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Improving Efficiencies and Reducing Give Away in Soft Fruit Packing

Updated: Nov 8, 2022


The Challenges


Handling delicate products such as berries and cherries during the packing process presents many challenges. Soft fruits can be easily damaged during weighing leading to the use of a manual, labour intensive weighing process in many packing facilities. However, the manual handling of products can cause over filling of fruit resulting in above optimum give away and reduced profit margin.


Whilst checkweighers located at the end of the line will ensure the final sealed packs are within the legal weight requirements, they cannot prevent overfilling of packs prior to closing.


With sometimes a very short growing season to take into account, packing facilities must run as efficiently as possible to meet peaks in demand and maximise profit within this short window. It is therefore essential to balance packing speed and fruit give away. Packing facilities often face labour shortages and a transient workforce with pressure to de-skill processes to meet the capabilities of the labour available.


Solutions


Intelligent weighing systems such as Packaging Automation’s MiWeigh can help to improve profit margins by simplifying the packing line set up, increasing packing speed and minimising product give away.


The system consists of a software management system linked to individual manual weighing stations located along a packing line. The weighing stations can be integrated with existing packing tables and conveyors or supplied as a complete packing line specified to suit individual customer requirements.


The simple to use Weigh system is flexible enough to support the swapping and moving of weighing stations as required. For identification purposes, operators are required to use a RFID fob to log in to their allocated scale, this means that individual performance can be recorded and monitored live during each production run.


Supervisors have the flexibility to move operators from one line to another by unplugging the scale and moving it, the software within the system is intelligent enough to know which scale and therefore which operator is located in each position and on each line.


The Weigh intelligent weighing system integrates with an end of line checkweigher, to form a closed feedback loop which optimises product give away to as little as 0.3g over a production run and legal weight compliance leading to maximised profit margin.


Recipes can be stored in the software system and then at changeover selected and automatically sent to all of the individual weighing stations with clear visual information at each station showing the target weight. This simple recipe selection for line product changeovers ensures they are quick and error free regardless of how many stations are required. Recipes can also be sent straight to the end of line checkweigher to further simplify line set up. Minimum and maximum weights are stored in the pre-set recipes for each customer and individual product specification speeding up set up and eliminating errors.


Cost savings can be realised by using MiWeigh’s simple visual indicators on each scale to help operators place the optimal amount of fruit quickly and repeatedly. A traffic light system is a simple way of showing the individual operator whether they are above or below and within the required weight tolerance for the fruit they are placing into the punnet.


Due to the superior settling time of the MiWeigh scale, it has been proven that the number of weighing stations and therefore operators required can be reduced by at least 20%. Installations in the fruit packing sector have consistently delivered pack rates of 20 weights per minute compared to 10 weights per minute using conventional weigh scales.


Operational Management Tools


Live reports and visual management tools support operational decisions by showing performance by each individual operator on the line. By pinpointing below target performers, training and support can be provided during the production run with immediate impact on results.


A large visual display screen in the packing area provides live data monitoring showing job progression, time remaining and individual performance such as number of packs completed and give away statistics.


At the end of a production run the job report is emailed to the Packhouse Manager and can be stored for BRC audit purposes. The reports include the cost of each production run, with a breakdown of individual operator performance.


To read how Packaging Automation’s MiWeigh factory intelligent weigh system can improve your fruit packing line efficiencies and provide real cost savings click here.

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