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The many facets of Medway food packaging.

The Many Facets of Medway Food Packaging

Packaging is one of the most important aspects of food marketing. An eye-catching pack moves products off the shelf. A well engineered pack keeps the contents safe and wholesome. To achieve this at minimum cost, designers, engineers and marketers need to be aware of the industry's technology and its capabilities.

Medway Packaging Systems is a UK company with food packaging expertiese that is continually being enhanced by the addition of new ranges of equipment - some of their own manufacture, others imported leading European companies. MPS is a subsidiary of NcB AB of Sweden, one of Europe's major producers of wood-free coated fine papers and Europe's largest producer of unbleached kraft paper. NcB has 18 production units in eight countries and sales companies in Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

MPS manufacture or market shrink and stretch-wrapping machinery, case-wrapping machinery, carton forming and closing equipment, pick-and-place units, sack filling and handling equipment, weighing systems, sack emptying systems, form-fill-seal systems, and self-diagnostic systems.

Shrink and stretch-wrapping

Shrink and stretch-wrapping machines exclusively marketed in Britain by MPS include integrated tray-loading systems that can match the speed of the fastest can filling lines at up to 2000 cans a minute and also rather less costly machines for slower lines.

The Italian-built Novopac machines are offered in a wide range of basic models and sizes. These include both automatic and semi automatic machines that can shrinkwrap or stretchwrap products of many shapes and sizes, including bottles, cans and cartons. Items can be shrinkwrapped with or without a support medium such as a tray or board.

Typical installations can erect trays from flat blanks of corrugated or carton board, collate bottles, cans or other containers in pack quantities, film-wrap the packs and convey them to a fully automatic pallet handling system.


A recent introduction, taking the company into new markets, is a high speed case-packer. This machine provides economic and secure protection for the delivery of all products in bottles and cans. It produces transit packs for bottles and cans at up to 60 packs a minute. Changes of format can be made in about twenty minutes, so that many different products can be packed on a single line with the minimum of downtime between changes.

Cases are formed around the contents on a single level, and the whole operation is fully automatic. Carton blanks are fed from a low level magazine, extracted by suction and conveyed along the line where cans or bottles are collated, board is folded and the case made by folding the board around the contents. Various methods of gluing can be specified. Sensors monitor each station along the line, instantly signalling the cause of any fault or stoppage.

Carton handling

MPS have recently begun importing a range of machines from CBM of Italy that include carton erectors and closers that can operate at speeds up to 1300 cartons an hour, with size changes in only 5 to 10 minutes. From the same source comes a versatile pick-and-place system that can automatically pack bottles, jars and other containers into cartons, trays or boxes.

The new pick-and-place machine can handle packs of most shapes (round, square, rectangular, oval, etc) with or without internal dividers. Producing up to 600 cases an hour, the machine can pack items into cartons sized from 150 by 160 by 210mm up to a maximum of 380 by 450 by 550mm. High productivity can be achieved because size changes can be made in about 10 minutes.

Packs are prepared by means of a chain belt, by a sweep-off system or by an add-on automatic conveyor to canalise the incoming items. Thin, flexible plates centre the cases and dividers on the line. The whole operation is PLC-controlled.


Their CMB Depalletiser is a fully automatic system for continuously feeding bottles or cans from the pallets on which they are delivered to any type of filling line. The machine can handle up to 20,000 units an hour, depending on their size.

Loaded pallets are brought to the machine by a roller conveyor from which they are elevated vertically to the take-off position. Bottles or cans are automatically aligned for removal, swept off on to an accumulator table and carried by conveyor belt in a single line to the filler. The system is PLC-controlled and fully protected for operator safety.

Sack handling

With over 30 years' experience, MPS is the only company in Britain that manufactures fully comprehensive sack handling systems - filling, sealing, weighing unit loads to very precise limits in either open-mouth or valve sacks. Semi automatic or fully automatic systems can handle all food products. Standard equipment includes air packers, impeller packers, gravity packers, sack applicators, sack sealers and conveyors.

Precision Weighing

The Midas computerised weight controller greatly improves the performance of automatic bagging lines. Fifty weighing routines can be preprogrammed and stored and the computer memory retains optimal settings for immediate start-up on command. Automatic trending ensures that the control settings are continuously re-adjusted to compensate for changes in the bulk density of any product. Management reports include production records and a unique shift report showing run times, packing rates and details of line stoppages. Faults are automatically diagnosed and logged. Print-outs of management and maintenance reports can be produced.

Designed to operate in line with Midas, the M90 Series of nett weighers has an exceptionally stable load-cell suspension system that ensures rapid response and very precise measurement. Speeds up to 25 weighments a minute can be achieved with accuracies down to 20g. Typical applications are filling sacks with unit loads from 10 to 50kg, filling IBCs and multiple discharge. Matched product feeders include gravity feeders, a twin-screw feeder and belt feeder.

Medway's SSW PLC-controlled system can be fitted to existing mechanical beam weighing machinery to improve performance. It can also be fitted to weigh platforms, weigh feeders, hoppers and other weighing systems. Any change in the characteristics of the product that affects its weight is sensed and compensated for by the system. Data for up to ten products can be stored. A diagnostic facility automatically indicates the cause of any malfunction.

Sack emptying

COSHH regulations present new problems for food processors who receive deliveries of raw materials in sacks. Emptying these manually can not only create dust that breaches the regulations but may also result in costly wastage. When the product has a very high value, such as tea or coffee, the loss from even marginal wastage is serious.

A further environmental problem for companies is the sorting of waste for recycling, as raw materials can be delivered in both paper and plastics sacks. Luco, a German company whose equipment is marketed in the UK by Medway, have an answer to both these problems.

To meet COSHH regulations, Luco sack emptying machines operate in a dust-free environment. The filled bag is tilted through 90 and cut across its entire width to eject the contents. Emptying efficiencies can be up to 99.9 percent, depending on the product and type of bag. Systems range from semi automatic machines that can empty 200 sack an hour to fully automatic units capable of six times that speed. For food and beverage processors the equipment can be built in 304 and 316 stainless steel. The range of bags that can be handled extends from minute tea bags to 60kg jute sacks.

Two typical users are Betabake of Norwich, with a Luco-Pit II system that handles up to two hundred bags of flour-based products an hour, and Lyons-Tetley whose Eaglescliffe tea blending and packing plant employs two Lucomat 410 machines each emptying 360 70kg bags an hour, ahJuntiNg tg 300 tonnes if compacts empty sacks and automatically detects and discharges paper and plastics waste into separate batches. This is a highly efficient way of sorting materials for recycling. The system can be installed on existing lines and has already proved effective in handling bulk deliveries to process plants that use many different ingredients.


The Finnah range of form-fill-seal systems includes an aseptic version suitable for long-life food beverages. There is a range of four web widths from 300 to 800mm to suit different speeds of production and the requirements of secondary packaging. The machines can make cups as small as 5ml, for portion packs, and as large as two litres, and can be supplied with in-mould labelling. The filler can handle liquids, thick creams and suspended particulates, such as fruit, nuts or pieces of meat. Any pumpable product can be filled. Add-on options include agitators for handling particulate products and augers for handling pastes such as butter.


Medway have developed a low cost self-diagnostics system that can be fitted to complete packaging lines or single machines. Their 9000 system immediately indicates the cause of any stoppage and can cut downtime by as much as 80 percent-on average the amount of lost operating time spent searching for the cause of stoppage.

A clear display on the control console provides the operator with up to 64 screens of information. Screens showing the operating status can indicate any malfunction or operator error. All such warnings must be remedied before the system can be started up. Any subsequent faults during operation are indicated as alarm messages on the screen to which the operator must respond appropriately.

The system also provides the benefits of data logging and machine status monitoring. A printer can be connected to it so that details of stoppages can be printed out with the date and time. This data can be logged on a 3.5in. disc and displayed graphically on any IBM-compatible PC.

Other screens include a fault log, showing how many alarms have occurred during a shift, and a maintenance log, showing how many cycles the machine has completed; this screen displays the message 'call maintenance' when checks and replacement of parts are necessary.


Equipment is one thing, expertise another. Led by managing director Bill Cartwright, Medway's team of managers, engineers and designers travels extensively to study the latest technology and to support the range of products they market. A full scale pilot plant at their premises is used to evaluate customers' products on different equipment, and reference sites are used to demonstrate the latest packaging technology in application.

Medway Packaging Systems are to be found at Medway House, New Hythe Lane, Larkfield, Aylesford, Kent, tel: 0622 717855.

PHOTO : A Novopac 2000 stretchwrapper

PHOTO : Close-up of the ticket application system for sacks on a Medway stitcher

PHOTO : A complete Finnah form fill seal machine
COPYRIGHT 1991 Food Trade Press Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Medway Packaging Systems, manufacturer of food packaging machinery
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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