AI Equipped Sortation and Pallet Inspection Systems

PRS Group Offers AI Equipped Sortation and Pallet Inspection Systems

Machinery with a Brain: PRS Group is working with Universal Logic to bring AI-enabled equipment to the pallet sector.

By Staff - Pallet Enterprise
Date Posted: 3/1/2023

Can AI help your pallet manufacturing or repair line?
Is this technology realistic for pallets? The cost of labor and doing business in the industry is going up and up while the cost of technology is coming down and down. Those two are intersecting.

The next piece of pallet recycling equipment you buy may come equipped with its very own brain. More than just lines of pre-programmed computer code, this machine has the ability to learn from previous data and improve analysis when it comes to sorting and inspecting pallets.

PRS Group is working with Universal Logic to bring Neocortex Pallet Sorter and Neocortex Inspection System to the pallet sector. Universal Logic is a software and robotic hardware company that has been on the leading edge of artificial intelligence (AI) applications since 2008. Neocortex is the longest running AI/robot control software in the world.

Neocortex Pallet Sorter has been used by leading companies, such as Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. and 48forty Solutions. Universal’s AI brain combined with sensors and a robot creates the next generation of pallet sortation and inspection. This system can handle all types of pallets in nearly all conditions, including broken boards, debris and slip sheets. It is capable of sorting and stacking 400 pallets per hour with almost unlimited sorts depending on the system layout. Neocortex can sort a wide variety of parameters from defect, quality, color, shape and size. Both Neocortex Pallet Sorter and Neocortex Nail Inspection System are commercially available now from PRS Group.

Jeff Williams, president of PRS Group, said, “Neocortex software makes more consistent decisions than a typical human operator. It can run multiple shifts at the same speed as a human, with greater accuracy and consistency. The system collects immediate data, better data than a human can achieve.”

Neocortex can be integrated with existing pallet repair lines and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. Williams explained, “Neocortex Pallet Sorter combined with PRS repair equipment reduces wear and tear on workers and automates labor-intensive practices in a limited footprint.”

In addition to the sortation system, PRS Group and Universal Logic offer Neocortex Nail Inspection System. According to Universal, this system is the fastest on the market. It takes in thousands of 3D data points and can accurately return an analysis in seconds with 99% accuracy. It detects missing or popped nails at every joint.

The inspection system can be utilized in the grading process of repaired pallets. Williams said, “Neocortex can make a grading decision and direct a repaired pallet to the right stacker without scanners and barcodes as is traditionally used in automated repair lines today.” If the customer so desires, bar codes can still be used to track individual worker output and integrated into Neocortex software.

Neocortex software can be used to inspect pallets after repair or even after an assembly line to look for nail problems. Williams suggested, “The applications are endless. The scanning/inspection systems can be used at the front of a repair line to sort incoming cores or to grade finished pallets.”

What is the advantage of AI-enabled machinery? Williams explained, “The AI allows the system to learn, to take data and make better decisions compared to just ordinary vision systems that use a camera and laser to scan a pallet and then run the data through basic PLC code. AI analysis goes much deeper to use data to make smarter decisions.”

Neocortex can help recyclers truly analyze and determine the price matrix and true return on each core load. Pallet users will like the finished result because the inspection system helps solve the pallet quality dilemma. David Peters, CEO of Universal Logic, revealed, “If you have a distribution center or a warehouse, somebody who is dealing with a volume of a million pallets, my research indicates that underperforming pallets are directly responsible for about $60,000 up to $400,000 in losses per year. That’s a wide range because of the value of the items on the pallet can vary from cheap stuff to expensive equipment or products. The reality is that poor pallet quality directly correlates with shrink and product damage.”

So, why are Neocortex software and sensors better than a human operator or inspector? Peters declared, “Because of the high-resolution sensors that we use, we are absolutely able to determine if this pallet is of sufficient quality to meet the customer specification. From slightly popped nails to improper dimensions to insufficient repairs, almost anything you can imagine, we can identify. Neocortex software combined with scanners can examine a product to tighter tolerances than a human inspector can achieve with the eyeball. Because our system doesn’t get tired, the 1,000th pallet of the day will be just as true to the spec as the first one of a production cycle.”

Automation also provides more data points and serves as third-party verification to ensure that there is no cheating when it comes to following an agreed-upon specification. Williams said, “Everyone involved can trust the system because of the technology and data used to verify everything.” The user can adjust the settings to vary quality parameters based on each customer’s requirements. But this is a deliberate decision, not something that happens by accident because the worker starts to get tired or fudges the quality to boost numbers.

Neocortex software is sensor agnostic and capable of processing data for a wide variety of packaging applications. Peters commented, “The algorithms of Neocortex have been finely tuned with a rich and broad set of data. The years of practical application, with over 350 million production cycles, make the software robust, accurate and reliable.”

While this may seem like space-age technology, the software and hardware have been proven in other industries for more than a decade. Williams predicted, “What does the future look like? The next wave in our industry is going to be machine vision systems. This technology can look at boards, pallets, or anything being used in production to ensure quality and consistency.”

Is this technology realistic for pallets? What about the costs? Williams explained, “We are finally there. Why is this the right time? The cost of labor and doing business in the industry is going up and up while the cost of technology is coming down and down. Those two are intersecting. As AI and scanners are used more and more in production, systems will be able to better monitor quality and performance standards ranging from possible bug infestation to tolerance adherence to board placement, even slight nail pops.”