Pet food manufacturer achieves brand growth and increases throughput by 70%!
- 11 November 2011
- Company & Industry News
Ingrained within Suffolk history, Skinners Pet Foods has been producing dog food for over 40 years in their mill which has been in operation since 1688. However, faced with a recent increase in product demand the family run business automated their manual bagging operation with equipment designed and installed by Pacepacker Services. The subsequent installation of a further two packaging lines — which weighs, bags, and seals — has increased throughput to almost 2,000 bags of pet food per hour - an increase on manual bagging of almost 70%.
The lines, consisting of a C21 Multi Pile Sack Placer and a Total Bag Control System (TBC), were installed following the introduction of a new extruder which increased the product volume manufactured by Skinners and sold to vet practices and independent pet food traders. Two out of the three lines were designed to handle bags of up to 15 kilos in weight - running at speeds of up to 500 bags per hour. However the final line was introduced recently following an increase in demand for smaller bags of pet food, and subsequently achieved brand growth for the manufacturer. Significantly, Pacepacker designed this bespoke third line as a miniature version of the initial lines to handle the 2.5 kilo bags — which is running on a throughput of 800 bags per hour."Pacepacker equipment typically handles large bags between 15-50kg in weight, but the flexibility of our systems is such that they can easily be reconfigured to handle smaller pack sizes and weights. As with most of our systems, the C21 and TBC have many options and interchangable parts to accommodate different applications. Using this modular architecture, we created a 'mini' system for Skinners so that they could fulfil consumer demand for smaller more convenient bag sizes," explains Paul Wilkinson, Pacepacker's Business Development Manager.
As highlighted by Michael Marjoram from Skinners Pet Foods the Pacepacker system is extremely versatile with ultra quick-change filling heads for different bag and gusset sizes: "In total the three lines handles a combination of 36 different products, so we needed a system which was versatile enough to deal with this high changeover. While the weight of the product remains the same, the changeover of the bags has proved quick and simple."
Coinciding with the first installation, Skinners introduced a range of pet food products in plastic bags. Coupled with an increase in demand from their customers for this form of packaging the move was also due to the cost effectiveness and durability of plastic bags - however the process did not come without complications as Michael Marjoram comments: "Plastic bags are notoriously unstable to seal efficiently due to the material's consistency and as our bags are trimmed and sealed at the top.
It was almost impossible to achieve a consistent pack presentation when packed manually as the inside of the bags are white and any slight error would be on view. Since the line has been automated, however, Pacepacker's system has continuously attained a perfect finish on each bag."
This is achieved through the sack closing Total Bag Control System (TBC) which overcomes these problems by firstly reforming gussets at the sack mouth whilst still on the filling clamp then, by gripping the sack top prior to its release onto a short static conveyor. Both the sack top and base are indexed clear of the filling clamp at high speed and in perfect synchronisation, allowing for the rapid placement of the next bag in readiness for filling. The top grip arms then transfers the filled sack to a pair of powered belts which in turn feed the sack top trimmer and heat sealer thus ensuring neat, parallel seal. Paul comments: "The system consistently creates a perfectly presented pack, which in turn eliminates sack and product waste."
Skinner's line automation has been highly successful says Mr Marjoram: "The line consistently provides accurately finished bags and requires little operator supervision. Right from the beginning Pacepacker has been extremely accommodating to all our needs and exceeds our expectations; they have provided an excellent service and helped us achieve brand growth into new markets. Our original packing line staff were due to retire and we have not had to replace them as the Pacepacker equipment is easy to operate, low to maintain and quick to changeover and only one operator is required to oversee the operation."
Pacepacker Services Ltd
Unit 16 Bluegate Hall