Configuring to size
A trend spurring the need for packaging speed is the ever-growing popularity of single-serve and smaller portions. As food manufacturers crank out more bags, they can’t sacrifice a lot of time to do so.
Mark Lozano, national sales manager, TNA North America, said higher-volume packaging started with portion control. The demand for these individual servings multiplied over the years.
“Instead of having one bag of snacks, people in the marketplace want smaller bags to pop into lunch bags or take for the road,” Mr. Lozano said. “So, we basically went from a certain number of bags per minute to four times more than that.”
To make up for the multiplication, TNA went back to another kind of math.
“We looked at the geometry and function of the machine and, over the past few years, have taken control from scales to baggers to control the flow of the product,” Mr. Lozano said. “The speed is a combination of how the machine itself functions and of speed geometry.”
TNA’s Robag vertical form/fill/seal machines crank out up to 250 bags a minute using rotary triple-, double-, single- or flat-jaw configurations. Mr. Lozano said TNA is able to help customers run speeds of 180 to 190 bags a minute for cookies.
“For those 100-calorie bags in the marketplace right now, we can run 194 bags a minute all day long,” he said.
Cavanna Packaging Group’s geometrical priority is a shortened, compact system. The company’s Twin Slim continuous-motion horizontal packaging machine features separate controls and infeeds yet occupies the same square footage as a conventional wrapper, saving floor space and resulting in faster packaging.
“The Twin Slim allows us to put four wrappers in the footprint of two,” said Bill Kehrli, vice-president, sales and marketing. “More equipment in less space means more product.”
Doing more with less is also top of mind at BPA.
“We are receiving requests for higher-speed solutions contained within smaller floor footprints,” Mr. Wiskochil said, noting that Delta Robotics improvements and multiple package-picking technology allow bakers and snack makers to keep pace in a compact footprint. For example, BPA has optimized technology that stacks multiple products inside one end-of-arm-tool and delivers this stack intact to an out-feed such as a flowwrapper. “The multiple picks within a small workspace allow the robots to perform at much higher product-per-minute speeds while using less robotic automation equipment. This reduces the amount of robots required to accommodate higher production rates.”
Counter-flow technology is another way that food manufacturers can optimize speed in a small footprint. BPA uses counter-flow technology in high-speed applications for efficient packaging solutions.
“Product is fed in a counter direction to the secondary package, like a carton or case, ensuring that each robot is optimized for speed and package availability,” Mr. Wiskochil said. “This greatly increases product-to-package success rates and efficiencies.”
Even in a smaller footprint, it’s a less crowded space.
“With a product infeed that comes in at 1,750 packages a minute sending different varieties in multiple directions through counter flow technology, users get flexibility along with less labor,” Mr. Wiskochil said. “They don’t have to have labor in there unless they absolutely need it.”