Brillopak Director David Jahn examines the best ways to increase profitability and build brand value with end of line automation…
Rising populations, new middle classes and social trends that change the perceived value of healthy foods, mean packhouses are facing pressure to respond and improve efficiency. Over the years, automation has been deployed at the processing end of a packhouse, however, the end of line placing of packs in crates and then palletising crates onto pallets is largely a manual process. This has two impacts; a high labour cost and the packhouse not being in control of overall line speed.
END OF THE LINE
End of line automation is the replacement of manual or mechanical processes such as packing products into crates or placing crates onto pallets with robotic machines. Performing these repetitive tasks manually has limitations on workforce morale, health and safety and product quality. The manual process is typically slow and labour-intensive and the line speed is reliant on the speed of the slowest individual. There are frequent short line stops at the end of the line which slow down the average line speed affecting net productivity. There are also potential issues surrounding quality with frequent manual handling issues.
Brillopak lists six tactical tips for packhouses to increase profitability and build better brand value by automating their case loading and palletising function:
FROM FARM TO FORK
According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), over two-million tonnes of fresh produce are wasted each year in the supply chain. Key causes are poor handling and storage at distribution depots, along with less protective packaging. Effective automation ensures the product is gently packaged, with no damage or human handling.
PRESENTATION OF PRODUCT
The ability to demonstrate to customer’s consistency of product presentation in the crate is essential to the retailer. Accuracy and precision when picking and placing a product with an automated system that will not get tired or injured, ensures superior presentation regardless of the product.
The fresh produce market is booming for growers and suppliers with varied packaging needed to satisfy consumer demand. The flexibility to cater for unknown future requirements combined with consistency of speed and performance not only ensures a high OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) and level of future proofing, but also demonstrates to clients a commitment to invest in the future.
ACCURACY OF INFORMATION
The slightest error on packaging traceability means the packhouse may incur hefty penalties and fines, along with damage to reputation. Automation technology with integrated vision is extremely deft at tracking, tracing and storing data, providing a reliable audit trail.
EFFICIENCY OF OPERATION
How can we maximise output in the shortest possible time at the lowest possible unit cost without compromising on quality?
As labour is the biggest single cost in most packhouses, the answer must lie in automation, especially with implications of Brexit and the minimum wage set to rise to £9 by 2020.
Simple systems can monitor all the key processes and provide dynamic reporting of each line. These systems are excellent for identifying and removing bottlenecks and help drive continuous improvement.
WINDOW TO WORK
In addition to meeting health and safety requirements, an organised and well-run, uncluttered automated site is efficient, demonstrating lower costs, minimised risk and an emphasis on quality and delivery for potential customers. According to David, automation payback can be accomplished in between one and three years.
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