Procter & Gamble Co may be best known for laundry detergent and toothpaste, but its secret sauce is arguably figuring out how to do things like get two red bottles of Olay skin lotion into blister packs as cheaply and accurately as possible.
That task is currently done by hand at its factories.
But at one of the conglomerate’s secretive robotics labs on the outskirts of Cincinnati, researchers have programmed a robot to do the job.
It’s a surprisingly tricky maneuver for a machine. The robot arm plucks two bottles at a time from a box and lays them into the dimples with the labels facing forward so they’re visible when the package is sealed.
“That’s the key – getting the labels exactly oriented,” said Mark Lewandowski, director of robotics innovation at P&G’s global engineering center, pointing to the test line he’s set up inside the facility. “We’ll be rolling this out in the next month or two” to P&G’s factories, he said.
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