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.”
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