Packaging automation set to aid food manufacture growth in the wake of Covid-19

Automation is set to play an increasingly larger role in safeguarding the future of the UK’s food manufacturing industry, according to end-of-line machinery specialist, Endoline Automation.

While most UK food manufacturers understood the efficiencies gained from automation, adoption was at a far slower pace than other countries. However, Covid-19 has emphasised the need to update manual manufacturing practices that will prevent many from recovering quickly once social distancing measures are lifted.

According to a recent post by the International Federation of Robots (IFR) in comparison to several countries across the world, the UK was the only country, over a 10-year period, to report a 9% decrease in productivity per person.

While coronavirus undoubtedly put a strain on global productivity, UK manufacturers faced significant issues because of workers being unable to work in production lines where they normally stand less than 50 cm apart on 12-hour shifts.

There is an established link between automation and increased productivity, so now is the time for UK manufacturers to look at long term growth and invest in automation to support labour intensive activities.

So, why have UK food manufacturers always been so reluctant to take the automation plunge?

Here, Andrew Yates, Sales Director for Endoline Automation, discusses the reasons why the UK lagged behind its global counterparts, how automated end-of-line packaging systems today meets manufacturer demands, and how machinery can be integrated into processing and packing lines quickly to ramp up output.

Demonstrating flexibility

For some food manufacturers, a wariness to change well established manual processes, and an aversion to the risks that new technologies can bring, have created major roadblocks, preventing them from reaping the many benefits automated systems can yield.

Within food manufacturing, the variability of materials has played a major factor, particularly as many believe that uniformity plays a vital role in ensuring automation runs efficiently. To meet retail demand, manufacturers are producing an abundance of brand varieties in all shapes and sizes which can cause greater complexities, due to the variation in size, shape, quality, and weight of the product.

“Retailers are constantly vying for consumer attention, creating greater choices which are continually changing. Historically, this hasn’t always lent itself well to automation and manufacturers need assurances that the investment they make in end-of-line packaging automation is future-proof.”

Fully automated end-of-line systems today can manage an unprecedented range of case styles and sizes and have been re-engineered to handle a wide variety of case materials to suit retail specifications, from poorly scored, lightweight cases, to heavy, twin wall cases. Random systems, with integrated bar code reading technology can seal random sized cases at high speed – and be reconfigured remotely to manage new sizes and orientations as and when required.

Health & Safety

Getting health and safety right has never been more paramount. Food manufactures need to adhere to stringent measures and are being set greater guidance on the use of machinery through the Food Standard Agency’s regulatory model, facing stiffer sentences if they are non-compliant.

Tougher governance around health and safety shouldn’t be a deterrent to automation, however it is vital that manufacturers do not take a CE certified machine at face value.

“There are a number of other factors which need to be considered. Manufacturers need to understand the area the machine will be located in and assess the environment for any safety concerns such as access.”

End-of-line equipment in particular presented significant hazards. Not only do they operate automatically and, in some cases, at very high speed, but the openings, to allow the cases to be transported through the system, are often large enough to be a potential for unauthorised access.

Over the years quality, end-of-line systems have been ergonomically designed offering safer operator access and the integration of Safety Light curtains not only safeguards the machine, but eliminates the need for additional safety guarding so reducing the overall footprint. Systems can also be constructed from IP65 washdown rated stainless steel.

Eliminating unnecessary downtime

Food manufacturing sites that are highly automated operate with fewer workers, resulting in a larger opportunity for uninterrupted processing. Manufacturers are currently seeking to mitigate the risk of sending people home in virus-susceptible areas within their facilities, and automation is a big part of this solution.

The risk of downtime, as a result of machinery failure, servicing or reprogramming has always been a bottleneck in the adoption of automation.

However, automation specialists have been driving the intelligence of end-of-line systems forward for some time, and there is now a greater emphasis on linking these systems together and integrating them into a customers’ own specific data network. Consequently, food manufacturers can capture, process, and analyse big data from the factory floor remotely, and improve productivity, avoid downtime through predictive maintenance, upload new case recipes, and optimise energy use.

“Our systems built today feature an integrated, Industry 4.0 compatible HMI interface enabling engineers to easily re-programme the machine to allow for new configurations of case sizes remotely via a computer, tablet or even a mobile.”

In addition, these SMART systems can be also used to monitor the machinery and send alerts on any preventive maintenance issues and spares shortages. “End-of-line systems are very self-sufficient.”

Beyond Covid-19

Automation has always been an enabler to streamline and enhance efficiency and, as a result of the pressure created by the crisis on manual process, manufacturers should now be able to clearly identify which areas would benefit from automation.

Covid-19 has undoubtedly heightened the need for the UK to integrate automation into their packing lines. By taking the steps to automate, manufacturers will be prepared for any future crisis or shutdown, while ensuring that their output levels and efficiencies remain high.

This will also make the UK more competitive on the global production field.

Covid-19 could diminish the reliance UK food factories has on manual workers in favour of fully automated systems.

 

Endoline’s Case Packer system demonstrates the high-tech, flexible capabilities of end-of-line packaging machinery.

Coronavirus Statement

In light of recent requests for information on Endoline’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak we are detailing below the actions being taken.

In these challenging times we may all find our services and supplies being interrupted. However Endoline have already put into place numerous actions and precautions. For example;

  • The Company has been divided into two teams which do not overlap, thereby minimising the onward transmission within the Company. This is combined with home-working for a number of employees.
  • The Company has refused entry to our premises for all visitors.
  • No contractors have been engaged.
  • Goods delivery personnel are not permitted on the premise. All deliveries are handled off-site and extra hygiene procedures are in place for employees accepting deliveries.
  • Increased hygiene standards have been introduced i.e. hand sanitisers, alcohol wipes, no hand-shaking policy, hand-washing monitoring.
  • The Company is in discussions with financial providers should our smaller, more vulnerable, suppliers need our support.
  • Multinational suppliers have assured Endoline of continuity of supply.
  • Sales and service engineers are abiding by customer hygiene standards and visiting protocols.
  • All entrances to the Company are permanently locked and barriers placed in office space.

Endoline’s sales and technical support is uninterrupted and still available during normal working hours.

Endoline will do all it can to ensure the safety of its employees and that business will continue.

Clearly there are numerous restrictions on activity and hence the speed of response and service may be affected but the Company will strive to satisfy its demands as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Kind regards,

Andrew Yates
Sales Director

Installation within GA Pet Foods

We recently installed our systems into GA Pet Food Partners as part of their commitment to automating the packing process of the 80,000 tonnes of dry extruded pet food they supply each
year.

In total we supplied four case erectors and our flagship 734 automatic random case sealer. Each of the case erecting systems was modified to handle the heavy-duty cases which can hold between 5kg and 30kg of pet food. Changeover between case sizes is an efficient process due to our control systems and each erected case is directed, via a bespoke conveyor system, through to the 734 which can seal up to 20, random sized cases per minute.

Endoline engineers revolutionary, random, dual gluing sealer in first foray into US market

As part of its first break into the US market, Endoline Automation has engineered a brand new, Industry 4.0 compatible, random case sealing system, which glues BOTH the top and bottom of cases for Canada’s second largest tobacco company.

Philip Morris International (PMI), manufacturer of six of the world’s top international cigarette brands, supplies the whole of Canada and North America from a single site in Toronto. With cigarette products being transported across both countries, protecting the security and integrity of its products is essential for the company, and they were looking for extra assurance of the case seal to eliminate the risk of tampering. As tape can be tampered with, glue was the preferred sealing choice due to the fact it can not be re-sealed once opened.

After two decades its original sealer was becoming less efficient, so PMI began searching for a sealing system which would not only glue both top AND bottom but would be capable of sealing over 20 random sized cases. Searches across the US and Canada were fruitless, so they turned to the UK, and Endoline Automation, through Canadian based Big Sky Engineering, a manufacturer and distributor of automated systems for the packing industry in the US and Canada.

With a reputation across the globe for creating customised, high specification end of line systems, Endoline took the brief, and delivered the new 407 Random Dual Gluing System within just 20 weeks. Critically, the machine was built to PMI’s exact mechanical, technical and even colour, specifications. The 407 includes servo drives for more accurate performance, a touch screen HMI for an easier user interface and remote access, so the machine can be monitored remotely to assist with support and fault diagnosis.

Re-engineering its existing 407 Fully Automatic Random Gluer, Endoline completely re-designed the lower gluing station to increase production speeds and ensure product integrity during the sealing process. “Bottom sealing cases with product already loaded inside always has its challenges, not least to ensure the product remains in the case while gluing the lower flaps of the case.” Explains Andrew Yates, Endoline Automation’s Sales Director. “To this end, we designed and integrated a product support device into the bottom gluing stage to support and prevent any product from escaping.”

In addition, to allow Philip Morris and all Endoline customers, greater access across all system parameters, Endoline took the opportunity to redesign its HMI interface, which was integrated into the new system. Featuring 50% less pages than previous screens, the new interface is Industry 4.0 compatible and cuts programming time by half. Through the SMART screen, which features easy to use, spanner shaped icons, PMI’s engineers can easily re-programme the machine to allow for new configurations of case sizes remotely via a computer, tablet or even a mobile.

Once the 407 was built, Endoline replicated the product using rapid prototyping techniques to simulate both mass and volumetric product characteristics. This allowed the product to mimic real-world scenarios, while ensuring Endoline maintained production requirements. A virtual Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) was then carried out from Endoline’s Bedfordshire factory, before the system was shipped to Big Sky Engineering.

An integral element of Endoline’s success is the fact the company employs its own engineers who are fully conversant across all Endoline systems. As with all installations across the world, an Endoline engineer was flown to Toronto to oversee the installation of the 407 which was integrated into a Big Sky Engineering’s in-feed and out-feed conveyor system and a glue inspection system to ensure that any non-sealed cases were diverted automatically to keep production flowing at all times.

The disassembling of the original line, followed by the installation of the new line, was completed over the course of a weekend to ensure downtime within the factory was kept to an absolute minimum. With the line fully up and running, manual workers form the cases and pack them to suit each retailer’s specification. A conveyor system identifies the size of the case via a bar code reader, and, once the 407 readjusts itself accordingly, the filled case runs through the sealer. The bottom of the case is held in place to be glued with a hot melt glue, before the process is replicated on the top of the case. Once the process is complete, the closed case is held under a compression plate allowing for sufficient pressure to be applied to ensure the seal is completely set.

The whole process takes just over 5 seconds, with 10-12 cases running through the system per minute.

As a result of the success of this order, Big Sky Engineering were named as the exclusive, North American and Canadian Representatives for Endoline Machinery. “This is a significant step forward for Endoline.” Andrew continues: “Our systems have become increasingly high spec over the years, with greater throughputs, and the ability to manage an unprecedented number of case sizes. As a British manufacturer with the ability to design and build cutting edge machines from one single manufacturing site, we have the engineering expertise to meet the exact end of line packaging needs of leading global brands.”

Endoline Robotics Limited Launched

In a bid to meet the ever growing demand for fully automated end of line systems, which increasingly require robotic solutions, Endoline Machinery has created a sister company called Endoline Robotics Limited (ERL) while also forging a strategic partnership with Fanuc.

The move is designed to reinforce Endoline’s reputation as a provider of case erecting and sealing automation and, through the strength of the Fanuc brand, the company will now manage the installation of robotic palletising systems under the umbrella of ERL.

“Our ability to engineer customised, fully automatic case erecting and sealing solutions underpins our reputation in the market,” says Andrew Yates, MD of ERL.

“Through our relationship with leading global food manufacturers we have become increasingly aware of the demand for robotic integration, particularly as companies move away from using manual labour.

COMMITTED TO UK BUSINESS

“The decision to partner with Fanuc and launch a sister company dedicated to robotic palletising equipment, illustrates a progressive period in our almost 40 year history,” he continues. “While we have developed the company and built up a solid export business, we are committed to the UK and creating solutions which directly meet our customers’ needs.”

 

Endoline launches three in one case erecting, packing and sealing solution

PPMA Total Show – Stand J120

A brand new, high speed, fully automated system, combining case erecting, packing and sealing technology will be unveiled by Endoline Machinery at the forthcoming PPMA Total Show.

As an all in one system, the Case Packer offers a compact and cost effective alternative to installing a trio of individual machines, and has been engineered in response to rising demand from UK manufacturers who are increasingly looking to automate their food packing lines, to reduce footprint, and to move away from manual labour.

With precise product handling at high speeds of 12 cases per minute, the Case Packer receives single products from an infeed conveyor, groups them according to the programmed pattern on a loading platform, before lowering them into a formed case below, the filled case is then automatically closed and sealed on the top and bottom with tape.

Suitable for handling any product packaging and orientation, the Case Packer can be customised to suit specific demands and reprogrammed for the packing of different products and quantities. Industry 4.0 compatible technology, integrated within the Case Packer can capture and make data readily available for use in “live” decision making scenarios.

The compact design also makes it the ideal solution for production areas with limited available space as the full system is in one frame, rather than having three separate machines, therefore drastically reducing footprint.

The Case Packer combines Endoline’s market leading erecting and sealing systems with case packing technology all integrated into one machine. “Working with the UK’s leading food manufacturers we are aware of the increasing demand for high speed, fully automated systems which will increase efficiency.” Andrew Yates, Sales Director of Endoline Machinery explains. “We have re-engineered our case erectors and sealers to meet expectations for high speed, flexible systems, but by incorporating case packing we are now able to offer a complete end of line solution.” 

To view the new Case Packer and other end of line system solutions from Endoline Machinery visit stand H120 at the forthcoming PPMA Total Show.

On the road to Industry 4.0 – the future of end of line machinery

Increased demand on food manufacturers for high quality products, and traceability at a greater rate of output, has led to the wide-spread adoption of industry 4.0 compatible end of line automation.  

While originally hesitant to integrating industry 4.0 into their production lines, food manufacturers are quickly realising how the fourth industrial revolution can support factory productivity and profitability. Consequently, end of line machinery manufacturers are witnessing greater demand for SMART systems which are future proof.

Although the installation of industry 4.0 was initially slow, with the UK trailing behind Europe, reports suggest that almost 70% of British manufacturers today recognise the opportunity it can bring, and are investing in intelligent, SMART end of line systems which are boosting productivity and efficiency.

The gradual implementation of highly intelligent, Industry 4.0 compatible, end of line machinery, has largely been down to demands from manufacturers for increasingly high spec systems which will satisfy the evolving needs of retailers and consumers.

As the requirement for higher speed, random sized cases has risen, so too have the technical abilities of end of line systems, including the incorporation of data reading barcode systems, taking away the need for manual adjustment. Now, automated, end of line solutions are designed to accommodate speeds of up to 30 cases per minute whilst adapting to a multitude of differing case sizes as efficiently as possible.

Efficiency and minimising downtime are key areas driving the intelligence of end of line systems further. While UK manufacturers have made considerable leaps over recent years to automate their production facilities, there is now a greater emphasis on linking these systems together, and an overall increase in demand to integrate these systems directly into manufacturer’s own specific data networks. buy levitra no prescription http://lasyahealing.com/levitra/ can not be bought without a prescription. But as seen previously, it is possible to turn to approved online pharmacies that offer levitra or Vardenafil for purchase. Consequently they can capture, process and analyse the big data from the factory floor remotely, and it can be used to improve productivity, avoid downtime through predictive maintenance, upload new case recipes and optimise energy use.

Companies are looking beyond the functionality of what their capital equipment can provide, and machinery is now an integral part of the management of the whole production life cycle, providing the business with everything they need.

Customer requirements are many and variable in complexity, but all require a fit for purpose solution which enables them to leverage as much information as they need from their investment. Today end of line machinery is not just bolted onto the end of the line, systems are seamlessly integrated into fully automated, complex, production lines that include robotics, conveying systems with multi-gate and divert control, automated printing, scanning and palletising features.

We were delighted to welcome Moba to Endoline this week. For more than ten years we have enjoyed a successful working relationship with Moba, who are globally renowned for their egg grading, packing and processing equipment.

During the visit we conducted a factory tour at our Biggleswade head office, where we currently have 13 systems in production for Moba customers, and discussed future projects.

Last year alone, sales of our systems within the egg industry reached over a million pounds, and this was largely down to our ongoing alliance with Moba. We have developed many bespoke systems to work in tandem with their systems, and we now very much look forward to the next chapter in our working relationship.

Grigory Belosky

International Sales Manager

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.”

Endoline puts Ballygarvey on the map with state of the art packing plant

A unique, new end of line system, designed to handle random case sizes, has boosted a case packing line within a leading UK egg producer’s new state of the art egg packing plant.

For over 40 years family run Ballygarvey Eggs has been packing and supplying free range and intensive eggs fresh from laying farms around their base in Northern Ireland. Today, with flocks totalling 840,000 birds, Ballygarvey are annually supplying 250 million eggs in a 60/40 split to supermarkets and foodservice customers respectively – throughout the UK and Ireland.  Faced with this growth Ballygarvey realised that their original packing plant, which was manually operated, could not sustain the volume of output required.  “The company is continually expanding so we designed and built a new packing plant just 5k away from the original unit.” Explains Mark Davison, Managing Director of Ballygarvey Eggs, “While this site would remain manual handling small volume lines we wanted the new site to be a fully automation state of the art egg packing plant to deal with the number of variations in packs for our larger customers.”

With 25 different configurations of egg boxes Ballygarvey needed an automated line which was reliable, high speed and, above all, flexible to deal with the changing demands from supermarkets.  Following global demand for its 744 fully automatic random case sealer, Endoline designed and built RACE – a random automatic case erecting system to boost their SMART machinery portfolio and meet the needs of Ballygarvey.

Designed with dual opposing hoppers RACE not only allows for different sized cases to be run at any one time but downtime is eliminated as one hopper can be re-loaded with cases while the other side continues to operate.  Capable of feeding up to three packing lines at any one time RACE also https://phenadip.com incorporates Endoline’s unique dual opposing vacuum technology, which ensures each case is opened positively to overcome any tearing.

Andrew Yates, Endoline’s Sales Director explains: “Two different case sizes can be run on the RACE system at any one time so each hopper is loaded with cases – one size per side – and during the packing operation a sensor, fitted to the packing line conveyor, will communicate which case size is required. The RACE then automatically adjusts itself to form the case required and send it down the relevant line – all of this can be completed at a speed of up to 14 cases per minute.  Significantly the time it takes to change or load more cases into a hopper are eliminated as, while one hopper is re-loaded, the other hopper can still be in operation.”

Once all the eggs, within the new Ballygarvey site, are checked and graded, and packed into egg boxes via Moba systems they are run through one of two packing line types. One is low speed manual operation with workers manually erecting outer boxes and filling them, via six packing lines with egg boxes. The second line features RACE which feeds formed outer boxes to a further six packing lines, which are operated by robots.  However once all the cases of eggs are filled at the 12 packing lines they all feed into the Endoline 744 fully automatic case sealer – at a rate of 126,000 eggs per hour.

“Our new facility is the high-spec packaging plant I envisaged and it offers Ballygarvey scope for future growth.  While all of the systems have contributed towards this the new Endoline RACE machine is has been a significant contribution and, for a brand new design, it has not missed a beat.” Mark concludes.