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Willett philosophy leads to success.

Willett Philosophy Leads to Success

A flexible product range and pioneering research has helped Willett, the international coding and marking equipment manufacturer, become a leading supplier to food producers and packers.

The company which as it international base at High Wycombe, Bucks, has always sought diversity to help meet customers' coding needs. With its UK base at Corby, Northants, it is the only coding company with an equipment range including ink-jet printers, drop-on-demand valvejet printers, ink-jet impulse jets, laser coders, label applicators, print apply labellers and table top labelling.

While Willett works internationally across the industrial spectrum, its food industry success is due to its non contact range of equipment which has increasing significance amid growing public concern about food hygiene.

On the research side, one of its newest developments is a range of edible inks for printing directly on to food. These inks, approved by the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food in Britain and the US Federal Drug Administration, were developed by their Ink Manufacturing Division, located in Cheshire.

Now manufacturers can print batch codes and Use By dates directly on to products like cakes, eggs, cheese, biscuits, meats, dairy items and frozen food. They can also be used for personalising cakes and confectionery with names and decorative logos.

These ethanol-based inks, made with food colouring and additives, will help stop disreputable traders from removing wrapping and Use By dates and selling foods separately. The inks, in six colours, can be used with all their ink jet printer series including the 3800, and 3000 and the 3150, and are causing growing interest throughout food production and retailing areas.

Willett Systems managing director, Mike Fox, told Food Trade Review: "Non contact printing is hygienic because the product is never touched. It means that ink jets can use edible inks to mark directly on to foods and their primary packaging while self-adhesive blow-contact labels can be applied to larger units such as pallets."

Their 5000 laser series can mark similar items to an ink-jet, including cartons, glass, plastics, PVC, coloured foils and cellulose films, and are equally hygienic as only light is used.

"Our lasers satisfy stringent hygiene standards" adds Mr Fox. "By thermal imaging they can mark receptive surfaces. If items are film wrapped the light beam passes through to mark the product underneath. All that touches the product is a light beam. What could be more hygienic?"

Willett can link its equipment through a remote control management centre. This means that no one needs to be near the production line to oversee the equipment, cutting costs and improving hygiene.

Another major development of theirs is a new range of |safer' inks that do away with the need for those based on the foulsmelling MEK solvent, which is unpopular throughout industry and regarded as unacceptable in many food factories.

Until now MEK has been used because it is an effective carrying agent for ink dyes and binders. The new inks use the solvent ethyl acetate, which occurs in nature and is far more acceptable to the human body.

Mr Fox said: "Scandinavia says MEK-based inks are unacceptable in food factories and we believe that what has happened there will be adopted throughout Europe in the near future. The latest information is that California is also seeking alternatives to MEK."

Among its recent installations is a non contact label applicator at Corby-based Finnegans Cakes, where it is used for coding American-style bakery products. The 2300 air jet applicator is labelling a range of film flow-wrapped cakes and cookie cakes, including caramel shortbread. Information being coded includes the date, product details and price. The data are printed by hot foil coder, and the label then applied by the airjet. There is room for up to six lines of 24 character text. Up to 90 items are marked a minute and most are destined for chill food outlets.

Commercial director, Ian Brough, told Food Trade Review: "We were seeking a machine which would operate at reasonably high speeds to deal with our product flow. It also had to apply the printed label directly and accurately, and be straight forward to operate. We chose the Willett 2300, and our demands are well within their machine's capability."

The 2300 pressure sensitive air jet can apply up to 1000 labels a minute, depending on size, anywhere on the product. Any material can be labelled including plastics, glass, paper or metal. As a non contact machine it is ideal for labelling delicate cakes which may carry icing or decorations.

In another new application a 2600 print apply labelling machine is coding toffee boxes as part of an integrated handling system at confectioners Thorntons' Belper plant. The 2600 is part of a system specially devised for Thorntons by Rutland Handling and Packaging Systems, part of Rutland Precision Fabrications, Corby.

RPF managing director, Philip Betts, explains: "We devised a complete computer-linked conveying, weighing and coding system for Thorntons toffee department. For this we consulted Willett, who supplied the 2600, and a weighing machine company which also supplied equipment. Both were integrated into the system."

The system seals and weighs boxes before the Willett 2600 codes a label and applies it to each box. The boxes are then collated in a storage area for palletising.

As toffee boxes are weighed, the system transfers the box weight through an interface link to the 2600. The print-apply labeller then automatically prints the weight of each box along with the toffee type, product code, batch code, bar-code and production date code details on to a label which it applies.

Today there are 16 Willett-owned companies worldwide, promoting and selling everything from ink-jet printers made in Corby to labelling systems from Fort Worth, Texas, USA.

In the last 12 months they have set impressive new sales and development records, spearheaded by the UK base. Their products sell in 50 countries. Latest figures show sales at 31 [Pounds] m. a year, representing more than 20 percent growth.

All this is achieved through vigorous customer service-there are now 500 staff around the world who are committed to the Willett philosophy. And the company believes its customer research confirms that the wide product range policy, which it has followed, will help it stay ahead of the field.

"Our broad product base enables us to tailor integrated systems to meet our customers' needs" says Mike Fox. "If a company has only an ink-jet printer to sell it is bound to portray it as the answer to all coding and marking problems. But we are able to examine customer requirements and develop the most suitable system from our wide range of options. Our focus is the customer and our versatility and flexibility will ensure future success."

PHOTO : Willett equipment seen installed at Finnegans Cakes
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:60 Years of Food Trade Review: 1931-1991; international coding and marking equipment manufacturer
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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