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Smaller producers make bigger demands

26 October 2011

Speciality food manufacturers have particular needs and concerns when selecting the best packaging machinery for the job and there are few equipment suppliers willing to provide the level of tailored service that this can demand

For small businesses, in particular, there is often a conflict between the investment resources available and the demand from retailers and consumers for hygienically packaged, shelf-ready and attractively presented products.

As with any capital investment, a significant consideration for smaller producers is the pay back time from purchasing new machinery, particularly where production or demand is seasonal or when new products are being introduced.

To ease the capital investment burden tray sealing machines can be hired as well as purchased outright with flexible short-term rentals allowing fast implementation while keeping overheads low. Longer term rental deals are also available once production is established, with the option of purchasing the equipment at the end of the hire period.

Packaging equipment suppliers need to work closely with these customers to develop the most appropriate solution and not foist on them a standard service, however, this level of commitment requires not only a range of appropriate machines but also a highly developed pre and post sale support infrastructure.

Knutsford-based Packaging Automation (PA) has been supplying large and small food producers, across a variety of markets, with tray sealing machinery for more than 50 years and has established a range of services to ensure that its packaging machinery suits individual budgets, operating conditions and product characteristics.

The decision to invest in new or replacement packaging machinery is never taken lightly. It is a significant investment for a small business and any free service or expert advice is always welcome. For PA this is an essential service that not only helps speciality food producers choose the right equipment but also establishes a reciprocal relationship bringing mutual benefit as the business grows.

To facilitate this, PA has set up a series of practical initiatives aimed at guiding speciality food manufacturers from machine specification and selection, purchase and hire options through to technical support and engineering assistance. The first step is assigning an experienced project team to establish the precise specification of both the machine and the packaging material required.

It is this high level of customer care and packaging expertise which brings repeat business back to PA, as in the case of an ethnic food specialist in north London wanting to extend the shelf life of its range of Halal and Kosher products.

Mrs Gills Kitchen’s managing director, Chris Gill, said: “We currently have a PA182 tray sealer and had no hesitation in contacting PA again when the requirement came for another machine to cope with our expanding business. PA helped us carry out gas flushing trials as we wanted to extend the shelf life of our product. The help and support we received from PA was excellent and we have now ordered a PA182MAP-F.”

The Moochii Company in Wembley is another specialist business thriving on the popularity of oriental food. It already had a PA2016 tray sealer but returned to PA to help meet growing demand for its dim sum dishes.

Moochii owner Vivien Wong said: “We were very happy with the PA2016 from PA so when we moved factory and it came to looking for another machine to cope with extra capacity, it was an easy decision. We wanted to continue our on-going relationship with PA as they always do a good job and work hard to get things right. We are very happy with the result.”

PA’s seal technology department holds an unparalleled database of films, trays and other forms of packaging materials, all available for product testing in a dedicated trials facility at its factory. Fully equipped with cooking, chilling and freezing facilities, this ‘test kitchen’ enables a range of trials to be undertaken to ensure the packaging material and tray or container format are compatible with the characteristics of the product and also satisfy the manufacturer’s budgetary and aesthetic requirements.

PA’s sales manager Neil Ashton believes that, in the current manufacturing climate, smaller manufacturers and speciality food producers need to be able to access the expertise of more experienced businesses. He said: “Our engineers and technicians have a wealth of experience that can be used to guide machinery purchases and ensure our customers get the best solution for their business.”

It is going the extra mile for customers that has so impressed Boddington’s Berries, who are using a Fastfill 40 to fill high quality conserves. Owner, Louise Boddington, said: “We have been very pleased with the level of support PA has given us and their contribution to the project has been invaluable. Their after sales service is brilliant; I would certainly recommend them to others.”

For wary speciality food manufacturers, packaging machinery suppliers need to go the extra mile to provide informed technical support, flexible procurement packages and outstanding customer service. With companies like PA committed to providing this kind of support, smaller food manufacturers can now achieve the production efficiencies they need without compromising quality or reliability.

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