"The new packaging system went directly into production in July 2018," explains Dieter Roos, the manufacturing company Handl Tyrol's production manager at its Austrian Schönwies site. For five days a week, in two-shift operations, original Tyrolean specialties are prepared, cut, packaged and shipped from the company's Inntal site to delicatessen counters all over Europe. "It met all of our expectations from day one and runs smoothly," Roos says. "Even though the machine had been completely redesigned, we did not have any of the initial problems you would expect during test operations."
"In all, we operate numerous GEA packaging lines to package our bacon and raw sausage products," Roos explains. "It is part of our company philosophy to make sure we are using the latest technology." The new production line in Schönwies packages the various bacon products in packs with two or four compartments. The line consists of a multi-head weigher, the GEA thermoformer, a high-performance GEA lane converger and a metal detector with a check weigher.
Roos continues, "As we got ready to configure the machine, we made a list of specifications that the machine had to include."For one, the thermoformer has to operate at 15 instead of 10 strokes per minute. For another, the line can automatically adjust for pack depth to avoid the time-consuming conversion processes required by the diverse range of pack weights and pack sizes. This means that the depth or height of the produced packs is easy to set - or, if needed, the setting readjusted - by motor directly from the control panel.
Another important issue is effective cleaning. Pieces of bacon and ham regularly fall onto the cube production line. All components must therefore be readily accessible, and fast and easy to clean. As the films are changed frequently each day because of the varying pack sizes, it was also important that the top and bottom films could easily, quickly and safely be fed in and unwound.
A giant leap forward
"We mostly work with printed films," the production manager reports. With index lengths of 780mm, a large amount of waste had always been generated when films were changed and the necessary adjustments were made to the settings. This has now changed fundamentally. "The new model features an absolutely groundbreaking film unwinding process," Roos reports. The unwinding systems for both the top and bottom films are motorised and synchronised with the machine's index cycle. In combination with the two innovative rotary or linear web tensioning systems, they facilitate controlled and even unwinding, and a simplified and secure film path.
In addition, the motor-driven and controllable web tensioning systems invariably ensure optimum film tension and sealing seam quality. The newly developed film shafts have closed design and contribute to better hygiene by minimising the formation of moisture and dust deposits on the films. All in all, Roos has only positive feedback. "The new film unwinding system saves us time and material. Top and bottom films are threaded quickly and easily, and no further adjustments need to be made. Film no longer goes to waste."
A glance at the business side
The new thermoformer system also offers great advantages from a business standpoint. "Set-up times are reduced considerably, film replacement times have been cut in half and waste during film loading has been reduced by up to 75%. The quality of the packaging has been greatly improved. Packs that are rejected because of film misalignment have practically become a thing of the past," Roos enumerates. There are also other benefits: film reloading is carried out at unbelievable speeds. Time savings of 70% are the rule.
Production is now perfectly in sync with logistics planning. "The more reliably the systems operate and the less time pressure there is during packaging, the less stress builds up along the whole production process," Roos reiterates. "We are completely satisfied. It has generally been our experience that no new machine operates smoothly at the beginning, but we can say that the thermoformer GEA PowerPak PLUS has surpassed our expectations from day one."