A celled approach allows TreeHouse to package an array of items easily.

The mathematics of packaging

While large-scale private label contract manufacturing requires consistency in product processing, the opposite is true in the packaging area. One customer might request the same product to be packaged a half-dozen ways. While the front end of the line might be focused on running oyster crackers, the workers in the packaging area could be looking at six to eight different versions of it.

“We could turn that into a ranch oyster, a Parmesan oyster, a plain oyster, and they could be packaged in bags or put into two different-sized cartons,” Mr. Melton explained. “We could be accommodating the customer a number of ways at the end of the line, while the process is simply running oyster crackers.”

So how does the Princeton operation execute a vast array of packaging configurations without impacting the entire process? A celled approach — that feels a bit like algebra — divides and conquers. The product is made one way, then it goes in any number of directions depending on the topping style, flavor and packaging configuration.

Princeton has the packaging algorithm down to a science with a number of Bosch Sigpack loader wrappers, Shuttleworth accumulation systems, Jones automated cartoners, TNA, Rovema and Triangle automated baggers, Pearson case erectors and sealers, and Brenton and Blueprint Automation automated case packers.

“Packaging directly impacts OEE — good or bad — more than anything on the front end,” Mr. Melton said. “That’s where the bottlenecks are and where the equipment can go down. So as efficient as you can be while designing out the complexity, the better off you’ll be.”