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Automation at Goya supports growing bean business

A new Miami, FL, distribution center and dry-bean packing facility produces 1 million cases of bagged beans per year using three fully automated packaging lines.
Goya Foods of Florida packs 66 SKUs of dry beans, including some of the varieties shown.The machine erects cases that are printed on-demand in-house using a digital case printer.In-line checkweigher checks for an accurate fill.A double-sifter removes any particles that are larger or smaller than the beans.Vf/f/s equipment brings Goya’s dry-bean packing speed from 65 bags/min  to 92/min.

The premier source for authentic Latino cuisine, family-owned Goya Foods was established in 1936 in lower Manhattan, NY, by Don Prudencio Unanue and his wife, Carolina, both from Spain, as a distributor of olives, olive oil, and sardines. Today, the company is the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States, with 16 facilities in the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Spain, and a product line of 2,000 SKUs.

“My grandfather began by selling to the Spaniards and the Puerto Ricans,” Francisco Unanue, president of Goya Foods of Florida, told Packaging World during a recent plant visit. “We adjusted our offerings as the Cubans and the Dominicans and then the Nicaraguans came into the U.S. With each new group, we have been able to identify those products that remind them of home, and we get those products for them.”

One of the secrets to Goya’s success, Unanue reveals, is the company’s investment in equipment and automation. “We have very automated facilities,” he says. “Our products are not necessarily the lowest price out there, but quality and consistency are extremely important to us. In order to be competitive, we have always invested in equipment and machinery. It’s a constant thing, a never-ending aspect of our business.”

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Last year, Goya Foods of Florida moved one of its two Florida-based distribution centers, along with its Florida dry-bean packing operations, from a 175,000-sq-ft facility in Doral, FL, to a new, 338,000-sq-ft building in Miami, leaving its spice-packing operation in Doral. Included in the technology transferred to the new facility were three packaging lines that, when purchased for Doral several years ago, replaced Goya’s all-manual end-of-line operations with automated equipment, with the exception of palletizing.

Automated checkweighing, case erecting, case packing, and case sealing, along with state-of-the-art vertical form/fill/seal equipment, have allowed the facility to eliminate wasted product and move from line speeds of 65 bags/min up to 92 bpm.

Keeping a close eye on customer movement
Beans—both dry and canned—are one of Goya’s biggest sellers and one of the products for which the company is most well recognized. Goya packs dry beans in seven of its 16 distribution facilities, and produces canned beans in three of the operations. Unanue says that the company’s strategy of delivering directly to stores, rather than to warehouses, has greatly contributed to its growth by allowing it to stay on top of the changing demographics for its products.

“We have a sales force on the ground every day,” says Unanue. “They have the pulse of the supermarkets and know which group might be moving into an area. We can tell if there is movement by the type of beans that we sell, because each group consumes a different type of beans.” For example, he says, Cubans love black beans, Dominicans eat Roman beans, and Mexicans eat pinto beans, just to name a few. He adds, “We have a saying that goes ‘All Hispanics are united by the language but separated by their beans.’”


Goya broke ground on the new Miami facility in January 2010 to accommodate the company’s growth in Florida, driven both by new people coming into the area and by consumers’ growing willingness to try new foods and flavors. Says Goya Foods of Florida director of operations, development, and manufacturing Angel Portuondo, “Our sales have been growing every year. Many of those years we were running double-digit growth, and the old facility wasn’t able to keep up with the demand.”

The new Miami facility serves southern Florida, from Key West north to Sarasota and Port St. Lucie; an Orlando distribution center serves the rest of the state. The new operation, which represents a $44 million investment, was constructed to meet Goya’s existing sales, while allowing for future expansion. The facility was built with 42-ft-high ceilings to allow a mezzanine level to be added, and the building is situated next to 14 acres that can accommodate another 335,000-sq-ft facility. The nine dock doors in Doral were expanded to 28 in Miami, with room for 12 more.

Speed and accuracy essential
In the dry-bean packing room, three packaging lines produce up to 1 million cases of beans per year over one shift, with the ability to expand to 3 million. Sixty-six SKUs of beans are filled in 12-, 14-, and 24-oz, and 4-lb pillow-style bags. The primary packaging-line equipment—from Hayssen Packaging Technologies, Mettler Toledo, Wexxar, BluePrint Automation, and M.W. Waldrop—was chosen by Goya to ensure bag-weight accuracy, eliminate product waste, and increase productivity.

Explains Unanue, “We were having trouble with speeds, we were having trouble with accuracy in our fills, and we had too many people in the bean room. The whole operation was not efficient.”

Confirms Portuondo, “We had huge yields, wasted product.” To address product waste, Goya added a Mettler Toledo Hi Speed Checkmate 2 in-line checkweigher to each of the three lines. The units weigh every bag individually for proper fill weight, rejecting all bags that are underweight and all that are overweight by 2% or more. “The checkweighers help us reduce the yield and waste to under two percent,” Portuondo says, “whereas before, we had more than five-percent waste. Plus, now we can absolutely guarantee that no underweight bag goes to market.”

To address speed, Goya selected the Hayssen Technologies Ultima ST intermittent-motion vf/f/s machine, which has a top-rated output of 100 bpm. At Goya, Line 1 alternates between 24-oz and 4-lb bags; Lines 2 and 3 handle 12- and 14-oz bag sizes. According to Portuondo, the baggers run at speeds from 90 to 92 bpm for the smaller sizes; at 55 bpm for the larger sizes. Compared with the speeds formerly achieved by Goya using its old equipment, the higher output of the new machines translates to an extra 500 cases per line, per shift.

With the new equipment also came better planning, Portuondo adds, which also facilitated productivity. Previously, the facility might change over a packing line seven to eight times in one day, “so productivity and efficiency were down the tubes,” he says. Now, Goya tries to schedule one item per line per day. “If it’s a slower-selling bean, we try never to have more than three changeovers in one day,” he says.

Changeover from one bean variety to another in the same package size is a 15- to 30-min process and involves cleanup of the machines. Changing from a 12- to a 14-oz bag is a one-hour job, requiring each machine on the line to be changed over. The most time-intensive changeover is when Goya moves from a 24-oz to a 4-lb bag. “That’s a three-hour changeover because we have to use different sealing jaws for the different materials that we use to package the beans,” says Portuondo. (Twelve-, 14-, and 24-oz bags are made from coextruded polypropylene, while 4-lb bags are polyethylene. Both are supplied by Sunpak Caribe, Inc. [817/251-8200].)
Packing-room congestion was alleviated by increased automation. Whereas before, one operator was needed to run the bagging machine, one to erect cases, one to fill cases, and one to seal cases, along with one operator to troubleshoot, now just one operator is required to run an entire line.

With the arrival of more automated machinery, Unanue says he also moved existing packing-room operators to other locations in the plant, hiring new operators with greater technical skills to run the lines. “A lot of this equipment has software, and we needed people who were a little bit more technical, or at least who were not afraid of technology.”

The bean packaging process
Dry-bean packaging begins when 2,200-lb totes of cleaned, polished beans are dumped into a hopper, with a capacity of 5,500 lb. Beans fall through a double sifter from Eriez at the bottom of the hopper, where particles larger and smaller than the beans are removed as waste. A bucket elevator from Frazier & Son (the company supplies all elevators and conveyors on the line) then carries the beans to the packing line.

At the Hayssen vf/f/s machine, a volumetric feeder measures out the appropriate amount of beans, which are dumped into the formed bags. Prior to forming, bag rollstock is printed by a Videojet DataFlex Plus thermal transfer overprinter with the manufacturing date, best-by date, and expiration date.

After bagging, a flipper mechanism designed by BluePrint flips bags over so that the front of the bag is face up on the conveyor. These bags are conveyed over the checkweigher to ensure an accurate fill weight, after which they are carried to a Rotary Gate Packer from BluePrint. The case packer counts out groups of three bags using an electronic counter and then drops them into a waiting case below. Each time three bags are released into the case, it is shaken in a back-and-forth motion to settle the products. Prior to being packed, cases are erected automatically by a Wexxar Silver 615-T case erector.

Filled cases advance to a Waldrop case sealer where they are taped closed and then carried to the end of the line to be manually palletized. Goya does not stretch wrap its pallets, as it later assembles mixed pallets for direct delivery to stores.

When Goya purchased its three new packaging lines, it also brought case printing in-house. The company uses an Iconotech digital case printer to print all of the cases for its dry-bean products. “With 66 SKUs, our inventory levels were huge before with preprinted cases,” says Portuondo. “Bringing case printing in-house, we have realized savings with reduced inventory and the cost of boxes. The bar codes are now fresh and clear. We used to have 60 percent to 70 percent readability of our bar codes, now we have 99 percent readability.”

Unrivalled uptime
Due to a proactive approach to maintenance and spare-parts replacement, Portuondo says that Goya Foods of Florida’s Doral/Miami operations have not had one hour of lost time due to machine problems since the new equipment was installed. “We have a mechanic on staff who does preventative maintenance, so we are trying to stay ahead of the machines rather than behind them repairing,” he says.

With such impressive efficiency and productivity, Goya is well positioned to meet future growth in its dry bean business.  

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