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Alpma diversifies.

Alpma Diversifies

Alpma is a name that is associated with automatic packaging machines and soft cheese production lines, and indeed this is still their major market.

However, with the vast changes in the European dairy market, it was obviously necessary to look to a broader market elsewhere in the food industry. The first move was to consider their tray handling skill, acquired when designing the system for handling camembert cheese moulds, and it seemed obvious that such equipment could be adapted to the bakery field.

Within a bakery many trays are used and the advantages of the Alpma techniques allow bakery management to do without racks. Racks take up space whether they are full or empty but a self-stacking tray system obviates the need for such items. What seemed to be required was a self-stacking tray that could be mechanically handled through out the bakery cycle. Their system was readily tailored to the required tray size and fully automated systems were set up. Such a system was chosen by Mattessons Walls for their Trafford Park bakery. With these systems the goal of transferring raw material right through the line to the packaging area is possible, and such a system can be used for rack ovens with minor modification to the line arrangement.

Another area of interest seemed to be the feeding of autoclaves where they were being used handle the latest pouch packs for shelf stable products. Unlike a can, such packs do not lend themselves to the usual handling techniques but they can be processed on trays through a batch cooking system. Once again, note the word 'tray'. This is an Alpma skill area so again their engineers set to work to solve the mechanical problems involved and overcome the potentially labour-intensive nature of the work.

By applying their tray handling concept, Alpma envisaged a fully automated system with product carrying trays circulating in a closed loop. A diagram demonstrates how their system operates: starting with filled and sealed product being loaded on to a tray, the tray is next stacked and if necessary the product can be inverted. Stacks are next combined and feed to the autoclaves where the cooking process takes place. Discharge is next but at this stage the stacks need separating and rotating to remove surplus water. Trays are then destacked and product is unloaded for further packing, whilst empty trays are stacked in a buffer store before being destacked for further loading so the cycle can commence again. Their system is constructed entirely in stainless steel and is quite capable of operating in the cannery environment. A telescopic beam loads and unloads the autoclave and performs various transfer functions necessary at this point to save space and ensure short transfer times.

Such a technique benefits from the Alpma philosophy of maintaining positive control over the product at all times and their experience with continuous operation techniques. The full details of this development can be discussed with the UK office of Alpma GB Ltd at 19 Sherrington Way, Lister Road Industrial Estate, Basingstoke, Hants, tel: 0256 467177.

PHOTO : Alpma's system of mechanisation for retort feeding
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Title Annotation:Alpman GB Ltd.
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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