LEONI cable management system designed “Site” unseen

LEONI develops a cable management solution spanning dozens of facilities without ever leaving home

One of the hallmarks of engineering expertise is the ability to successfully complete a job with minimal input from the customer. When one of the world’s largest online retailers sought to install nearly two dozen robotic palletizers across multiple distribution centers, LEONI engineers developed a cable management system without ever visiting a facility, viewing the palletization process, or even examining the robot workcell.

It will surprise no one to learn that the retailer in question is particularly reserved about sharing details of its logistics operations, which is why LEONI was granted neither an initial site visit nor permission to disclose the name of the client. The team was not even permitted to visit the integrator contracted to do the installation, or view the system. Fortunately, they were given just enough key details to finish the job sight unseen.

Building with breadcrumbs

Among those details were the make and model of the FANUC robots used, as well as the fact that the application involved materials handling/palletizing operations in which the bots would transport bins from high-speed conveyors to pallets during the logistics facility’s final staging process.

“Knowing the make and model helped us understand the cable lengths we would need,” said Chris Miller, sales engineer for LEONI Robotic Solutions. “And knowing what palletizing involves, it isn’t difficult to assume it involves a lot of fast motion, up and down and in so many axes.”

The integrator also shared the exact composition of the hose and cables the application needed to operate the robot’s end-of-arm tool. “They could tell us, for example, that they needed some pneumatics, switch cables, and power and communications cables,” said Miller. “That’s all I need to get going.”

The online retailer’s favor for stringent operational secrecy added one more potential twist, Miller added. “The robot cells, cables, and cable management system had to be repeatable. Every single one they put in across every site is exactly the same as the others. It’s not like robot systems in an automotive plant, where every application might be a little different.”

The client wanted this repeatability so it could uniformly document and conduct all maintenance and repair work with in-house technicians. The LEONI team simply assigned a part number to each cable in the umbilical, so the integrator or its client could order and drop in replacements as needed.

Optimization by invitation

After the integrator completed installation of the first wave of palletizers, the retailer launched plans to commission an additional 80 robots, each equipped with LEONI’s cable management system. And LEONI engineers received another sign of faith from the retailer: They were invited to one distribution facility to optimize the system and to educate the client on its use.

“The magic comes when we optimize our cable management system to get it tweaked in and adjust the brackets correctly for the robot motion program” Miller said. “The client had made some wrong adjustments that would have compromised the longevity of the system. Following the successful installation of the robot dress package, our job was to show them how to make the robot motion program and bracket adjustments work together.”