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Unilever Foods UK saves with Linkx

04 May 2012

Close co-operation between Linkx Systems and the engineering team at the Unilever Foods UK site in Norwich has resulted in the successful completion of two challenging projects, both of which are now delivering important savings, albeit of rather different types!

The first project is an innovative new packaging machine for cook-in sauce sachets which is producing smaller packs that save valuable space during transport and also on retailers’ shelves, while the second is the refurbishment of a previously retired volumetric filling machine for ready to use catering sauces, and has saved Unilever around 50% of the cost of buying a new machine.

The cook-in sauce packer handles sachets containing product in powder form. Conventionally, packaging machines handle these sachets vertically, which means the powder settles to the bottom of the sachet, making the bottom much wider than the top. Since the retail packaging must cater for the widest part of the sachet, this means that a lot of space is wasted.

The new design developed by Linkx in conjunction with Unilever eliminates this problem by handling the sachets horizontally until after they have been inserted in the retail packaging. This allows the packaging to be up to 30% smaller, which means that the same number of retail units now take up only half the space previously required in the warehouse, during transport and on retailers’ shelves.

For the Ready to use Sauce line, Linkx completely overhauled and refurbished a volumetric filling machine that had been in storage at Unilever. A key part of the refurbishment was the replacement of the machine’s existing pneumatic motion systems with modern servo-drives and ball-screw actuators, which greatly increased reliability and accuracy.

The machine was also upgraded to handle six different product variations, ranging in size from 100 g squeezy pots for the retail market to 2.25 litre catering jars.

As a result of the refurbishment project, the volumetric filler now fully meets Unilever’s requirements for versatility, convenience, productivity and reliability, yet has cost the company only half as much as a new machine.

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