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Columbia/Okura Robotic Palletizing Blog

  • International Powder & Bulk Solids Expo 2014

    by Columbia Okura | May 19, 2014


     Columbia/Okura, LLC recently exhibited at the International Powder & Bulk Solids Expo in Rosemont, Illinois. The show is one of the largest dry processing exhibitions in North America. Columbia/Okura displayed a model A1800 robotic palletizer showcasing its high speed capabilities. The booth also featured Columbia/Okura's expansive offerings of End Effector solutions and services. 

    We would like to thank everyone involved in making this another successful trade show. See you again in 2016!


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  • 2014 Safety BBQ

    by Columbia Okura | Apr 17, 2014

    Today Columbia Machine & Columbia/Okura LLC celebrated a record setting injury free length of time!  For over 6 months, not a single time loss injury has been recorded.  Also, we celebrate 176 days without any recordable injuries.  This perfect record extends back to 2013 and we are positive that we can keep our impressive safety trend going. We honored our employees for their efforts with a catered BBQ by Famous Dave’s Restaurant.  It was a great opportunity to gather as a company and recognize our achievement.  Safety is priority number one for Columbia.  Whether it be in one of our facilities or in a customer’s plant, we strive to create the safest environment we can. Keep up the good work.

    Safety doesn’t happen by accident.

    Safety BBQ

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  • National Robotics Week!

    by Columbia Okura | Apr 08, 2014

    April 5-13th is National Robotics Week. The purpose of this great event is to celebrate the US as a leader in robotic development, educate the public on the positive impacts of robotic technology and to inspire students of all ages to pursue careers in robotics. Visit www.nationalroboticsweek.org for more information. 

    Join in the celebration by attending one of the many great events being held throughout the nation. Click here for a complete list of events your area. 

    Happy Robotics Week! 

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  • Go Hawks!

    by Columbia Okura | Jan 31, 2014


    Good luck to the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday in the NFL Super Bowl! 
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  • Okura Flexible Automation Systems celebrates 25 years!

    by Columbia Okura | Jan 20, 2014



    Columbia/Okura congratulates Okura Flexible Automation Systems on 25 years of successful operation as they celebrate their “silver” anniversary in 2014!

    Established in 1989, Okura Flexible Automation Systems Pte Ltd is a subsidiary of Okura Yusoki Co., Ltd of Japan. OFAS specializes in offering its customers in China, ASEAN and the OCEANIA with complete design and implementation services of innovative, cost-effective robotic palletizing and distribution systems.

    Please join us in congratulating OFAS on this great milestone.

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  • Happy Holidays from Columbia/Okura

    by Columbia Okura | Dec 20, 2013


     We'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you for your business and for your continued confidence in Columbia/Okura. 

    From all the members of Columbia/Okura, we wish you and your families a Happy Holiday Season and a safe and prosperous 2014!
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  • Happy Thanksgiving

    by Columbia Okura | Nov 27, 2013

    Happy Thanksgiving from Columbia/Okura

    In this time of Thanksgiving, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our employees, suppliers and customers. We thank you for your hard work, patronage and for allowing us to be of service to you and meeting your palletizing needs.

    We wish you and your families a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

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  • Types of Robotic End Effectors (End of Arm Tools)

    by Columbia Okura | Oct 14, 2013

    The infinite variety of end effectors is one attribute that what makes the robot such a versatile solution for palletizing. End effectors can be designed to handle multiple product types with a common tool. A robotic system designed for case palletizing can be transformed into a bag, pail, plastic tote, bundle or other package palletizing system without the need for an end effector change. This versatility gives the robotic palletizer a strong advantage over a conventional palletizer. A robotic system becomes a flexible investment capable of handling today’s packages and is capable of meeting future needs as well. 

    End effectors can employ different methods of product handling. These methods include, but are not limited to, clamp style, fork style, vacuum style and other custom designs. 

    Clamp Style – General purpose mechanical tool capable of handling a wide variety of products by clamping the sides of the package. This tool is capable of picking up and placing multiple packages at once when products are in the same orientation. 

    Fork Style – General purpose mechanical tool suitable for rigid, semi-rigid and non-rigid products that require support from beneath. This tool is capable of picking up and placing multiple packages at once when products are in the same orientation. 

    Finger Style – A mechanical tool that is most commonly used in handling product in bags. 

    Vacuum Style – Uses a vacuum system to pick product from the top. There are two primary types of vacuum heads: A full surface pad or individual vacuum cups arranged in a way to accommodate the needs of the palletizing system. The full surface pad is more universal and the vacuum cup type is more product specific. 

    Custom Design – Custom designed end effectors are the norm for most robotic palletizing integrators.  However, “customized” standard tooling allows for better long term part support.

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  • Columbia/Okura Celebrates National Manufacturing Day

    by Columbia Okura | Oct 04, 2013

    Columbia/Okura joins Columbia Machine, Inc. and the rest of the manufacturing community to celebrate National Manufacturing day.  The nationally celebrated event helps to bring awareness to the positive impact manufacturing has on the US economy and in our local communities. The event also gives people the chance to visit participating facilities and get a firsthand experience of what manufacturing really means.  Visit www.mfgday.com to find a scheduled event in your area.

    Happy National Manufacturing Day!





    To celebrate the day, all Columbia/Okura and Columbia Machine employees received Thank You gifts for their hard work and dedication to the continuous success of our manufacturing traditions. 
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  • Columbia/Okura sponsors FIRST Robotics Team 2471

    by Columbia Okura | Jul 11, 2013

    FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Team 2471 recently visited Columbia/Okura to present their project to a group of Columbia Machine and Columbia/Okura employees. The team, made up of local high school students, will compete in the FIRST Robotic Competition that takes place annually and includes teams for around the world. The competition requires teams to design, build and compete with their robot against other teams to complete a common assigned task (2013 Frisbee throwing challenge). FIRST aims to provide the students with experience in design and programming while promoting teamwork, strategic thinking and “coopertition” (a term created from the alliance-based nature of the competition). In support of the program and its promotion of robotics, Columbia/Okura has become a sponsor and made a donation to help support Team 2471 as they prepare for upcoming 2014 FRC tournament.  

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  • Robotic Palletizer Sales Training for OFAS

    by Columbia Okura | May 23, 2013

    Dick Sampson (Sales Director) and Brian Hutton (President) were recently invited to Okura’s Southeast Asia HQ in Singapore to participate in Robotic Palletizing Sales, Engineering and Integrator training activities. Okura Flexible Automation Systems has a relationship with the local Vocational Institute (ITE), where they have donated an A1600 Gen 3 robot palletizer system for student training. OFAS utilized the ITE venue for a day long training activity designed to exposure their employees, their SEA Integrators, as well as university faculty to the industries and applications where Columbia/Okura have been successful. Dick Sampson was the key note speaker for this activity. Dick’s training was well received and much appreciated by all attendees.

    Group photo at OFAS Robot Palletizing Training Event
    OFAS Training attendees at Okura's Southeast Asia (Singapore) headquarters. 

    Keynote Speaker - Dick Sampson (COLLC Sales Director)Dick Sampson (Columbia/Okura Sales Director) presenting.

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  • Robotic Palletizing Work Cells

    by Columbia Okura | May 01, 2013

    A robotic work cell is the complete set of equipment that has been integrated for a specific task such as palletizing. The flexibility of a robotic palletizing system allows for endless layout possibilities and can include many pieces of peripheral equipment such as conveyors, pallet and sheet dispensers, reject stations, labelers, etc. It is important to consider the configuration of all these items and how each individual piece may affect the overall cycle time when developing a robotic palletizing system.   

    Robotic palletizing work cells (systems) can vary greatly in complexity. Systems can range from a simple single line in-feed, with manually placed pallets, to very complex systems that can manage five in-feed packaging lines, feeding a single palletizer, while stacking products onto five different load building stations simultaneously. 

    Single Line Simple System

    Multiple Line System 

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  • Celebrate National Robotics Week

    by Columbia Okura | Apr 08, 2013

    Columbia/Okura celebrates National Robotics Week
    April 6th-14th, 2013 is National Robotics Week!

    Four years ago, the U.S House of Representatives passed resolution H.RES. 1005 , officially designates the second full week of April as National Robotics Week. This Resolution affirms the growing importance of robotics technology and supports all efforts to increase national awareness of robotic technology and its impact on the future of our nation.

    The main purpose of this week long event is to increase awareness of robotic technology by advocating for increases in funding for research and development and aiming to inspire students of all ages to pursue careers in robotics, science and technology-related fields.

    To celebrate National Robotics Week, events are being held in all 50 States to celebrate and promote robotics development and innovation. Click here to find and participate in an event in your area.

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  • Types of Robotic Palletizers

    by Columbia Okura | Mar 27, 2013

    Robotic palletizers were first introduced to palletizing in the later 1970s and early 1980s and are currently used in industries where conventional palletizers have traditionally dominated: such as food, beverage, pharmaceutical, paper, automotive, chemical and consumer products. Robotic palletizers use an end effector (also called a gripper or end of arm tool) to pick a product from a conveyor or layer table and place it onto a pallet. Today there are four major types of robotic palletizers: cartesian, scara, articulated and gantry.

    The following sections show these four different types of robotic palletizers and the axes through which they operate.


    Cartesian: Cartesian robots are typically used in slow production facilities where there is product with consistent weight and sizes needed to be palletized. It is ideally suited as a lower cost solution for single line production at speeds up to 10 picks per minute.


    Scara: SCARA (Selective Compliant Articulated Robot Arm) robots are generally used in faster production facilities than the Cartesian robot. The SCARA can typically handle up to 40 lbs and is ideally suited for palletizing from one to three production lines at a total rate of 20 picks per minute.


    Articulated: Articulated robots are the most versatile robots in the production environment. They are faster and have a variety of end effectors to pick up various product types. The articulated robot can handle a wide range of payloads up to 1 Metric ton (including end effector), though heavier weights are getting more common when picking complete layers. Articulated robots are capable of palletizing up to four lines at a time. On a single production line, the articulated robot can handle products that are 50 to 60 lbs at a rate of 25 per minute (single picked).


    Gantry: Gantry robots are generally the slowest, but have the advantage of being able to palletize a large number of SKUs simultaneously. They can also be used to handle extremely heavy product. The gantry robot has a larger footprint and generally a much higher price tag.

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  • Okura Yusoki produces their 5,000th robot!

    by Columbia Okura | Mar 26, 2013



    Okura Yusoki recently celebrated the production of their 5000th robot. The arm will be delivered to Tomoe Milk, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. Columbia/Okura received two of the previous milestone arms, integrating Okura's 2000th and 3000th robots. We'd like to congratulate Okura Yusoki on their recent production milestone!
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  • Define: Palletizer

    by Columbia Okura | Mar 25, 2013

    The Science of Palletizing defines a palletizer as a machine that assembles products in a predetermined pattern to form layers and sequentially deposits the layers onto a pallet to build a unit load. Simply put, a palletizer is a machine that takes a product, for example cases of beer, from a conveyor and places it onto a pallet so that the pallet load of beer cases can be transported to a grocery store. 

     There are two general categories of palletizers: conventional and robotic. 

    Conventional palletizers build a pallet load by orientating product in a predefined pattern by creating rows which are pushed onto a layer forming area. Once a complete layer is created it is placed onto the pallet layer by layer until a full pallet load is created and removed from the machine.  

    Robotic palletizers build a pallet load by picking the product from a conveyor and placing it directly onto the pallet. Building the predefined pattern right on the pallet, again layer by layer, until the full pallet load is created and removed from the machine.

    Both conventional and robotic palletizers can receive product at a high elevation (typically between 84” to 124”) or “floor level” elevation (typically 30” to 36”).

      Example of a Robotic Palletizer systemExample of a Floor Level PalletizerExample of a High Level Palletizer

    The diagrams in this blog are pulled from the book The Science of Palletizing to help show the different machines discussed above: Conventional Palletizer (both Floor Level Palletizer and High Level Palletizer are shown) and Robotic Palletizer.

    Do you want to learn more about The Science of Palletizing? Click here. 

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  • Ryoichi Okura, Okura Yusoki Co, President & CEO, Visits Columbia/Okura

    by Columbia Okura | Mar 14, 2013

    Johnny Okura, President  & CEO, Okura Yusoki, recently paid a visit to Columbia/Okura to meet with members of the JV as well as with management members of their partner, Columbia Machine, Inc. With growing business and challenges at home taking much of his attention, as well as Okura’s Sales and Manufacturing expansion activities in China, Johnny hasn’t had the ability to travel to the USA for a number of years.  During his visit, Johnny acknowledged that he has been pleased with the ongoing performance of Columbia/Okura.  Okura Yusoki likes to point to Columbia/Okura as a testament to a successful JV and a model for their businesses outside Japan.

    Since it’s been a number of years since Johnny’s last visit, it gave us the opportunity to reflect on numerous facility and operational upgrades made since his last visit to the East Campus building.  The upgrades include, but are not limited to the following highlights: New Exterior Paint, New Interior Paint (offices and factory), new lobby/visitor security system, New tile floor coverings throughout the building, New High Efficiency florescent lighting throughout the factory, New Parts Warehouse Mezzanine storage facility and upgraded Customer Demonstration Robotic Palletizing System.  Johnny stated that he really likes the factory layout and our assembly/integration process.

    Johnny’s visit also included a comprehensive tour through Columbia Machine as well.  Like Columbia/Okura, Columbia Machine has made numerous facility improvements and manufacturing upgrades since Johnny’s last visit to the Vancouver campus.  Johnny was very complimentary about all the improvements he saw at both facilities.  He could tell that Continuous Improvement was very evident in the way both Columbia Machine and Columbia/Okura manage their businesses.  

    We always appreciate Johnny’s insight as well as his humor.  As a departing comment, we asked Johnny to not let so much time pass before his next visit to Vancouver!  We wish Johnny “good luck” with the balance of his journey.

    Group photo from visit.
    Left-to-Right: Tomoaki Nampo -Resident Elect. Engineer, Brian Hutton - President Columbia/Okura LLC,
    Johnny Okura - President, Okura Yusoki Co., Ltd, Rick Goode - President, Columbia Machine, Inc. 

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  • Looking back at 2012

    by Columbia Okura | Mar 12, 2013

    2012 was an exciting year for Columbia/Okura which included successful trade shows, major corporate milestones and a very active production floor. The past year flew by... let's take a look back at the most significant events. 

    Robotic palletizing system on display at Powder & Bulk Solids tradeshow.

    In May, Columbia/Okura exhibited at the Powder & Bulk Solids tradeshow. Located in Rosemont, IL the show is focused on powder and dry bulk processing. Partnered with Columbia Machine's Batching Division, Columbia/Okura displayed an industry specific, complete bagging line and robotic palletizing solution. 

    Flexible robotic palletizer on display at Pack Expo.

    In October, Columbia/Okura exhibited alongside Columbia Machine's Palletizing Division at the PMMI Pack Expo tradeshow in Chicago, IL. Columbia/Okura launched its new GEN V robot and control panel. The system included a model A1600 robotic palletizer and showcased its flexibility by picking cases, bags and trays without end effector changeover. 

    Columbia Machine celebrates its 75th year!

    2012 was also a milestone year for both of Columbia/Okura's parent companies with Columbia Machine, Inc. and Okura Yusoki celebrating their 75th and 85th year anniversary respectively. Congratulations to both companies for their years of excellent performance and customer support!
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  • Welcome to Columbia/Okura’s Robotic Palletizing Blog

    by Columbia Okura | Feb 22, 2013



    Columbia/Okura, LLC would like to welcome you to our new Robotic Palletizing Blog. We are excited to introduce this blog and to start sharing the latest news and innovations we have to offer. This blog will give us the opportunity to inform you of the latest industry trends, upcoming tradeshows, customer profiles, service tips, retrofit opportunities…and more! Please keep an eye on this page for regular updates and please provide your comments/feedback on what you see and what you would like to see us blog about.

    Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive updates related to new blog posts.  


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