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Automation optimises potato packaging

17 November 2023

Find out how a potato processing company has increased capacity by automating the packaging function.

Peka Kroef is a Dutch family-owned potato products processor. It processes locally sourced potatoes into fresh, pasteurized specialty products – such as wedges, gratins, and purees. 

In order process and pack millions of potatoes each year, the company relies on a high degree of automation. So, when it identified a need for improvement in the packaging of marinated potatoes in aluminium trays automation was the way forward. “We were looking for more capacity and flexibility so that we can run our production process around the clock,” explained Arjen de Groot, Engineering Project Manager at Peka Kroef. “We wanted a line, which saves us time. A packaging machine that doesn't miss a cycle, and where the supply of aluminium trays is continuous, as well as offering labelling as an integrated part of the packaging process.”

The solution that helped it achieve these aims included the adoption of TX 820 traysealers from MULTIVA which are now being used to pack and label marinated potatoes. The only human involvement is putting aluminium trays in stacks of around 150 onto an infeed system. From then on the machine takes over. The stacks travel into a holding device, where the trays are separated singly onto a further transport conveyor, which is situated one level lower. 

The next stage
At the next stage, the marinated potatoes drop into the trays. When the trays are filled, they are sealed to the upper web in the traysealer. The sealing die ensures that there is an even distribution of sealing force on each tray to guarantee a uniform and secure packaging result, even at high cycle outputs and on a multi-shift basis. After the trays have been sealed, labelling then takes place on a full wrap conveyor belt labeller from MULTIVAC. It dispenses the elongated label, which includes nutritional information, a photo of the product and the company logo, onto the upper side of the film. Two mechanical device – one mounted on each side of the transport conveyor – then press the ends of the label downwards, so that it encloses the pack on all four sides. The packs are then ready for shipment. 

When exchanging the existing machines for the new ones, the commissioning of the lines had to involve the shortest possible interruption in production. MULTIVAC offered a one-stop-shop solution for the complete line so less synchronisation work was needed, accelerating the phases of the project. “Our operators and engineers travelled to the MULTIVAC factory in Germany to plan the preparation phase and to discuss our requirements,” said Josjo Uithol, Commercial Manager at Peka Kroef. “The exchange of the lines was prepared very carefully in advance. A detailed test schedule was also produced.” 

“The machines were purchased in July 2021 and installed in a very short period. Old machines out, new machines in. In Asten we achieved this in 24 hours. In Odiliapeel in 72 hours,” confirmed Arjen.  

The packaging lines are equipped with sensors which are integrated into the company's higher-level computer system. By using data analysis, Peka Kroef is able to optimise the packaging process in real-time, as well as detect bottlenecks and potential faults at an early stage. 

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