“A lot of our customers are demanding ease of changeover with the potential of future reconfiguration,” says Kendal Malstrom, vice president of Integrated Packaging Machinery, Comstock Park, Mich. “This requirement is driven by dairy producer’s need to keep new products and packages in the market place. IPM continues to bring solutions to dairy company packaging requirements that are well designed, but additionally we evaluate and achieve on-time start up and training. This approach allows the dairy to accurately determine best times to install equipment with the least disruption to their production cycles.”
As a result, IPM launched its new A Series case-packing system, which uses the company’s patented “parabolic path profile” to move product from conveyor to case, Malstrom says. Doing so, dairy plants can increase packaging speeds without incurring the effects of inertia and at a reasonable price.
“It is a constant challenge to bring new innovation to our customers while accomplishing a cost-effective basis,” Malstrom says. “Comparing cost of equipment to actual realized savings on the production floor requires honest analysis, which we always do by way of well-defined scope of project and customer defined goals.”
For its part, Polypack introduced its Gable Top Wrapper, which eliminates the need for cases and crates, reduces material costs by 35 to 50% and allows for quick and easy refrigeration. Additionally, this shrink-wrapping machine protects cartons from environmental contaminants and offers superior stacking strength.
“Dairy processors face the challenge of maintaining production numbers while also trying to reduce material costs and labor,” says Erik Laracuente, marketing manager for the Pinellas Park, Fla.-based manufacturer. “Polypack’s offerings achieve both of these goals. Polypack shrink wrappers also help reduce labor costs through automation at the end of the line.”
Meanwhile, the folks at Westfalia Deam Systems are constantly researching the latest technology to offer its customers the most up-to-date systems.
“We also research industry trends on new packaging still on the drawing board to ensure our new system can handle future requirements,” says Fred Beer, president of the York, Pa.-based division of Westfalia Technologies.
To keep up with demands, Westfalia Deam Systems introduced a battery of stainless-steel packaging equipment.
For example, its Fractional Quart Carton Caser packs 240 cartons per minute into single cases using a 4-by-4-inch packing pattern. It comes with dual in-feed carton conveyors, case conveyors and line breaks, and its servo-control load head adjusts to various fractions and heights. Plus, according to Beer, it has the smallest footprint in the industry.
The company’s Half Gallon/2 Liter Carton Caser loads up to 160 cartons per minute, or two 16-quart plastic dairy cases simultaneously, using an air-powered load head in a 3-by-3-inch packing pattern and comes with carton brakes.
Westfalia’s flexible Bag Caser loads 80 bags per minute in either plastic dairy or corrugated cases, and can handle either four or six bags per caseload. The Bag Caser comes with a touch-screen operator and PLC controls, and can be installed over existing conveyors.
Additionally, the Dual-Drop High-Speed Caser packs up to 150 jugs or bottles per minute and allows lines to switch from 59- to 128-ounce plastic jugs in as little as 20 minutes. And the Hybrid Powered Case Stacker operates with a hydraulic lift and compressed air and stacks up to 25 16- and 24-quart dairy cases up to six inches high per minute.
“Finding the equipment supplier that will design in flexibility for the unknown is extremely important to avoid complete line retrofit when a new package is introduced,” Beer says. “[Westfalia] works with customers to gain as much advance notice on new package introductions, especially when designing a new system for them. Rapid changeover, ideally by HMI selection and minimal or no mechanical adjustments or change parts, is something we incorporate into our designs.”
Focusing on packaging machinery that uses less materials is another way to stretch the dollar, says Dale Andersen, president and chief executive officer of Circle Pines, Minn.-based Delkor.
“In this category, our most popular machine is Delkor’s Spot-Pak,” Andersen notes. “On average, a Spot-Pak machine reduces packaging material usage by 50% over traditional boxes, and the Spot-Pak package also provides greater pallet density.” Delkor’s new line of carton formers and closers rely on the company’s patent-pending “Intelligent Positioning” technology, which ensures that each carton is perfectly aligned, he says.
Its new line of tray and case packers offer a variety of shipping package options and the Retail Ready tray former is designed to offer customers the option to package both a standard Spot-Pak or Retail Ready tray with changeover in just under two minutes.
“One of the biggest challenges we face is addressing the ever-changing needs of the market place in a machine design,” Andersen says. “The proliferation of new package styles and the more significant role that the mass merchandiser is playing in these changing needs means that a machine must be versatile and designed with built-in adaptability.”
On the other hand, understanding what customers want is more difficult than actually designing the equipment, says Pat Lancaster, founder of Lantech.
“Top leadership, operations managers, machine operators and purchasing agents often rank their desires quite differently,” Lancaster says. “Since they can only choose from what they know and understand, it is also difficult to evaluate the potential value of new technologies and concepts not yet developed.”
That’s why the Louisville, Ky.-based company developed a lineup of systems, giving its customers a number of choices.
For instance, Lantech’s patent-pending No Film Break Technology eliminates film breaks and permits a wrap force up to 50%, which reduces downtime while maintaining optimal containment of the load, Lancaster says.
“Downtime especially around film breaks on their stretch wrappers is a serious productivity problem for most production plants,” Lancaster adds. “It involves the direct cost of the downtime associated with the film breaks, but more importantly, it has a much larger and subtle hidden cost associated with large fluctuations in wrap quality that happen when operators turn down the wrap force to prevent further film breaks.”
Meanwhile, Lantech’s Pallet Grip locks the load to the pallet to reduce the risk of damage to the load. Equipped with a fully protected mechanical cut and clamp, the Lantech XT Cut and Clamp automatically attaches and cuts the film, which improves productivity by keeping the operator on the fork truck.
In addition, the Click-n-Go wireless remote control enables fork truck drivers to operate the truck from afar.
Increasing speeds that require frequent changeovers is another concern for today’s packaging manufacturers. That’s why Axon created its Sidewinder Band Position System, which offers a tamper-evident banding solution for round, oval and square/round straight-wall packaging. Engineered to support the bands at key spots around the container, the color-coded parts and tool-less design ensure speedy changeovers.
Likewise, its ThermoPoint Steam Shrink Tunnels come in three- or six-zone configurations and can be individually adjusted to deliver steam to the label or band at different rates, heights and angles.
“Additionally, customers are challenging suppliers to process lower cost materials,” says Ed Farley, sales manager for Axon, the Raleigh, N.C.-based division of Pro Mach. “Any new designs include consideration of these needs and concerns.”
What’s to come
What is the next phase of technological development for secondary packaging systems?
For starters, package inspection and verification, Malstrom says. “We accomplish this using vision systems with proprietary IPM software,” he says. “[The future is] tracking production, downtime, pallet identification and all other secondary packaging hall information into an oversight, complete supervisory line-control data system.”
Furthermore, packaging experts project a continued movement toward reducing material costs.
“We have seen more companies make moves to eliminate corrugate from their packaging,” Laracuente says, “and we believe we may eventually see corrugate completely eliminated from secondary packaging.”
Customers also can expect to see a team of machines that contain built-in adaptability, Andersen says. “A secondary packaging machine is a substantial investment for a dairy processor,” he says, “and it needs to last for many years.”
Producing more while reducing labor costs also is on the top of the list, Beer says.
Thanks to a plethora of packaging options, companies can now get more bang for their small buck.
Axon LLC www.axoncorp.com
Delkor Systems Inc. www.delkorsystems.com
Integrated Packaging Machinery www.callipm.com
Polypack Inc. www.polypack.com
Westfalia Deam Systems www.westfaliausa.com