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Packaging machinery design.

The continued swing towards convenience foods and the introduction of new cooking methods, coupled with rigorous new British and European food hygiene regulations, have led manufacturers and processors to seek improved methods of product packaging.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in the frozen and chilled food market.

Chilled ready-meals, for example, are now supplied almost exclusively in microwaveable PET containers. Thus, meals go from producer to the plate, without the risk of contamination along the way.

The total UK chilled foods market rose 140 percent, from |pounds~196m. in 1986 to |pounds~470m. in 1991, with ready-meals accounting for 52 percent of sales. Frozen food sales rose from |pounds~1.5bn. in 1985 to |pounds~2bn. in 1989 and the UK Association of Frozen Food Producers estimates the entire retail frozen food market is currently worth around |pounds~3.5bn.

Another example is the humble British sandwich. Not too long ago sales were confined to a few enterprising bakers seeking to add value to their products. Their sandwiches were supplied in paper bags, which did nothing to enhance the product or encourage sales.

Today, the sandwich market is big business, worth around |pounds~1.45bn., and is growing at the rate of 10 percent per annum. Most retail bakers offer sandwiches and now they have been joined by a host of other retailers, from the major multiples and specialist "butty bars" to the garage forecourt shop.

In order to attract sandwich sales, retailers now offer them in specially designed clear plastics containers sealed to maintain freshness. Consumers can see what they are buying and freshness is assured.

Specialist Equipment

One company which maintains a careful eye on developments and influences the packaging market is Packaging Automation Ltd of Wilmslow, Cheshire. It manufacturers specialist heat sealing equipment for the food industry and will design or modify models to suit producers' individual needs.

A typical example is the company's new automatic in-line heat sealing machine, the PA238. It was initially designed to quickly and efficiently seal film lids on to the Cavaghan and Gray range of recipe dishes for Marks and Spencer.

Since its introduction earlier this year, the PA238 has already been installed by a number of other companies, including Fletchers Bakeries Ltd of Sheffield. They use the machine to seal packs of their frozen doughnuts. It enables 60 packs,each containing five doughnuts, to be sealed every minute, providing a fast and cost-effective solution to the packaging problem.

The PA238 allows companies to improve profitability by increasing production per person. In a typical application the retail value of product packed per person per hour using the PA238 is: 30 packs x |pounds~2.49 (pack value each) x 60 minutes = |pounds~4,482.

Using the previous packaging method the company achieved: 15 x |pounds~2.49 x 60 = |pounds~2,241.

Packaging Automation equipment can also offer significant savings on materials. The PA236, for example, gives a 33 percent film saving over many existing heat sealing machines.

Using a commonly available top web machine operating 60 packs per minute for 7 hours per day the savings are as follows:

Payback on the equipment is therefore approximately one year.

Strong Management

Formed by Arthur Pennin 1964, Packaging Automation is today directed by a management team, headed by Arthur's sons Anthony and Nick. It has a workforce of around 50 and supplies specialist heat sealing equipment to many of the country's major food producers and packers.

Its consistent growth has called for considerable investment in both staff and equipment. The company has recently invested a further |pounds~50,000 in increasing and expanding its production capability.

New equipment installed includes a CNC milling machine. This allows the company to cut standard and complex shapes in stainless steel or aluminium, attaining the high degree of precision and accuracy required significantly quicker, and with greater confidence, than was previously possible. It also enables the company to improve customer service and speed up response time.

Packaging Automation is a member of Campden Food and Drink Research Association, which is currently using one of its PA210CAP heat sealing machines in research into food packaging.

Located in the Association's new Process Hall at Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, the equipment is being used principally on a packaging project for the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food and an industry-funded research programme.

The MAFF project, entitled Risk factors associated with post-process contamination of heat sealed, semi rigid packaging, involves testing the integrity of heat processes semi rigid plastics containers that are widely used for lip-sealed, off the shelf ready-meals. The PA210CAP will be used to heat seal packs prior to them undergoing quality checks, including a bursting test.

The industry-funded programme is entitled Development of protocol for performance testing of heat sealable packaging. A Packaging Automation heat sealing machine was selected by Campden because many of its members already use the company's equipment.

New Models

New models are regularly added to the Packaging Automation range. The company's heat sealing machines for sandwich packing operations are a typical example. Originally, the company introduced the hand-operated PA217, which seals up to 18 packs per minute.

Subsequently, the company has introduced the PA235, which seals up to 1500 packs per hour, and the fully automatic PA233, for large packing operations, which seals up to 400 preformed containers per hour. Both the PA233 and PA235 have continuous motion conveyors and are designed to allow dies to be changed quickly and easily without the need for tools or skilled labour.

Such speed and efficiency, coupled with a reduction in waste, is of considerable benefit to the company's customers. Packaging Automation assists customers further, by offering heat sealing equipment on rental terms as well as for outright sale.

The rental option is particularly advantageous for test-market operations prior to national distribution. Should the new product fail to match expectations, the manufacturer is not left with capital equipment for which he may have no immediate use.

All the company's heat sealing equipment and associated tooling are designed for ease of use and to minimise waste. The company works closely with customers from the outset of their project, so that the machinery supplied is fully in line with the task involved and provides optimum benefits.

Packaging Automation has shown consistent year on year growth and its policy of working closely with customers and responding quickly and efficiently to their demands will keep it at the forefront of the industry in years to come.

For further information please contact Paul Simpson of Packaging Automation at Green Hedges Works, Moor Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 6DW, tel: 0625 522471, fax: 0625 533669.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Food Trade Press Ltd.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Packaging Automation Ltd.'s new food packaging machinery
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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