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Article | December 31, 1999
Vitamin maker counts on electronic filler
Steady sales growth at Jamieson Laboratories made it obvious that a new vitamin packaging line was needed. Electronic tablet counting brings big benefits.
A brand new filling line anchored by an electronic tablet counter is among the recent developments at the Windsor, Ontario, facility of Toronto-based Jamieson Laboratories.
Jamieson is the largest manufacturer and marketer of vitamins and nutritional supplements in Canada. Installed in April, the new equipment replaces an older line that included a slat counter rather than an electronic counter. The new tablet counter has added a welcome measure of flexibility to Jamieson’s manufacturing process.
“We looked at both slat and electronic counters, and we quickly realized that because we do so many different tablets and capsules, the electronic counter would suit us better,” says facility manager Ken Cook. “Slat counters would require a new set of slats for each different tablet. I know some companies that carry as much as a million and a half dollars in slats just to handle all their tablet varieties. An electronic counter, on the other hand, doesn’t require those parts, nor do you have to spend time changing or cleaning them.”
Available for about the last 10 years, electronic counters rely on scanners to count each tablet as it drops from a multichannel vibratory pan. When the appropriate number has dropped from the pan into a chute, additional tablets are blocked from the chute until it discharges its load of tablets. As this takes place, counting continues unabated. As soon as the chute is empty, the next load of tablets is allowed in.
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Slat counters operate differently. The number of slats on a machine varies, but each slat has channels designed to fit a specific tablet shape. When a slat reaches a tablet-filled hopper, its channels are flooded with tablets while a brush prevents more than one tablet from occupying a channel. Then the slat carries its tablets to a discharge section, where tablets fall out and down a chute to the waiting bottle.
Packaging lines dedicated to one or two tablet varieties generally lend themselves to slat counters for two reasons: Speeds are high and, with only two sets of slats, investment in change parts is minimal.
Electronic counters are typically favored when a wide variety of tablet shapes have to be packaged, which is precisely the case at Jamieson. “We have about 25 different shapes to contend with,” says Cook. “That used to mean a lot of time changing slats.”
Changeovers used to take two hours if product-contact parts had to be cleaned. Now they take as little as five minutes and never more than an hour.
Made in Holland
The electronic tablet counter selected by Cook is a Model CF-1220 machine made in the Netherlands by Cremer. NJM/CLI (Lebanon, NH) represents Cremer in North America.
Among the machine’s virtues, says Cook, is its ability to operate in a relatively dusty environment. This is important because the large vitamin C tablets Jamieson makes create a lot of dust when packaged. According to Cook, the machine’s electronic counting sensors are set back in a way that prevents dust from clogging them. “For a large bottle and a dusty product, this machine has proven itself most efficient,” says Cook.
Bottles per minute was an important criterion, too, as Jamieson searched for its new filler. The Cremer machine, notes Cook, does not disappoint. The bottle filled most frequently on the new line is a 120-count container of large chewable vitamin C tablets that are 5/8” in diameter. This container is filled at 52 bottles/min.
Cook says a higher speed is prevented by the size of the neck finish.