'Traditional kit won't meet today's needs'

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Manufacturing

Müller invested to get more flexibility from its re-pack line
Müller invested to get more flexibility from its re-pack line
Too many food manufacturers are using hygiene requirements as an excuse for not installing automated systems, a lean manufacturing expert has claimed.

While there is great need for the sector to improve its efficiency and flexibility, said Hans Pettersson, sales director for materials handling firm Matcon, firms "use hygiene​ [as an excuse] for not being efficient"​. One firm reportedly said: "These days we are an equipment cleaning company that sometimes gets the opportunity to manufacture food."

Pettersson was speaking last month at a conference on improving efficiency in food manufacture organised by the Processing & Packaging Machinery Association, with Campden BRI. "We believe becoming lean is absolutely essential,"​ he said.

'Lean is absolutely essential'

He claimed traditional facilities and existing equipment were becoming inherently unsuitable for the work they were expected to do. "Investment is really essential to survive in this environment,"​ he added. Flexibility in being able to switch between products was the key in today's tough environment, he added, rather than building up large amounts of inventory at huge cost. "Don't hide behind forecasts that will never be correct, think about making to order,"​ he said.

Some manufacturers have recognised the need to invest in flexibility, however. Müller Dairy, for example, has upgraded and re-engineered an existing re-pack line at its Market Drayton site to help raise output, reduce costs and improve production flexibility.

Under performing

The line had previously been over-reliant on manual intervention and was under performing. The system also lacked versatility, it was not designed to handle twin pots, yet these are now a growth area.

Now fully automated, the new repacking line is at least 50% more efficient and able to handle double the numbers achieved manually.

Systems integrator CKF Systems designed and installed the solution, using as much of the existing kit as possible. This included four existing ABB Flexpicker robots. The re-spack system needed to take packed yogurt from a pallet, produce a multi-pack, repack and palletise.

Müller project engineer Martyn Steadman said: "To maximise output, we re-engineered to eliminate bottlenecks, and installed new motors and software with innovative conveyor protocols to ensure accurate product alignment ready for high-speed handling."

Related topics: Hygiene, safety & cleaning

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