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Advanced Engineering 2020

NEC, Birmingham(B40 1NT)

04/11/2020 - 05/11/2020

The UK's largest annual advanced manufacturing trade show, Advanced Engineering is your opportunity to (more)

Drives & Controls Exhibition

NEC, Birmingham(B40 1NT)

25/01/2021 - 27/01/2021

The show brings together key suppliers of state-of-the-art equipment representing the multi-tasking culture (more)

Automation reduces levels of giveaway in pre-packed foods

Automation reduces levels of giveaway in pre-packed foods Reducing the amount of packaging used for products like vegetables is, in this environmentally conscious era, a priority for supermarket buyers and customers alike. But significant challenges often need to be addressed in order to achieve these reductions, as TA Smith, otherwise known as Tasco, recently discovered. Tasco is one of the UK's largest suppliers of pre-packed vegetables to major supermarkets. The company's speciality is brassicas, in particular cauliflower and broccoli, although it can also include other vegetables such as carrots in its packs. Always looking for ways to provide its customers with improved products and service, Tasco was receptive to a request from Somerfield to investigate the possibility of supplying vegetables in bags, rather than in flow-wrapped punnets. Eliminating the punnets while minimising giveaway was far from trivial, however, as the punnets were integral to the manual packing process then in use. With the manual system, giveaway was essentially under control of the plant operatives. Cauliflower florets, for example, weigh anything from around 30g to 70g. In theory at least, an operative filling punnets manually can, therefore, choose the size of the last few florets to make sure that the pack comes close to the correct weight. This manual selection of floret size clearly can't be incorporated into an automated packaging system. Correct pack weight is, however very important: it is illegal to sell underweight packs, but overweight packs damage profitability. The second problem with automated packaging is that cauliflower florets in particular are susceptible to bruising. The first step toward a solution was the discovery by Tasco that PLCs from Omron can easily be connected to the load cells used by electronic weigh pans. This led to the idea of rebuilding an existing multihead weigher which Tasco rarely used, and combining this with a bagging machine to produce the new punnet-free packs. All of the ten weigh pans are fed by vibratory feeders. Tasco replaced four of the vibratory fed lanes with conveyors. These are used for the delicate cauliflower florets, and completely eliminate bruising. Four of the remaining lanes are used for broccoli, which is less susceptible to damage, and one is available for use with carrots which are sometimes included in mixed packs. The remaining pan is used to check weigh the packs after filling. The machine is under PLC control, whilst an Omron HMI provides the operator interface, making machine operation easy and intuitive. The HMI also continuously displays real time information on machine performance, allowing important parameters such as giveaway to be checked quickly and easily.
 

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