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Pacepacker automates Baxter’s potato packing plant

12 January 2011

An automated bagging line which places, weighs, forms, stitches and palletises up to 4,000 tonnes of potatoes into 25kg sacks in one season, has helped a Merseyside chip shop potato grower, Baxters High Brow Produce

Pacepacker has helped Baxters fulfil its need for improved pack presentation, increased throughput by 38% per hour and reduced production staff by three people who have been relocated to other areas of the business.

Baxter’s fully automated line consists of a C21 Sack Placer capable of presenting up to 10 open mouth bags per minute to the Total Bag Control System (TBC) sack closing system.

Pacepacker Sales Manager, Ian Merchant, comments on how these machines handle difficult products: “Bagged potatoes are notoriously unstable due to their irregular shape and size. There is a tendency for the sack to tip backwards when released on to a moving stitcher conveyor and this, coupled with the potential collapse of the sack mouth, can result in untidy or worse still unstitched sacks.

“The TBC overcomes these all too common problems by firstly stretching the sack mouth whilst still on the filling clamp then, by gripping the sack top prior to its release onto a short static conveyor. Both the sack top and base are indexed clear of the filling clamp at high speed and in perfect synchronisation, allowing for the rapid placement of the next bag in readiness for filling. The top grip arms then transfers the filled sack to a pair of powered belts which in turn feed the sewing head thus ensuring neat, parallel stitching.”

After stitching, a motorised kicker consistently transfers the sack into the horizontal position after which the sack undulates over a squared roller conveyor evenly dispersing the potatoes to create a flat and level bag ready for palletising.

“The system consistently creates a perfectly presented pack, which in turn eliminates sack and product waste, and has increased potato throughput by 3 tonnes per hour at the Baxter plant,” adds Ian

Completing Baxter’s packing line is a Pacepacker pre-owned Blu-Robot. “Manufacturers understand the benefits a palletising robot can provide in terms of fast and accurate stacking,” says Ian, “but new systems are not always economically viable for low production or seasonal companies, hence why we offer a pre-owned solution.

“These high quality robotic arms primarily originate from the automotive industry and are typically around 35% of the way through their expected 100,000 operational hour lifespan. The Blu-Robot is supplied fully checked, tested & repainted, with a 12 month parts warranty together with readily available service & spares back up”.

The Blu-Robot, which with its compact foot print fitted into the restricted production space at Baxter plant, neatly stacks pallets of 45 sacks and overcomes the limitations of manual palletising. “Due to their lumpy shape, palletising sacks of potatoes by hand invariably leads to an unstable stack,” says Baxter Managing Director, Mr David Baxter.

“Initially we were only looking for an automatic sack closing machine as we believed that a full line would be too expensive and that the pay back would take too long, as a seasonal packer. Pacepacker’s pre-owned Blu-Robot provided us with an affordable robotic palletising solution, which neatly and efficiently stacks the sacks without fault to within 0.5mm of the target point regardless of the height of the stack; we hope to see a return on investment after our third crop of potatoes.”

Baxter’s plant modernisation has been highly successful says Mr Baxter: “The line consistently provides accurately stitched bags and requires little operator supervision. Right from the beginning when we achieved a quick installation, Pacepacker has provided excellent service. Their equipment is easy to operate, low to maintain and quick to changeover, which in turn has reduced packing staff by 60%.”

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