Combining modularity and flexibility as a model for success
Gerhard Schubert GmbH from Crailsheim (Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany) produces its digital, robot-based packaging machines with a clear focus on the interplay between simple mechanics, intelligent control technology and a high degree of modularity. This approach soon made Schubert, which was founded in 1966, a globally recognized market leader in top-loading packaging machines. With this philosophy and its own very distinct culture of innovation, the business has been breaking technological ground for over 50 years.
Schubert’s TLM technology provides the machine manufacturer’s many customers around the world with future-proof, high-performance packaging machine solutions that are easy to operate, functionally stable and highly flexible in terms of adapting to format and product changes. The TLM packaging machines package products of all kinds and from all industries – ranging from food, confectionery, beverages, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, to technical products – in trays, cartons, boxes, bottles, tubes or flow-wrap bags.
Modularity as core competence
Flexibility, efficiency and reliable technology are the cornerstones behind the success of TLM packaging machines from Gerhard Schubert GmbH. The machines’ modular design, along with their advanced mechanical design and intelligent control systems, ensure exceptional effectiveness.
Today, Schubert’s eight basic modules enable a highly adaptable machine structure, within which all functions, such as feeding, erecting, filling, capping/lidding/sealing, labelling, marking and palletizing can be combined. In addition to Schubert’s VMS control system, the two-, three- and four-axis robots, image recognition systems and the recently introduced Transmodul standard component all come together to form the basis of the TLM machines. Thanks to these rail-based robots, transport tasks can be engineered much more efficiently. At the same time, the Transmodul further increases the compactness of the TLM systems.
In 2016, Gerhard Schubert GmbH not only celebrated its 50th anniversary, but also the introduction of a new system component that sets new standards in the packaging of products in flowpacks. For the first time ever, the Flowmodul enables the seamless integration of packaging processes for an extensive variety of products such as confectionery, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals and other flowpack products within its proven top-loading packaging lines. The eighth system component in the packaging machine manufacturer’s portfolio can easily take on small batches, short product lifecycles and high product diversity more efficiently than ever before.
Based on mutual trust and a high level of dedication on the part of its employees, the company has successfully developed a very strong culture of innovation. The company regularly introduces major leaps in innovation, offering all-new dimensions of customer value and conquering new market sectors with its state-of-the-art technologies. Schubert’s objective is to provide customers with future-proof automation solutions that are easy to use, flexible in format conversion and extremely powerful and stable in function.
Well-known brands from diverse industries, such as Ferrero, Nestlé, Unilever and Roche, rely on Schubert’s automation solutions, as do many small, medium-sized and family-run businesses. With its subsidiary company, Schubert Packaging Systems, the Schubert Group combines machine design with extensive expertise in systems design and engineering.
Schubert is a family-run business – with Gerhard Schubert, the company founder, and his son Ralf Schubert as Managing Director, running the business together with Peter Gabriel, Head of Administration, and Marcel Kiessling, Head of Sales and Service. The third generation is also represented within the company, with Johannes Schubert, Gerhard Schubert’s grandson currently acting as Product Manager. In addition to international locations in the United Kingdom and North America, the Schubert Group has subsidiaries in the fields of IT, precision parts and packaging services. Today, the company employs 1,250 people.
The Schubert success story
The Schubert success story began in the 1960s with the controversial idea to build a packaging machine using standard components from which, depending on the task, exactly the right line would be assembled. To implement his idea, Gerhard Schubert founded Gerhard Schubert GmbH in 1966 and began construction of the first carton erecting and gluing machine (SKA), with which the Weiss company in Nuremberg packaged its world-famous “Lebkuchen” gingerbread.
Over the course of the next years, the entrepreneur developed the first SSB modular machine (Schubert-Sondermaschinen-Baukasten) for filling and sealing cartons via top loading – whereby the line could be assembled from various mechanical modules depending on the task at hand.
Using the human body as model – robots in operation
In the 1970s, Gerhard Schubert was already considering how he could use robotics to maximize the flexibility and adaptability of packaging operations. The basic idea behind his vision was quite simple: human nature would serve as the perfect model for his packaging machines. “At some point, I asked myself what was the most flexible, adaptable development that nature had ever created? The answer was the human being,” says Gerhard Schubert. “With this in mind, my vision was to develop a machine built following human principles: simple mechanics, a high level of intelligence and the use of tools. This was the platform upon which we built our machines.”
In 1981, Schubert presented the first ground-breaking result of these considerations at the Interpack fair: ROBY, the first-ever packaging robot. This four-axle robot picked up and placed individual products, such as chocolates, from a feeder belt into a box or plastic tray. Schubert achieved a major breakthrough with the development of the two-axle SNC-F2 robot which was first used in 1985. Equipped with the right tool, it became possible with this robotic unit to perform a variety of packaging tasks, such as erecting, filling and closing boxes. This represented an important step towards standardization.
As early as in 1985, Schubert brought together its technical expertise in optical image processing with experts from the Nuclear Research Center in Karlsruhe, Germany, to set up its own development department. Since then, the company has ranked among the pioneers in this key area as well, and just recently reached a new milestone with its market-ready 3D scanner. Over and above product surfaces, the 3D scanner can detect volume, thereby increasing performance options in the packaging process – for pick & place operation as well as in quality control.
In 1996, with its F-44 continuously operating picker line, the company launched the first machine with an intelligent control system. The VMS packaging machine control system set the stage for a simple machine structure with a reduced number of mechanical components, which led to the development of today’s modular sub-machines.