International fruit marketing and distribution company Worldwide Fruit, supplier of quality fruit products to UK supermarkets, has boosted its capacity to load flow wrapped apples into crates while maintaining product integrity. The result is a more efficient end-of-line loading process and increases efficiency.
The improvements are credited to the installation of an ergonomically and innovatively designed Brillopak semi-automated PakStation for loading crates at Worldwide Fruit’s Spalding facility.
Worldwide Fruit sources apples, pears, avocados and stone fruit from the UK, New Zealand, South America, South Africa, USA and Europe. Roughly, 380 staff are employed across two facilities, where 65 million packs of fruit per year are graded, processed and packaged, ready for distribution.
Last year, the company replaced its crate loading soft touch roller belt system for a Brillopak semi-automated PakStation. The investment was to increase capacity but also strengthen the overall flow of the process by eliminating bottlenecks.
The Brillopak machine relieves these issues and enables more throughput with fewer line stoppages, increasing OEE on the packing line.
Because of this success, the distributor has recently put in another order for a second machine for its Spalding packhouse to load a more varied range of fruit. Observing the productivity benefits and flexibility of the initial line.
Speed, efficiency and eliminating damage, plus the ability to increase capacity within factory space limitations, were among the key catalysts for adopting Brillopak’s semi-automated PakStation. Sam Roberts, Senior Production Manager explains: “The machines are compact and easily fit into our factory layout.”
Quality and quantity
Prior to the Brillopak installation, Worldwide Fruit used a roundtable system before moving to a roller belt, which was fitted at the end-of-line onto a flow-wrap machine. Although the product exits from the sealing system efficiently, the packing operators weren’t running to the same capacity. The real issue, recalls Sam, was that operators were in control of packing speeds, not the line, which caused productivity issues when it came to flow.
“Packing operatives couldn’t keep up with the pace and it became quite a bottleneck. This led to a build-up of product, more stoppages and potential fruit quality issues,” notes Sam.
When searching for the ideal solution, the team were quick to single out Brillopak’s PakStation. Neal Collishaw, Operations Director at Worldwide Fruit, confirmed trials after observing the equipment in action in 2017. Soon after, the machine was attached to the flow-wrapper at their Spalding site in January 2018.
“Brillopak were very willing to listen to our specific requirements. Quality of fruit is important to us and making sure that our product is not damaged during any of the processes. Overall, the semi-automatic packer reduces the issues we had and we saw more throughput on the line with less downtime,” says Sam.
The packer is ergonomically designed and feeds product to staff at an ideal height and orientation, enabling the team to load at a suitable pace. Because of this, workforce health and injury risks as well as physical and mental stress levels are reduced.
A further improvement was the installation of an additional guard sensor, making it safe if an operator needs to go into the machine for maintenance. Brillopak has already fitted the same safety device onto the second PAKStation. “They’ve listened to recommendations we’ve made and adapted to our needs” adds Sam.
Finding the right solution
As production moves towards full automation, it’s safe to say that robots are a key strategy in the implementation of industry 4.0. Yet, for many businesses, semi-automated packing lines provide the benefits required to reach optimum production, such as quality assurance and ROI.
Rather than removing humans from the process, the PakStation helps manual workers to do a better, more efficient job. Although Brillopak is capable of providing robotic packers, the companies collaboratively decided the semi-automated solution was ideal for Worldwide Fruit’s requirements. “Some companies might’ve gone ahead with a robot, and it probably wouldn’t have resolved our problem,” notes Sam.
Payback for the system has been extremely quick when combining the reduction in line stops, increased throughput and OEE. It is workforce friendly and more than capable of matching the speeds of the flow-wrapper system, prompting Sam to order another at Worldwide Fruit’s Spalding plant.
“They were very accommodating,” concludes Sam. “Worldwide Fruit and Brillopak have worked incredibly well together, which is why we’ve gone back for a second time.”