Flexibility and efficiency key to packaging success
Daisy Phillipson explores recent case studies of packaging machinery lines that have been developed and installed with flexibility and efficiency in mind, while cutting TCO considerably in the process.
Whether the point of focus is aesthetics, functionality, protection or sustainability, packaging that convinces the consumer of these characteristics is integral in tying a product together. As the variety of sweets and baked goods on the shelves continues to diversify at a rapid rate, the significance of the packaging design as a means of distinction has increased strongly over the past several years.
As such, end-users are on the lookout for custom-made solutions that can fulfil their specific needs. For many manufacturers striving to answer ever-changing demands, ready-made packaging lines are not always the answer – sometimes it’s about working with a machinery provider to develop a bespoke setup that ensures flexibility, product safety and TCO.
Equipment on demand
This was the focus of packaging experts Cama Group when they were recently approached by a leading international chewing gum manufacturer looking for a solution that could be repeatable across multiple sites in multiple countries.
But standardisation does not necessarily mean off-the shelf – organisations are still looking for unique solutions that offer the flexibility and agility that will help them address issues specific to their business.
“This was a brand new line and platform for an important upcoming product launch,” explains Alessandro Rocca, Sales Engineer Director at Cama. “As it was a new product launch, expectations were high, as were the pressures on us to deliver a packaging solution that matched the customer’s precise needs.”
By flipping the timetable and dedicating several months’ worth of effort into engineering and design reviews in order to meet the high expectations of the customer, all before the order had even been placed, Cama went above and beyond what was expected.
The end product of this unique approach was a line comprising an IF318 tray packer coupled to an IF294 case packer, offering the client flexibility and fast changeover for their process. Overall, Cama shaved minutes off the process by removing certain manual procedures, which over time would add up to significant time savings.
Meanwhile, the line utilised a Rockwell Automation control platform, with part of the engineering effort devoted to migrating over from another supplier. Thanks to this, the customer can now exploit enhanced connectivity and Industry 4.0 levels of data generation and exchange.
“Cama offers an incredibly high level of customisation. Our modular Monobloc architecture delivers impressive efficiency and flexibility too, coupled, in this instance, to a throughput of 100 trays per minute, from an in-feed of 500 products,” Rocca explains.
“Using advanced, in-house-developed robotic forming and loading we can deliver 99% efficiency. The development work has also resulted in very quick automatic changeover – less than 15 minutes – with all changeable parts having RFID tags.”
This project is a prime example of engineering design, customer support and technology working in synergy, resulting in a solution that will see a global roll-out for a worldwide product launch.
The key to longevity
As well as delivering tailored solutions fit to customer specifications, the maintenance of packaging equipment is critical to its longevity and performance. Just one example of how packaging specialist Gerhard Schubert ticked all of the proverbial boxes was its recent upgrade of Swiss confectionery specialist Chocolat Frey’s packaging line.
The two companies have been working together since 1982 and although their TLM system was still reliable, the chocolatier requested that Schubert upgrade it in line with the latest technological standards so that production could be secured over the long term.
Schubert installed the system with state-of-the-art control technology and amended it to fulfil all current occupational safety requirements. The company also ensured that all necessary components and spare parts can be supplied for years to come, giving the line the optimum longevity.
“We were able to demonstrate that the mechanisms on the older machine were compatible with a new control system – and also that this is a cost-effective solution. The most important part was to determine which assemblies could be reused in an upgrade,” explains Electrical Engineer, René Gollmitzer.
Other mechanical components and the function of the machine remained unaffected and were to be reused as they had been before, with the same approaches followed for the reprogramming of the packaging machine control system.
In addition to the latest control technology, the customer now has entirely new service options for maintenance, repair and expansion, not to mention improved safety with the extension of the guarding already present on the machine to meet current legislations.
With these features taken into consideration, it’s possible to see why Schubert is able to guarantee long-term and sustainable investments. In the case of Chocolat Frey, not only was the project completed in five weeks, but the company also made considerable savings of around 370,000 euros, explains Gollmitzer, compared to buying a new machine.
For its part, Netherlands-based Lareka has reported an encouraging start to 2019, with company’s latest line of packaging machines designed for high-end confectionery, the BTB25 and NP60 have gained a positive response from industry.
Marketing manager Renee Visser said: “It’s been a good first half of the year, with our new machines running really well as a new development within the market.
“The feedback that we’ve had for the BTB25 in particular has been very good, and we’ve just taken our latest batch of orders for the equipment. So we are hoping for a good second part of the year in the build up to the next ProSweets and Interpack.”
As the company notes, open innovation and collaboration are the key to success, and the business has been working with the TUe (Eindhoven University of Technology) on an improved theoretical mathematical model to better understand the folding process. This is part of its continuing focus on research and development, which accounts for a comparatively high total of 7.5 per cent of the company’s turnover.
Flexibility is now an essential factor to consider when it comes to investment in a packaging line, even more so for manufacturers that supply seasonal products throughout the year. This is where Theegarten-Pactec comes in, having developed its MCH, offering manufacturers of seasonal products both high performance and the flexibility to respond quickly to market demands.
As well as being able to foil-wrap or double-twist wrap up to 1200 products per minute, the machine features an optional double packaging material feeder, whereby waxed paper, cellophane, plastic and aluminium foil can be combined to create very individual and high quality solutions. Polypropylene films are stabilised with an air blast device, so even with this sensitive material the result meets the highest food quality standards.
In addition, the modular design of the MCH makes it possible to process different products and folding types on one machine, saving manufacturers in having to invest in several machines and also saving more floor space – an attractive benefit, especially in times of scarce and expensive property for commercial renting.
What’s more, with the MCH, the confectionery falls gently into the counterforms of the feeding plate so that the surface is not scratched, ensuring optimum protection for the end product. Finally, the fully automatic operation of the system means that a single operator is able to take care of several machines. Ultimately, investment in packaging solutions like the MCH pays off several times over when it comes to TCO, thanks to its flexibility, high performance and treatment of the product that results in less wastage.
Sustainability with Industry 4.0
Above all, one of the most significant rising trends in the packaging sector is sustainability. An increased focus across the world is to reduce and ultimately eliminate single-use plastic, and so the confectionery and bakery sector are increasingly turning their efforts towards reaching this goal.
Packaging experts Sacmi Packaging & Chocolate, for example, is responding by performing tests carried out together with leading producers of biobased films.
The company has also noticed a progressive increase in requests for hermetic sealed products in order to both extend their shelf-life and ensure food safety, which its developers addressed by adding the option of having a tamper-evident notching device.
Furthermore, the machinery specialist’s packaging range comes with the added value of 4.0 connectivity, a factor that also allows remote monitoring of all performance parameters so plant efficiency is never anything less than optimal.
These are all factors a food producer must take into consideration when investing in new or upgraded technology for their factory process. Developing an ongoing relationship will pay dividends if they’re the right partner for the job, and could result in both long and short-term savings while ensuring a flexible production line that is able to address distinctive business demands.