Endoline ‘shakes it up’ to meet factory space constraints for shelf ready milkshake packing line

Automating the packing of a new line of milkshakes for a leading supermarket chain has enabled Tomlinson Dairies to meet the high level of output required and the shelf ready packaging (SRP) expectations of the retailer.

The fully automated line, which packs over 80 bottles of milkshake a minute, was supplied by Endoline Machinery. Constructed out of stainless steel to protect the equipment, as it was installed in a bottle filling production area, the line was designed with a very compact footprint to meet space constraints.

Established 30 years ago, family run business Tomlinson Dairies today supplies 200 million litres of milk each year across the UK from its North Wales site. When the company moved to larger premises in 2012 their capacity to produce more milk grew, allowing them to take on more business and when approached by a leading supermarket chain in 2015 to produce and pack milkshake, Tomlinson Dairies immediately sought to automate the process. Stephen Landen, Tomlinson Dairy’s Engineering Manager, said: “We had to look at ways to automate the packing line as the production demands could no longer be met by the manual operation.”

With the milkshake operation situated within the busy packing hall, Endoline needed to design and construct the entire automated line within a constricted 5m x 3m space. Mark Budd, Areas Sales Manager for Endoline, comments: “Lack of available space was the biggest challenge along with designing the conveying and pack stations to meet the demands of production while giving the operators the best ergonomic solution.”

To form the cases Endoline installed its fully automatic 228 high speed case erector, which is specifically designed to handle shelf ready cases by gluing the bottom of each case as it is formed. “With shelf ready packs the use of glue is essential as otherwise the tape can interfere with the functionality of the cases at the retailers.” Mark explains. As the SRP cases are put straight onto the shelf, presentation is paramount and any tears could result in wastage or penalties from retails. To overcome this Endoline integrated its dual opposing vacuum technology into the 228 to apply an equal amount of pressure to each side of the pre-formed case at exactly the same time ensuring it is positively opened and perfectly square without affecting the integrity of the case.

Constructed to a compact footprint, with a top loading hopper, the 228 also ticked the space box for Tomlinson Dairies.

Once formed the cases run from the 228 onto a powered roller, which was constructed with a 90 degree bend to fit into the space, to a packing station. From there, a powered conveyor runs the filled bottles through to two, ergonomically friendly packing stations which are situated at the point where the conveyor, carrying the formed cases, meets the conveyor carrying the bottles. Here, two operators manually pack the cases.

With bottles of either 330ml or 1 litre, there are two case sizes and changeover is quick and efficient due to the user friendly design and simple adjustment of the 228 case erector.

The filled cases are put onto a conveyor that feeds through to an Endoline fully-automatic case sealer which folds and tapes the top of the case and accumulates them ready for palletising. Stephen comments: “The new packing line has streamlined our packing operation and allowed the business to further increase output without the need for more investment or additional labour.”