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.

Endoline launches Virtual Machine Demonstration service

In the wake of a pandemic which has seen a greater reliance on technology, Endoline Machinery, while meeting demands from food manufacturers for automation, has launched a Virtual Machine Demonstration service to ensure end-of-line machinery specifications are met exactly, without the need for face-to-face interaction.

Manufacturers are increasingly looking to integrate automated and robotic systems into their processing and packing facilities to safeguard continued manufacturing, while mitigating the current restrictions placed on manual workers.

As a designer and manufacturer of both standard and customised end-of-line packaging machines, Endoline builds systems to suit a customer’s exact requirements. However, a thorough understanding of a customer’s needs is an integral element of this process, with many personnel involved.

Leveraging its experience in dealing with global customers, who often need the involvement of several manufacturing sites across the world to link up virtually to view live Factory Acceptance Tests, Endoline have packaged up this expertise within its Virtual Machine Demonstration resource.

Through live demonstrations, manufacturers can speak to a range of Endoline personnel, including sales, technical engineers, and end-of-line machinery designers to create a system which meets their specific needs. Endoline’s prime position of building machinery in-house also enables customers to ask technical questions, and view multiple functionalities of the machine during the build process.

“We are witnessing an increasing reliance on automation to streamline processing and packing lines.” Comments Andrew Yates, Sales Director at Endoline Automation. “It is essential that we continue to deliver the same level of high-quality service and diminish any challenges customers may face when installing valuable equipment during these unprecedented times.”

The fact that Endoline’s fully automated systems can also be controlled and monitored remotely further reduces the risk to personnel as it negates the need for human presence, and allows for the factory to operate remotely.

Endoline’s Virtual Machine Demonstration can be carried across virtual conferencing platforms Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams.

Endoline have launched Endoline’s Virtual Machine Demonstrations for customers.

 

Customers can now take full advantage of Endoline’s technical build expertise through virtual demonstrations.

Endoline’s energy efficient case sealing solution enables egg packer to increase production

Endoline Machinery’s 704 Fully Automatic Random Case Sealer, launched just last year, has been installed within The Lakes Free Range Egg Company (The Lakes) – due to growing pressure for the Cumbria based company to pack eggs within longer than standard cases.

Endoline re-engineered its flagship, 704 case sealer in a direct response to increasing demand from food manufactures for random machinery to seal a greater variety of case materials and sizes. Through technical enhancements, Endoline expanded the case size range by almost 60% at its greatest increase.

Now, the automated, high speed solution helping enhance production for family run The Lakes, has been integrated into its state of the art egg packing facility, alongside a Moba egg grading and packing system.

Dating back to 1870, the farm has been within the Brass family for generations, but it was only under current family owners, David and Helen, that The Lakes began supplying free range eggs just over 20 years ago. Significantly, what sets The Lakes apart, is its overriding commitment to adhering to leading animal welfare, ethical and environmental principles.

As part of the company’s mission to minimise the impact on the environment, The Lakes built the state of the art, egg packing facility which it continues to grow and develop.

During the development of the system, Endoline reduced the number of cylinders on the pneumatic 704 system to dramatically lower air consumption, and improve overall energy efficiency, meeting The Lakes’ ongoing energy objectives.

Endoline raises the health & safety bar for end of line machinery

Endoline Machinery has set the benchmark for health and safety within food manufacturing facilities across the UK with the launch of its latest system – the 704 Fully Automatic Random Case Sealer.

At the same time Endoline, who are UK leaders in the design and build of end-of-line machinery, are addressing the misconceptions food manufacturers, in particular SME’s, have around health and safety regulations and European CE Equipment Marking.

In 2016 The Food Standards Agency (FSA) began the roll out of a four year plan which will see a new, tougher regulatory model in place by 2020, which will include greater guidance on machine safety. Already, following the initial launch, food manufacturers, whose health and safety regulations do not comply, have been given stiffer sentences.

Consequently, getting health and safety right has never been more paramount, particularly as automation amongst food and drink manufacturers is still on an upward trajectory, with 73% engaged in automating their manufacturing processes at the end of last year.

With the increased governance around health and safety, safeguarding machinery in areas where manual operators also work, is a key concern amongst food manufacturers. “The over-riding objective when installing end of line systems is to increase productivity and output.” Andrew Yates, Sales Director of Endoline Machinery, explains. “As a result, many manufacturers will take a CE certified machine at face value. There are, however, a number of other factors which need to be considered, especially the risk assessment of the environment the machine will be installed within.”

While all of its machinery complies with CE regulations, Endoline stresses the importance of full transparency between customers and machinery manufacturers. “It isn’t just a case of conforming to regulations and getting the CE mark on a machine. Manufacturers need to understand the area the machine will be located in and assess the environment for any safety concerns such as access.” Andrew continues.

As testament to this, Endoline will unveil, on stand C52, its re-engineered 704 Fully Automatic Random Case Sealer – which not only meets all CE regulations, but now features an infeed Safety Light curtain as standard, and ergonomic design improvements for safer operator access.

While these additional components are not pre-requisites for CE certification, Endoline has taken them from its flagship 744 high speed, random case sealer – which is installed within blue chip food manufacturing sites across the globe.

End of line equipment can present 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.

The introduction of the infeed Safety Light curtain on the 704, not only safeguards the machine, but eliminates the need for additional safety guarding so reducing the overall footprint of the machine even further.

As a market leading manufacturer, Endoline is offering its customers comprehensive guidance and support on all matters of Health and Safety requirements surrounding their machinery. As an active member of the Working Committee for Safety of Packaging Machines EN 415-7, Endoline also stresses that health and safety features can be retrofitted to machinery to ensure that a company’s investment is future proof.

“With so much uncertainty surrounding Brexit and stringent regulations it is important that our customers see us as an authority in health and safety machinery. We continuously review safety levels of all machines and offer our customers ongoing support to ensure they remain compliant.” Andrew concludes.

Endoline’s automated solution whips up efficiency for ice cream maker

Automating the packing process of their award winning ice-cream range with Endoline Machinery, has enabled Marshfield Farm to improve production efficiency and dramatically decrease customer lead times, while packing 30,000 litres of ice cream per day.

Family run Marshfield Farm, which is now in it’s 30th year, produces over 30 flavours of ice cream at its Wiltshire based, 1,100 acre organic farm, which is home to 250 dairy cows.

Once the ice cream is made, it is put straight into blast freezers overnight. The following day, the ice cream is packed into either 5 litre or 4 litre outer boxes, outer cases are erected, the tubs packed within them, before being sealed and shipped to over 6,000 independent retailers across the UK.

However, this process was traditionally manual and, due to retail demand for the 5 litre tubs to be packed into individual cases for easier storage, the process of packing was lengthy. Due to the frozen nature of the ice cream, it meant lead times were often longer as the packers could only manage small batch runs. “The packing time was variable when completed manually and, due to the nature of ice cream, we ran the risk of the product melting in the small window we had.” Comments Marshfield Farm owner, Will Hawking. “In addition, when manually erected and sealed, the cases were not always uniform, which left the product vulnerable further down the supply chain, and in transit to the customer.”

Realising the potential efficiency gains he could make by automating the packing process, Will contacted Endoline Machinery, who are specialists in end of line systems.

In June 2017, Endoline installed a semi-automated fully integrated line within Marshfield Farm, incorporating its 221 Fully Automatic Case Erector, conveyor systems, stainless steel packing tables, its 702 Fully Automatic Case Sealer and a Markem Imaje labeller.

Today, once the tubs of ice cream are taken from the blast freezer, the entire packing process takes just 15 seconds, a reduction in time by over 80%.

Once the cases are formed via the 221, they are transported via a powered belt conveyor to the packing stations where cages holding the product are delivered. As two manual workers are filling the cases, Endoline fitted the conveyor to an ergonomically friendly height for ease of use. The filled cases are then pushed on to a powered roller infeed conveyor to be automatically closed, and the top sealed by the 702 case sealer. Before being manually palletised, the sealed cases are run through a fully integrated print and labeller printer.

Marshfield Farm packs the ice cream in two different case sizes, one for the 5 litre tubs, and a second case size for six, 4 litre ice cream tubs.  According to Will, the process of changing the case sizes is simple and doesn’t cause any downtime.

“Automating the packing process has significantly increased our production efficiency and sped up delivery times considerably.” Will concludes. “At it’s maximum speed we are now packing 15 cases a minute, which will enable us to grow the business in the future.”

PPMA SHOW 2018 – Endoline re-engineers flagship random sealer to meet manufacturer case challenges

In response to manufacturer calls for flexible, future proof, end-of-line machinery, Endoline will unveil, at the forthcoming PPMA Show (Stand C52), its re-engineered 704 Fully Automatic Random Case Sealer, which can now manage an unprecedented range of case styles and sizes, meeting all current health and safety regulations.

Since its creation in the early 90’s, the 704 Fully Automatic Random Case Sealer has become a flagship system amongst Endoline’s range of end-of-line machines. In situ within food factories globally for almost 30 years, the machine is testament to Endoline’s ability to build high quality, long lasting, systems.

However, following unprecedented demand for random case sealers to manage a greater variety of case materials and sizes, Endoline has re-engineered the 704 to meet exact specifications.

Through technical enhancements Endoline have expanded the case size range by almost 60% at its greatest increase, without compromising on speed.

In addition to a greater range of case sizes, manufacturers are now packing with a wider variety of case materials to suit retail specifications, from poorly scored, lightweight cases, to heavy, twin wall cases.

To meet this challenge, Endoline have integrated a dual action hook into the re-engineered 704 to provide greater control, ensuring that the inner flaps of the case are effectively pushed into place before sealing, which overcomes tearing or the risk of the case opening at a later stage. For lighter weight cases, which are susceptible to tearing or crushing when running through a system at speed, the 704 now features side bars and a fully driven infeed with blade stop. This is automatically activated after a case passes the barcode reader to police the throughput of cases, ensuring there is a suitable gap between each, and safeguarding the consistent flow of cases into the machine.

The new infeed control also allows for greater speed control of the 704, which can now typically seal up to 14 random sized cases per minute.

“Manufacturers are increasingly pushing to automate their end-of-line production facilities, and they are facing mounting pressure from retailers to pack products into different packaging formats, and styles, to keep up with specific customer demands.” Comments Andrew Yates, Sales Director at Endoline Machinery. “Consequently, we have witnessed greater demand for systems which offer flexibility, as companies look to future proof their automation investment. To this end, random, high speed, end-of-line systems have become more sought after, and we have engineered our successful 704 to meet all of these current, high standards.”

Integrated with Endoline’s new Industry 4.0 compatible, icon based, HMI interface, the 704 is built to a smaller footprint than previous models, maximising factory floor space and features additional safety equipment to meet all current health and safety standards.

To view the 704 Fully Automatic Random Case Sealer, and other machines from Endoline’s system range, visit Stand C52 at the forthcoming PPMA Show.

Electric systems takes the pressure off pneumatics

It’s an exercise in over-simplification to say pneumatic systems are the best choice for providing lower cost equipment and speed, while a servo driven system is best for high speed and positioning accuracy. The trade-offs are many, including cost of ownership, access to air supply, speed requirements and operating environment.

Once an application is defined, specifications need to be considered, including weight, size, speed, and the requirements for acceleration/deceleration and positioning.  However, while all of these points are important there are two underlining factors which will determine whether a manufacturer will choose a pneumatic or electric end of line machine – power requirements and speed.

Complex cases calls for all-electric

If there is any significant performance differentiator, it is that servo driven systems are better understood for their high levels of repeatable speed and precision. With the growing demand for more complex applications, in particular contract packers and FMCG manufacturers who manage a range of different product case sizes and types to meet retailer demands, electric servo driven systems can provide greater versatility within this fast changing production environment. The ability to reach higher speeds is achievable with electric servo driven systems in comparison to pneumatic machines. Pushing pneumatic systems to higher speeds can also have a detrimental effect on the reliability of a machine resulting in excessive component wear and failure. A typical advantage of using servo driven systems is that they allow for dynamic changes to be made in velocity of fast moving sub-assemblies and allow them to be fine-tuned to suit particular applications, such as high volume snacks manufacturers who pack a range and variety of case sizes to suit customer demand, this is not simply achievable with pneumatic systems.

All-Electric systems are integrated with high reliability servo drives that can achieve speeds of more than 30 random case sizes per minute – ticking the flexibility https://viasilden.com box. Increasingly sought after by global snack and drinks companies, the all-electric, servo driven systems are running 24/7 and, crucially, require little manual adjustment. While allowing for higher levels of precision the introduction of servo drives gives machine builders the ability to make SMART systems – meeting the increasingly demanding requests from busy production halls.

A tried and tested solution

The earliest pneumatic machines date back to the post-war era and are conceivably the more economical choice. Pneumatic actuators generate precise linear motion, providing accuracy and repeatability offering simplicity to manufacturers who are seeking to automate a single sized case run.

Along with continuity, pneumatic systems are often more suited to packing scenarios within extreme temperature environments. From packing bags of ice cubes or tubs of fresh produce in a chilled environment. The availability of spare parts is simplified with pneumatic systems too as stocking spares is easier and delivery is immediate, while servos can take time. This is, however, improving as is the training of on-site engineers as a whole new skill set is required in the upkeep of servo driven systems.

There are many strong arguments that can be made for both all-electric and pneumatic systems in helping manufacturers achieve a smaller carbon footprint. While pneumatics can cut down on energy consumption, due to the lack of electrical hook up, all-electric machines can reduce noise emissions, and only use energy when required.

Over recent years, manufactures have significantly increased their investment in end-of-line automation. And these companies are now looking to extract every ounce of reliability and efficiency out of these turnkey lines, ensuring they deliver top performance at the lowest possible cost and need to make a well informed decision before opting for either a pnuematic or servo driven system.

Endoline upgrades flagship sealer to help manufacturers meet efficiency goals

In a direct bid to offer customers greater energy efficiency, Endoline Machinery have re-engineered one of its flagship random case sealers with a linear actuator system, reducing air consumption, which could ultimately reduce running costs and significantly cut a manufacturer’s carbon footprint and noise emission.

Over recent years, manufactures have significantly increased their investment in end-of-line automation. And these companies are now looking to extract every ounce of reliability and efficiency out of these turnkey lines, ensuring they deliver top performance at the lowest possible cost.

Continually evaluating every component of its systems, Endoline replaced pneumatic components on its 734 high speed random case sealer with servo driven linear actuators to reduce pneumatic supply demands. “In its old format, the 734 could consume up to 390 litres of air per minute.” Explains Keith Habben, Engineering Manager at Endoline Machinery. “When the system was first launched in 2003, it was commonly installed as a stand-alone machine. However, with manufacturers now integrating other systems to create fully turnkey lines, the requirements for overall air consumption can significantly increase and consequently, air supply and noise levels will also rise.”

Commonly driven by motors, pneumatic compressors need to run continually, consuming energy and air even when the machine is stationery. When additional machinery is added to the line, also requiring air, the pressure fluctuations can also have a detrimental effect on reliability and efficiency of the whole production line. By replacing the core pneumatic components on its 734 with the servo driven linear actuators, Endoline are set to help manufacturers reduce running costs and noise emissions significantly.

Installed within almost 100 factories globally, the high speed, fully automatic, 734 sealer can seal up to 20 random cases per minute, and is a widely respected addition to many automated lines on a snack food manufacturer’s factory floor.

Endoline upgraded a 734 machine on site at Bird Bros, a national distributor of eggs, 12 months ago in a bid to improve performance and record the improvements to line efficiency. With a weekly output of 3 million eggs, Bird Bros installed a state-of-the-art, fully automated production line several years ago with Endoline, and were welcome ‘guinea pigs’ to Endoline’s innovation.

“Since the 734 was upgraded, demand on air has reduced considerably, we have removed three air cylinders, which has made a dramatic improvement to noise emissions.”  Comments Joe Fox, Packing Centre Engineer at Bird Bros.

Endoline can upgrade all existing customers 734 machines to this new system.

 

Blog post – Automation Stepping Stones for SME’s

According to recent reports, confidence amongst UK SME’s has grown in the first quarter of the year, with a third expecting performance to improve even further in the next three months, and over 50% planning to expand their operations.*

SMEs are a large and integral part of the UK’s economy, with over 99% of all of Britain’s private sector businesses classified as small or medium.** And, by 2020, SME contributions to the UK economy is expected to reach £217 billion.

As enthusiast adopters of new technology, SME’s are more willing to embrace change than their Blue Chip company counterparts and, in a bid to maximise efficiency and production output, they are moving away from labour intensive repetitive tasks and automating manufacturing processes to aid business development.

That first step into automation can be a giant leap, but here are key steps SME’s should take when automating their production facility for the first time:

Get flexible…….

As a small company you may have to adapt your business several times to meet growing demand, so you may question investing in automation in case the system becomes obsolete within a couple of years. Wrong. Any credible automation supplier will offer an adaptable solution to future proof your investment. Today many machines can be upgraded or retro-fitted with new technology to suit future requirements. Also, portability is important. As you grow you may look to upgrade your premises so make sure that your automated system is easy to move.

Where’s the payback?

For most, if not all SME’s, the return on investment (ROI) figures can be a real deal breaker. However with careful planning, a 12-month ROI is attainable. A well thought out automated system can quickly turn an inefficient labour intensive operation into a cost effective, high output production line. Only go for what you need – you don’t necessarily need a system with bells and whistles but look for those that can suit the changing needs of your business. A quality provider of automation will help you calculate the best solution for you based on your existing costs.

Ease of use…..

Any downtime on production can have a detrimental effect on any business. So it is vital that you hold essential spare parts and have the ability to re-program the system quickly if required so your production runs smoothly. If you have to rely on resources outside of your business you run the risk of a gap in production, https://levivard.com which can have a direct impact on your profitability so speak to your provider for regular on-site training and support packages.

Become leaner…..

There is much debate around automation and lean, but SME’s should put the myths to bed and focus on solutions. Implementing lean into manufacturing environments means that it really is an approach to solving manufacturing problems, and if the best solution to a particular problem involves automation, then that makes automation lean. Ultimately it’s about reducing errors and defects, and error-proofing. Finding the right level of automation can enhance your lean initiatives in previously unconsidered ways, for instance, giving you new ways to reduce wasted time, wasted energy, and wasted effort when used in the right applications.

Don’t run before you can walk…

An age old saying, but when a company decides to automate they often feel that unless they have thousands of £££’s to spend fully automating their packaging line then they might as well not bother. However, automation can be built up slowly. Rather than replacing your workforce with a fully automated line ease your company into the concept – while keeping labour involved to work on the new, more productive packaging line.

Use a reputable company…………

If in doubt many people turn to the internet, we have even known first time buyers purchase automation equipment from eBay. However, if something goes wrong with that system you will find it difficult to purchase spare parts or find a reputable engineer to fix the problem. Purchase an automated system from a quality supplier, and don’t be put off if they work with bigger companies, chances are, they will offer less technical systems for a lower price but for the same quality.

With the intelligence of machines improving vastly, now is the time to seriously consider investing in automated systems to make your production more efficient. The National Living Wage increase will affect SME’s most keenly, however, by automating labour intensive tasks they can streamline their workforce and employ people to work on growing the business rather than working on labour intensive tasks. Couple this with the fact that the Annual Investment Allowance is still set at £200k – where SME’s can make tax deductible investments on automation – and it’s not a case of if you decide to automate but when.

Endoline will be able to discuss the right approach for your end of line packaging requirement, please contact us.

*https://economia.icaew.com/en/news/march-2018/confidence-rises-among-uk-smes

**https://www.fsb.org.uk/media-centre/small-business-statistics

Fresh food SME doubles output with first time automation

An SME producing fresh vegetarian foods doubled its capacity after semi-automating its production facility with Endoline Machinery.  Putting automation down to ‘simple arithmetic’ the owner of Ramona’s Kitchen – which churns out 50 tonnes of Mediterranean inspired produce a month – achieved a return on her investment within 12 months, and is encouraging other SME’s to jump on the automation bandwagon.

Business owner Ramona Hazan established Ramona’s Kitchen 13 years ago and, in addition to producing fresh foods, including falafel and houmous, for wholesalers and food service companies, produces the ‘Me Too!’ range of dips and salads for the UK’s leading supermarkets.  A family run business, Ramona’s Kitchen employs 8 people at its North London based factory.

“All of our products are freshly prepared daily and a lot of hands are needed in the kitchen.” Explains Ramona, “However up to 2 workers were spending a full 8 hour shift just forming boxes ready for filling – which was an inefficient use of time and a bottleneck in our production.” Once formed the boxes were stacked in a corner, however this also came with problems as the boxes were often damaged with the potential for dust settling, a frequent issue with pre-erected cases. It was at this point Ramona concluded that automating the erecting and sealing of boxes was a ‘no brainer’.

After researching different companies, Ramona commissioned Endoline Machinery to install a semi-automatic case erector and sealer due to, according to Ramona, their “service offering and ability to meet my needs exactly.” The line helped Ramona’s Kitchen double its capacity, with just one or two workers manning the entire packing line.  The produce is made within a high care room and immediately run, via a conveyor belt, out to a packing station. Here, a manual worker forms the cases on a case former which automatically folds the lower flaps and securely holds the open case to allow packing to take place. The filled boxes are then pushed by the operator, straight through the Endoline case sealer which simultaneously tapes both the bottom and the top of the box before being pushed through to a second high care storage room, ready for delivery. All of this is achieved within just one minute.

The production line is consistently flowing, with box damage eliminated – with a daily output of 500 boxes per day, a 100% increase. In addition, Ramona’s Kitchen pack up to 6 different box sizes but the Endoline systems are easily adjustable to cope with the size changes.

Automating for the first time as an SME was, admits Ramona, a daunting process as she explains: “Making the investment was initially scary but at the same time important to make that plunge as I realised the efficiencies which could be gained – basically it comes down to simple arithmetic! I am now in a position where I have doubled my capacity with a return on my investment within 12 months.”

As a manufacturer of high spec end of line packing equipment, Endoline Machinery regularly supply global blue-chip companies with fully automated systems, however they have recently launched entry level, semi-automatic systems specifically suited to SME’s who look for quality machines – without the price tag. Andrew Yates, Sales Director for Endoline Machinery, comments: “With our full range of systems we can offer the complete package to any customer – meeting their specification and budget.  It also enables us to ‘hand hold’ our customers throughout the automation process, which we have discovered is very important to SME’s”

Flexibility for SME’s is also important, as Ramona comments: “Investing in these systems has allowed me to grow the business; however it was important that the machines also offered me longevity with the ability to handle a wide variety of box sizes if required.”