Devising the ideal packaging solution
Confectionery Production speaks to packaging pioneers to gain insight into the ever-changing confectionery industry and how a manufacturer can meet market demands using smart technology. Daisy Phillipson explores the key issues…
The food sector is lucrative when you know how to work it, but staying competitive is vital. When it comes the packaging process, there there are several features to consider: initial cost of purchase, running costs, adaptability to changes within the market and ease of operation. According to GlobalData, these issues vary in priority from region to region.
North American companies are concerned with initial investments, European manufacturers prioritise running costs and Asia-Pacific producers focus on equipment adaptability. However, high performance and ease of operation remain at the top of the list for manufacturers worldwide.
The bare necessities
Those involved in the production of confectionery and sweet bakery items will know the importance of adaptability in the packaging process, and so high performance and flexibility are no longer luxuries – they’re necessities.
With this in mind, Theegarten-Pactec recently showcased its efficient EK4 high-performance packaging machine that can wrap up to 2,300 boiled sweets per minute in double-twist style – a peak value the company claims is still unmatched today.
The machine saves manufacturers costs on waste, as the servo-driven wrapping material draw-off allows for exact draw-off lengths and minimises material consumption. At the outlet, a ‘no product, no wrapping material’ function ensures an economical use of wrapping material.
Flexibility is another integral feature of the EK4 – the stepless adjustment of the rotary gripper oscillation allows for different wrapping materials to be processed, the insertion angle is variably adjustable and for different wrapping materials ,and in addition, rotary grippers are also available in the matching format.
Wrap it up
Machines such as the EK4 allow for the flexible and efficient packaging of boiled sweets and sugar confectionery, but what about baked goods? One company that focuses on this sector of the food market is Ilapak.
With many brands already offering multiple formats for biscuit products, packaging specialist Ilapak launched an innovative flow wrapper system designed to accommodate ever-changing portion and format sizes.
As mentioned, flexibility is the order of the day when it comes to modern packaging lines and the Carrera 6000 flow wrapping platform promises its users this key feature. The wrapper format changeover from one type of biscuit stack to another can be executed in just minutes thanks to interchangeable product guides, a removable stacking device, as well as an interchangeable sealing head.
But more than just a speedy changeover, the machine promises a speedy output too – the Carrera 6000 reaches speeds of up to 500 biscuit units per minute. And similarly to Theegarten-Pactec’s EK4, the Carrera 6000 features a ‘no product no bag’ function in order to maintain productivity and reduce downtime.
A mixed bag
A company that knows the importance of adaptability is the Schubert Group. As pioneers in the packaging field, Schubert’s most recent innovation is a new heat-sealing technology for its flow wrapping component Flowmodul. Thanks to this patented heat-sealing technology, heat-sensitive products such as chocolate can now be packaged even more gently in flow wrap bags.
In the case of hot-seal films, the Flowmodul adapts to the variable speeds of the upstream F44 robots, without this having an effect on the seal quality or the tightness of the flow wrap bags. “The patented flying transverse sealing unit used here is highly flexible and ensures that the sealing times remain constant,” said Johannes Schubert, product manager, Flowmodul.
However, as Schubert pointed out, not all packaging tasks require the utmost flexibility: “If packaging tasks are repetitive and not complex, a standardised and modular solution is often the better option.”
To this end, the company’s new lightline machine series includes machines for standard packaging tasks with preconfigured system components. Along with the lightline Cartonpacker, these also address pick-and-place applications with the lightline Pickerline and packaging in flow wrap bags with the lightline Flowpacker.
Another key trend regarding packaging is that of automation, as production facilities increasingly evolve to fit in with the standards of Industry 4.0. As outlined by Schubert, the networking of machines is a major sub-trend of automation. “Schubert is committed to offering customers preventive service and, with this in mind, it relies on digitalisation and close networking,” he said.
As part of the company’s service strategy, all of its TLM packaging machines can be connected via the internet with the GRIPS.world digital platform – a technology developed by Schubert to fully capitalise on machine networking and the benefits of Industry 4.0.
The Industry 4.0 movement is taken into consideration by SACMI Packaging & Chocolate when it comes to the development of its packaging machinery. “The entire packaging industry is shifting towards Industry 4.0 principles,” explained the company’s secondary packaging business director, Aldo Ablution.
“That goes beyond the development of solutions with growing levels of automation: it also involves a fresh approach to production line management.”
Thanks to innovative on-machine sensors and a huge production data gathering and processing capacity, new lines purchased from SACMI Packaging and Chocolate can now benefit from functions such as predictive maintenance, efficiency monitoring of individual machines, plants or even multiple interconnected plants, as well as the development of advanced scheduling functions that can be managed via a direct interface with the customer’s ERP.
In terms of new products, SACMI Packaging and Chocolate recently presented the new Active series of integrated secondary packaging systems, of which the model 222 performs case forming, filling and closure, all in one unit.
Thanks to fast size changeovers which require no tools, this solution is compact, simple to use and is easy to maintain, thus completing the Performance and Advance integrated packaging system series, which focus on high output rates, and the Smartcell series, which offers excellent flexibility and simplifies size changeovers for packaging chocolate and bakery products.
On the topic of automation, another organisation embracing this movement is Eurosicma – a group of companies manufacturing automatic horizontal fold and flow pack packaging machines. “Eurosicma is fitting into this by improving the development of fully automated solutions which start collecting the products in a synchronized way from the process line, handling, feeding and distributing them towards the primary and the secondary wrapper machines,” explained Eurosicma’s sales and marketing director, Francesco Redaelli.
The company offers a number of flow pack machines for the confectionery industry, including the Euro 77 range, suitable for wrapping a multitude of confectionery items, and the Euro 88 series, specially designed for a wide range of bakery, chocolate and non-food products.
Meeting the customers’ individual needs is a focus that is close to the heart of Eurosicma. Speaking about movements within the sector, Redaelli noted an increasing employment of environmentally-friendly wrapping material in packaging food items. “Eurosicma helps manufacturers to cater to these trends by providing them with a dedicated support starting from the preliminary phase of project up to the aftersales service,” said Redaelli.
Treat them clean, keep them keen
Aside from flexibility, performance and automation, hygiene and cleanability are major factors to consider when investing in packaging technology. Not only can suppliers save thousands of pounds each year by cutting down cleaning time, but also global food allergies and intolerances are rising fast. Any product labelled ‘free from’ must stand behind those claims, but this poses several challenges from a manufacturing perspective.
“Hygiene has never been more important,” explained Jason D’Arcy, VFFS product manager at Bosch.
“The responsibility is on manufacturers to ensure every measure possible is taken to safeguard the health and wellbeing of consumers where their products are concerned.”
No stone can be left unturned in the pursuit of efficient and effective sanitary processes, and the company keeps this in mind when developing packaging innovations, including its SVC 4020 VFFS, a continuous motion machine designed for high uptime, easy set-up and hygienic operation. An expert supplier such as Bosch Packaging Technology is more than capable of giving counsel in the areas of hygiene and cleanability.
Hygiene is an essential factor to consider when discussing conveyors, and perhaps no company knows this better than Wire Belt, who recently launched a range of conveyor systems that the company says set ‘a new benchmark’ in hygienic control and ‘cleanability’.
Wire Belt designed its Enhanced Hygienic Conveyors for any production facility where contamination is a concern. Key features include an open, wash-through construction and open leg frames, so there are no hidden areas. The conveyors are also designed to eliminate crevices and ‘bug traps’, while surfaces are self-draining.
Even the standard control panel is hygienically designed, with a sloped top for drainage, IP66 ingress protection and fully stainless steel construction. And they’ll also reduce running costs. “Cleaning is a significant expense in any production facility, especially where preventing contamination is a priority,” explained Ben Thomason of Wire Belt. “Making the cleaning process simpler and quicker reduces running costs, improves efficiency and thus increases profitability.”
The right solution
The food sector is one that will continue to evolve and while it can be volatile, it will always maintain a significant share of the global market. As a manufacturer of confectionery or sweet baked goods, packaging is a major step in the process and therefore calls for the right machinery to get the most out of a production facility and serve the needs of the user in the best possible way, even under ever-changing market conditions.