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Packaging machinery revs Fine Foods' production

Much like drivers appreciate the performance, handling, and flexibility of the finest sports cars, Italian contract manufacturer/packager Fine Foods opts for similar characteristics in the packaging machinery it specifies.
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FILED IN:  Machinery  > Filling/sealing  > Dry filling
     

As manufacturers speed their products to market, it increases the deadline pressures on contract manufacturers/packagers such as Fine Foods N.T.M. (New Technology Manufacturing) S.p.A. In turn, Fine Foods relies on packaging machinery for the flexibility and output it needs to meet the demands of the manafactures who are its customers.

“In recent years, customers have become more demanding, requiring quicker turnaround time than before,” says Marco Eigenmann, managing director of the Bergamo, Italy contract manufacturer/packager of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, as well as a limited number of food products.

Fine Foods does not manufacture any of its own products.

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About half of the firm’s business is with customers in the United States, 40% with companies in Fine Foods’ home country of Italy, with the remaining 10% from other geographic regions.

The company estimates that 60% of the pharmaceuticals it contract manufactures and packages are ultimately sold by prescription and 40% is over-the-counter. Nearly all of these products are solids, typically powders. None of the products are refrigerated or frozen. Shelf life ranges from 24 to 36 months, according to Daniele Sala, plant director.

Focus on productivity

Fine Foods emphasizes efficient customer turnaround, and that focus is evident in the fact that two-thirds of its 180 employees are dedicated to production tasks, including packaging. The company operates both a pharmaceutical and a 21,000 sqm nutraceutical plant, both within about 10 miles of one another. This year, the company is expanding the  pharmaceutical plant to that same size. In all, the company runs 24 packaging lines, with a considerable investment in equipment from Marchesini Group S.p.A. (www.marchesini.com).

“Our strength is in sachet [pouch] filling,” notes Eigenmann. “The sachet filling equipment we use is all from Marchesini. We have their machines in both of our plants. In the pharmaceutical business, we are for sure one of the biggest companies in high-production sachet filling. We normally operate in two shifts. We run five days a week and also on Sunday mornings if needed. We do not have any of our own products.  We are an independent company and we do not want to be competitors to our customers.”

Sachet/pouch filling at Fine Foods

The photos accompanying this article were taken of one of the Marchesini sachet lines during a June Packaging World visit to Fine Foods’ pharmaceutical facility.

Product is gravity-fed from one floor above the filling equipment. On this particular Marchesini line, powder drops into the infeed hopper of a Model MS 235 intermittent-motion vertical form/fill/seal machine.

The equipment is designed to follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). Size changes are made through easily accessible areas. Brushless motors are used for the master and machine drive, film pulling, and film cutting functions. The lower portion of the machine body includes a three-phase Siemens (www.sea.siemens.com) motor and vacuum pump source and is designed to be easy to clean. Any machine parts that come in contact with product are made from stainless steel or other Food and Drug Administration-approved material, according to Marchesini.

Powder is fed down through a ceiling-level hopper into the sachets, or pouches, six at a time. Pouches are formed from film that comes in roll form, supplied by various companies. The machine automatically unwinds the film and vertical sealing plates use a combination of heat, pressure, and time to create side seals. As film continues to unwind towards the filling area, expiration date and lot number are printed onto six areas of the web, for each pouch. Sealing jaws seal the top of the previous six filled pouches simultaneously as they seal the bottoms of the next six pouches. Knives separate the packs.

The MS 235 uses a Marchesini Group-patented dosing unit that uses independent screw feeders to help with powders that do not easily flow.


A robotic pick-and-place unit picks up the six filled and sealed pouches, placing two pouches each into three lanes where the pouches are conveyed past bar-code readers that scan insert information and pouches, which are both automatically placed into an outer paperboard carton on a Marchesini Square C MA 50 intermittent-motion horizontal cartoning machine.

Once the readers detect product, an oscillating arm with suction cups takes a carton blank from the machine’s magazine, then opens or pre-breaks the carton and transfers it to a belt transport system. The sachets are conveyed along the cartoner infeed, with a pusher moving product and literature into the carton, whose ends are heat-sealed. Cartons then are conveyed to downstream case packing, palletizing, and distribution steps.

“Pharmaceuticals are the future,” Eigenmann and Sala agree. “It’s where most of our customers and sales come from.” With that in mind, both gentlemen are confident that Fine Foods’ continuing investment in its pharmaceutical facility and packaging machinery will pay dividends.

“In contract manufacturing, it’s often a three-year payback for machinery that’s in use eighty-percent of the time,” Eigenmann estimates. “We will add new machines this year and they will help us to meet the needs of current customers, and help us with future customers.”

Fine foods’ CUSTOMERS

Nutraceutical

A&D
Alfa Wassermann
Dietpharm-Fidifarm
GNLD International
Herbalife International
NHS-Menarini France
Pepsico Beverages Int.
Wyeth Consumer Health

Pharmaceutical

Almus
Alter Laboratorios
Berlin Chemie
Dompè
EG - STADA group
Merck
Tad Pharma

Nutraceutical and Pharmaceutical

ACRAF – Angelini Group
Giuliani
Italfarmaco
Menarini Italy
Ranbaxy
Sanofi-Aventis

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