BRISTOL, Wis.-As its company's desserts business has grown steadily in the last few years, management at Lakeview Farms, Bristol, Wis., realized that shrink wrapping costs were eating into profitability.
"We had a mix of five manual L-bar machines and one automatic, and the process took too many people, too much time, and too much film," said Plant Mgr. Peter Fink.
After testing a number of alternatives, Fink was approached by a distributor for Lantech, Louisville, Ky., a maker of shrink wrap equipment, about trying a beta version of the SW-1000 intermittent motion shrink wrapping machine. A total of three such machines have since replaced the L-bar machines. Downtime, has all but been eliminated, and three employees have been reassigned from packaging. Reduced film consumption, alone, will offset the cost premium over L-bar machines.
Lakeview Farms was founded in Delphos, Ohio, in 1988, the company has since tripled the size of its headquarters plant to 90,000 sq ft, and purchased and improved the Bristol plants and one in Paramount, Calif. The product line includes refrigerated desserts, dips and cheesecake, sold under the Lakeview Farms brand and others. Customers include Wal-Mart, Kroger, Albertson's, and Publix, and the company also does private label.
The Bristol facility, originally a Kraft Foods plant, has an efficient flow-through design. The primary product is ready-to-eat puddings and gelatins in 4-oz single-serve cups that are multipacked in 12 pack corrugated trays. With the plant running nearly 24/6, management focused on bringing more efficiency to the shrink wrapping operation.
"We had been using shrink packaging for about five years and simply outgrew the technology we started with, which was mostly manual L-bar machines," Fink said. "Our growth was gradual, so we compensated with time and labor to maintain output with the packaging equipment we had. We endured a lot of downtime for changing the seal wires 4-5 times a day, and we had a lot of rewrap, too, as a result of bad seals."
With its continuous rotary side-seal and reciprocating end-seal jaws, the SW-1000 provides a good blend of technology found in a high-speed machine, but at the low end of cost, according to Fink. The SW-1000 is suited for polyolefin, PVC and LDPE films.
The new wrapping machines utilize Lantech's Ever-Clean™ rotary side-seal system in conjunction with an innovative electronic film drive. The novel rotary side-seal mounts a sharpened cutting wheel and a heated fusing wheel adjacent to each other on the same axis. The unique system allows setting of the true seal temperature, not an arbitrary voltage. Because the sealing wheel does not have to cut the film, the temperature can be set for the minimum needed to fuse, or "laminate" the seam.
Variable frequency drives on the machine provide electronically controlled film collapse and product spacing - all settable through the machine's control.
Running 60-ga., 18", center-folded Bemis Clysar film, Lakeview Farms currently puts about 10,000-15,000 cycles per day on each of its three Lantech shrink-wrap machines. "We're producing more, with three fewer operators on the line, less material and virtually no rewrap," Fink said. "We received the third machine just as we started producing a large order in early January. We just rolled the machine in, set it up, and within 20 minutes it was running...and we never looked back." n
Lantech's packaging and productivity solutions include semiautomatic and automatic stretch wrapping; automatic case handling; automatic palletizing; shrink packaging and pallet-load conveying systems. For more information call 800/866-0322 or visit www.lantech.com.