offers long-term job satisfaction. Now, with the cobot taking over the mindless work, the employees are enjoying new challenges and can also operate the cobot.
When we got started, I didn’t know that most cobots on the market only have six axes, or what the seventh axis actually makes possible. The seventh axis allows a very compact solution, and these cobots are also very user-friendl - they’re very easy to operate. We make full useof the KR cobots’ agility. They can very easily reach down into the deep wagons to take out or deposit the cardboard pieces.
I’m very satisfied with how easy they are to handle. IBK took over the training of personnel on the cobots once the overall plant was in place. Initially, just a colleague and I were trained for one day. For nine employees now, we can set up a specific “action level.” This also lets us avoid inaccuracies in oral briefings on who can use what. I can give anyone access to the user interface with the three buttons: stop, play, and warning. Then I have one for admins; in addition to myself, only two other people are admitted, so that all the options don’t become overwhelming – because there’s a wide range of design options. In summary, it can be said that, after minimal training, these cobots can be easily operated. That includes troubleshooting small problems – for example, when the cardboard occasionally gets hungup in the gripper.
That it isn’t that big a gamble when you have agood partner at your side along with top products. But there has to be openness to the new. Because, with cobots, the time of working on the machines withscrewdrivers and wrenches is past. And there are two other aspects that shouldn’t be underestimated: completely rethinking things, such as with cobots,can mean much more than simply relieving employees. It can also be a very worthwhile investment in terms of product quality. And you become more attractiveas a company when monotonous jobs are taken over by cobots and the team canfocus on monitoring and other more interesting tasks. I can say overall thatfor us as a medium-sized company, when it comes to efficient productionprocesses, the use of cobots is a very important building block in our growthstrategy!
👏 We thank Sebastian Beitzen-Heineke for speaking with us!
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