CHEP Selects Universal Robotics to Provide Innovative Pallet Inspection System

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — (BUSINESS WIRE) — September 12, 2012 — CHEP, the global leader in pallet and container pooling services, announced today that it has selected the Universal Robotics Spatial Vision Inspection (SVI) solution for automated 3D pallet inspection. By identifying pallet defects accurately and reliably, SVI is expected to reduce scrap and raw materials, while improving the consistency of overall pallet quality for CHEP customers.

Ed Mabe, CHEP Senior Director, Global Process Engineering, said: “Universal Robotics’ novel approach provides CHEP with an innovative low-cost 3D pallet inspection system that will improve the consistency of product quality by eliminating human variability in the inspection process and expand automation in our supply chain. Solutions like this further CHEP’s mission to deliver innovative, performance enhancing equipment pooling solutions to our customers.”

Traditionally, pallet inspection has been done visually with varying levels of manual handling or automated machinery, requiring the pallet to be lifted and flipped to see all surfaces. Stringent and frequent audits are required to reduce the variability of visual inspection. Traditional 2D vision is not as reliable as 3D due to the limitations of the technology and the structure of a pallet. Replicating manual inspection requires a flexible, automated vision system that quickly identifies a wide range of defects, including raised nails, and wood damage – whether split, loose, or missing – at a productive line speed. This solution sees more of the pallet at a faster rate than current approaches, delivering consistent quality levels for CHEP’s partners and customers.

David Peters, CEO of Universal Robotics, said: “Universal was selected because of our expertise in 3D sensor data for qualitative assessment. CHEP recognized this and has entrusted Universal to deliver a lower cost, state-of-the-art pallet inspection system. Universal provides the only 3D technology that incorporates a self-learning capability, Neocortex, that drives intelligence in the supply chain never seen before.”

Carmelo Alonso-Bernaola, Senior Vice President of Global Operations, said: “CHEP is pleased to partner with Universal Robotics to continue to enhance the service levels we provide to our customers while also improving internal productivity.”

CHEP continues to be a leader in environmental sustainability as well as a market leader in equipment pooling worldwide. CHEP issues, collects, conditions and reissues over 300 million pallets and containers every year. Universal’s innovative low-cost 3D pallet inspection system will enable CHEP to improve overall supply chain efficiency and sustainability.

About Universal Robotics, Inc.

Universal Robotics, a software engineering company, has expertise in multi-dimensional sensing and processing, motion control, and artificial intelligence. The company has created an unparalleled software platform for intelligent flexible automation, providing a wide range of solutions for materials handling, logistics and industrial markets. Universal’s products group by elements of sensory-motor interaction: Intelligence (Neocortex™), Sensing (Spatial Vision™), and Motor Control (Autonomy). Products integrate into complete applications or function independently, and are hardware agnostic. For example, Spatial Vision without motor control provides real-time 3D inspection, Neocortex yields data or process insight, and Autonomy can be used as an automated robot programmer.

About CHEP

CHEP issues, collects, conditions and reissues more than 300 million pallets and containers from a global network of service centers, helping manufacturers and growers transport their products to distributors and retailers. Combining superior technology, decades of experience and an unmatched asset base, CHEP handles pallet and container supply chain logistics for customers in the consumer goods, produce, meat, home improvement, beverage, raw materials, petro-chemical and automotive industries.


How is this different from more traditional vision inspection systems?

Computing power, imaging technology and mass production of consumer electronics have advanced to a point where powerful systems are feasible using off-the-shelf, readily available, and low cost components that work with our existing vision software algorithms.

Will you roll this out across the other CHEP regions?

Global standardization is a key part of our equipment strategy at CHEP. The development effort will include collaborating with the global team to ensure compatibility with regional pallet types and customer requirements.

How many locations will use this technology?

Similar to any equipment and process development, the capability of the solution and process requirements will determine where and when we will implement.

How much does it cost?

The cost of new systems will be significantly less than prior implementations.

How is Universal’s approach superior to other inspection methods?

In the case of a pallet, much of the damage occurs at the edges – where forklifts and material handling equipment make first contact. To provide the required precision at high speed would require very expensive 2D cameras. The other alternative is to go to 3D vision. Just like a human’s stereoscopic vision with both eyes open, 3D enables clarity even at the edge of your field of view. Universal Robotics is able to create very accurate 3D imaging with robust, state-of-the-art software and very inexpensive sensors, rather than using expensive lasers that are regulated in many jurisdictions. These inexpensive off-the-shelf sensors can be easily replaced if they get damaged or broken.

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