GameStop relies on A-B-C machines for top productivity
Excerpt from Packaging Digest - Jack Mans, Plant Operations Editor
GameStop, the world's largest video game retailer, is a $7 billion company with more than 5,000 stores worldwide. A key feature of its operations is its refurbishment of used games and systems that its stores take as trade-ins when customer buy new systems. The company completely updates these games and systems with new software and components and resells them in its stores. This refurbishment takes place in a section of GameStop's 500,000-sq-ft headquarters and distribution center in Grapevine, TX, near the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport.
The refurbishment operation initially consisted on manually assembling the components in a corrugated box with foam padding, after which the boxes were hand-packed into shipping cases. In 2004, facilities director Dan Toomey began looking for a more efficient operation. After examining possible options, Toomy approached Partner Pak, Inc. about its Simpl-Seal technology, which uses liquid plastic that is solidified by UV light, to seal the product in clamshell cases. This proved successful, and last year Toomey installed a more elaborate system to run larger clamshells, such as those that house the Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming systems which are about 18x17x4-in. high. "We were doing everything manually, which took a tremendous amount of labor," says Toomey. Today, GameStop is running a number of different-size clamshells on the line.
A-B-C case packer loads two clamshells
The packages exit the sealing tunnel and are conveyed to a servo case packer from A-B-C Packaging Machine Corporation. "We have a lot of equipment in the plant from A-B-C, and this servo-driven machine fits right into this automated line. As with the clamshell sealer, the operator just selects the product he's running on the HMI and the machine adjusts itself to run that package," Toomey says.
Just ahead of the case packer, there is a switch that the operator can initiate that will divert selected clamshells from the conveyor. Remaining clamshells enter the infeed conveyor of the Model 206 end-loading case packer from A-B-C. GameStop stacks two or there clamshells on top of each other to load into the shipper, and this, plus the large case/product load, required a custom accumulation and load section. When a clamshell arrives at the packing station, a plate descends behind the clamshell to hold back following packages. A product pullback system prevents the clamshells from overlapping or shingling as they assemble at this accumulation station. The bottom plate then opens and allows the clamshell to drop onto a lower belt. The back plate then rises and allows the next clamshell to enter the packing station and the same thing occurs. If the plant is running smaller clamshells, a third clamshell will be added to the stack. The belt holding that lower stack then indexes forward, and the process is repeated.
Simultaneously with a belt containing the clamshell stacks, vacuum cups on a rotating arm pick cases from a magazine and erect them onto a conveyor moving parallel to the clamshell conveyor with an open end facing the clamshell conveyor. As the two conveyors travel synchronously, a ram pushes the clamshells into the case, after which hot-melt glue is applied to the end flaps on both ends of the case. The flaps the are plowed shut. This compact, programmable-logic-controlled case packer features servo motors for the main case drive, an infeed, a down-stacker, and a load pusher, and an HMI that enables an operator to select the product running from an onscreen menu and set the afore-mentioned servo motors for each package.
The shipping cases leaving the case packer are conveyed to an A-B-C Packaging Machine Model 71 AG floor-level palletizer. "This new line has been a real success for us," says Toomey. "Not only are the clamshells much more protective and better looking than our previous packages, but the new line has significantly reduced labor. All the suppliers worked extremely hard to bring everything together and meet our schedule."