Wrapping systems tackle major industry production challenges
Confectionery Production discusses the latest developments in wrap packaging systems and how to invest in an uncertain global marketplace. Daisy Phillipson reports
Out of the many issues facing the food and drink industry today, perhaps the most taxing is Brexit. As the UK faces continuing intergovernmental negotiations, a level of uncertainty is putting strain on manufacturers across Europe.
It’s safe to say there is a lot at stake, with the trade of Caobisco products representing more than €5 billion each year between the UK and its closest neighbours. Since around 30% of employees in the domestic food and drink industry are EU migrant workers, one of the most immediate pressures relates to the potential of a labour shortage.
For the packaging sector, confectionery and bakery manufacturers are looking ahead and investing in smarter technology to drive growth and overcome the challenges posed by an undetermined governmental deal. Now more than ever it is essential for packing operations to be automated, in a bid to save resources, drive productivity and offset the costs of equipment investment.
Wrapping Solutions for SMEs
In particular, smaller food manufacturers are facing the greatest risks from the turbulence of Brexit. To meet the ever-changing industry demands, packaging equipment supplier Lareka developed a range of low cost, smart packers designed to allow artisan and small-sized chocolate manufacturers to stay on top amid a competitive global marketplace.
This year, the company received positive reactions to its two new packaging machines: the BTB25 for wrapping bars and the NP60 for wrapping neapolitan chocolates. The Lareka BTB25 is a low-speed packaging solution created for specialised, bean-to-bar chocolatiers in need of a versatile, automated wrapping machine for low volume production. Perfect for crafted, artisan chocolate bars, it is able to wrap up to 25 bars per minute, with a size changeover of just 15 minutes.
The Lareka NP60 is a low-speed packaging machine for personalised, small chocolate tablets in special flavours and low volumes. Due to the smaller size range, the speed can be boosted to 60 tablets per minute, with a conversion of 20 minutes. Like the BTB25, this machine can package in a single layer, double layer with banderol or a double layer full envelope fold.
Flexibility is More Than a Buzzword
Even if Brexit were not a factor, the confectionery sector is one that is dominated by change. Whether it be the war on sugar, safety legislation, industry 4.0 or seasonal trends, the demand for variety continues to affect how manufacturers pack their products.
Proving that flexibility is more than just a buzzword when it comes to the packaging process, Theegarten-Pactec continues to drive innovation with a series of flexible, high-performance wrapping machines that allow confectionery producers to switch between styles with minimal downtime.
Thanks to the modular design of Theegarten-Pactec’s MCH, for example, manufacturers experience both high performance and the flexibility to respond quickly to market demands with only one packaging machine, saving suppliers from having to invest in several machines. High-speed is another key feature: up to 1,200 products can be foil-wrapped per minute or wrapped in a double twist style.
Meeting Strict Hygiene Standards
On the topic of flexible packaging solutions, Bosch Packaging Technology recently developed a new version of its fully automated horizontal flow wrapper Pack 403. As well as being specifically designed to endure harsh environments, the Pack 403HE is able to wrap a wide variety of products, including biscuits, chocolate, cookies and crackers, at speeds of 400 packages per minute.
Brexit aside, due to changes in legislation and labelling laws, hygiene and safety is paramount during the packaging process. Although major food manufacturers might separate their processes in a bid to avoid the risk of contamination, for small and medium-sized businesses, this might not be an option.
With this in mind, Bosch has designed the new Pack 403HE to be easy to clean and avoid contamination with allergens, germs or unwanted ingredients. In what is called the ‘foam-and-rinse’ concept, manufacturers can apply aggressive cleaning agents including alcohols or acids, and easily wipe them off with water after they have taken effect.
Additional components on the wrapper to facilitate convenient cleaning include washdown motors and gearboxes that meet the BISSC standard, sanitary feet, a continuously-welded stainless steel main frame plate, as well as stainless steel guarding, robust plastics, removable parts, sloped surfaces, and easy-to-clean gaps between machine components.
Excellent hygiene standards aren’t only met by the washdown process; hygienic product protection is just as important. These requirements are fulfilled by the packaging machinery specialists from LoeschPack in the latest update of the RCB-HS wrapping head machine used to produce hermetically sealed bars of chocolate. Consumers can enjoy products with longer shelf lives and an optimised taste and texture experience, as the chocolate products are presented in a premium fold wrap look.
In addition to operating continuously, as it circumferentially heat-seals or cold-seals the packaging material as required, the RCB-HS uses just one hot or cold-sealable packaging material, helping to reduce costs and resources.
Investing in the Future
While automation and smart technology represent the future of packaging processing, one of the most significant barriers is the cost of initial investment, meaning progress has been slow. However, with Brexit set to change the labour landscape in the upcoming years, many are turning to Industry 4.0 solutions to fill the gap.
This movement is something that packaging specialist Ilapak has witnessed in recent years. The company reports an increased demand for flow wrappers integrated with robotic feeding systems, as bakeries push for greater flexibility from their packaging lines.
“In the past year or so, we have supplied at least ten flow wrapping lines incorporating robotic handling for products such as cakes, chocolate bars and pastries,” confirms Massimo Furlato, project engineering manager.
“These operations want the flexibility to run various product types and sizes and to pack them in different configurations but they don’t want the headache of having to source and integrate the robot and the flow wrapper. Our complete lines combine inherently flexible robotic handling with our versatile Carrera flow wrapping platform in a single source solution, so there is no compromise on overall line efficiency.”
So, while the uncertainty of Brexit, among other marketplace concerns, poses an array of barriers for the manufacturing industry, innovation in smart technology is integral to driving productivity and growth in the packaging sector. By investing in flexible, efficient and resource-saving equipment, suppliers are investing in their future and will pay dividends in the long run.