Case Study

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Combination System Saves Space – and Boosts Uptime

Using advanced safety and analytics, Aagard optimizes end-of-line operations with integrated cartoner-case packer-palletizer system

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  • Deliver compact, flexible and efficient end-of-line solution to run cartons



  • Conserves floor space with common frame for cartoner, case packer and palletizer
  • Improves productivity – helps decrease typical downtime event duration from minutes to seconds
  • Requires just one operator to monitor combined application
  • Reduces changeover time
  • Enables analysis of machine performance – and predictive maintenance

On any plant floor, space is at a premium. But when it comes to updating or repurposing an existing facility, space constraints can be particularly challenging for manufacturers and machine builders alike.

“In older manufacturing plants – especially in dense urban environments – you have to work with the space you have,” said Jason Norlien, vice president of technical sales, Aagard. “Also, companies that previously relied on manual secondary packaging processes often have very limited space for automated equipment.”

Since multiple machines are typically required for operations such as cartoning, case packing and palletizing, the footprint of a secondary packaging line can be extensive. To address space challenges, Aagard takes a unique approach and offers integrated combination systems that feature multiple functionality in one common machine frame.

Founded in 1997, Aagard delivers innovative end-of-line solutions to a diverse customer base ranging from Fortune 500 food companies to startups ramping up production. The company designs and manufactures both combination systems and stand-alone equipment from their facility in Alexandria, Minnesota.

Space-Saving Design

Responding to the industry’s need for a compact, high-speed solution for cartons, Aagard recently added a new offering to its Aspire® line of combination systems. The new Aspire CCP is a combination cartoner, case packer and dual palletizer system.      

Initially, we developed this machine for a confectionery customer who had about 12 packaging lines in their plant, Norlien said. “They needed a flexible system with a high-speed infeed to handle small cartons of candy at the end of each line.”

The product cartons enter the Aspire CCP system directly from the upstream primary packaging equipment via conveyor. Using a high-speed stacking assembly, the system creates appropriate pack patterns for retail-ready cartons. The cartons are erected, filled and sealed – and advance through a quality inspection station on route to the case packer.

The case packer builds the pack pattern and loads the retail-ready cartons in an erected corrugated case. The case is sealed and advances to the final section of the machine. Here, dual servo gantry palletizers build pallets case by case and discharge them.

In a footprint more than 50 percent smaller than conventional lines with multiple machines, the Aagard Aspire CCP packs 30 retail-ready cartons and 10 cases per minute. To achieve this speed, the machine handles 635 product cartons per minute at the infeed.

Optimal Performance – With Advanced Safety

“Even though we’re building a small footprint machine, it’s a premium featured, premium performance system,” Norlien said.

To optimize performance, the Aspire CCP is built on a Rockwell Automation® control platform that features advanced safety functionality enabled by an Allen-Bradley® GuardLogix® 5580 safety controller and Kinetix® 5700 servo drives.Thanks to the safety monitoring function of the servo drives, instead of stopping, the machine goes into a safe speed state when the palletizer bay door is opened to clear an obstruction. As a result, the machine can resume production without going through an entire restart procedure.

“In addition, we created safety zones for various segments of the machine,” Norlien said. “So key operations can remain engaged in sections not directly affected by the downtime event.”

Advanced safety functionality helps reduce the downtime generated by a minor event – such as adjusting an askew case on a pallet – from 5 minutes or more to about 15 seconds.

One Operator Monitors System

Integrated on an EtherNet/IP™ network, the machine also includes Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® 525 AC drives, which run the conveyors. The combination machine is monitored on a single Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus 7 graphic terminal.“All our customers are having difficulty attracting skilled labor,” Norlien said. “To help address workforce challenges, we’ve designed our equipment so one individual can monitor all three operations on a single HMI.”

One operator can also manage changeovers from the recipe-driven interface – and handle any change tooling and assembly adjustments. Typically, changeover on the equipment is completed in 10 to15 minutes.

Depending on application, Aagard offers an optional automated package that makes changeover as simple as a push of a button.

Future-Ready Analytics

Finally, the Aspire CCP features analytics capabilities designed to deliver instantaneous overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) to enable documentation of performance guarantees for end users.

However, the real promise of advanced analytics is predictive maintenance, which will further maximize uptime,” Norlien said. “This control platform will enable us to move forward in that direction.”

Learn more about how Rockwell Automation helps improve machine builder performance.

Allen-Bradley, GuardLogix, Kinetix, Listen.Think.Solve., PanelView, PowerFlex, Rockwell Automation and Rockwell Software are trademarks of Rockwell Automation, Inc. EtherNet/IP is a trademark of ODVA, Inc. Aspire is a trademark of The Aagard Group. Trademarks not belonging to Rockwell Automation are the property of their respective companies.


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