When Remington Arms Co., Lonoke, AR, decided to upgrade cartoning operations for its 23⁄4-in. 12-ga shotgun shells, the company evaluated the available options and decided to install an automated gun shell cartoner from The Aagard Group, LLC (www.aagard.com) to replace an older machine.
Russell Hughes, project/process engineer in Remington’s Continuous Improvement Group, says, “I’m one of four people responsible for tasking plant machine upgrades. My 17-year background with Remington includes production, machinist, and mechanic responsibilities. Our Continuous Improvement Group has considerable aggregate experience with evaluating packaging machine performance. We started by doing a good deal of research on the newest cartoning systems for munitions, and we got dependable company references to narrow the field. Then I looked more closely at several companies before zeroing in on Aagard, which has expertise in the latest cartoning technologies.”
Hughes points out that there is always some inherent danger in the manufacturing and packaging of munitions. “There always is the possibility of a round firing unintentionally, but you learn how to avoid or minimize this potential. The old cartoning system handled the shells in an almost violent manner. There was a lot of jerky motion in the machine that resulted in a lot of packing machine jams and machine damage. But the Aagard cartoning machine’s servo drive systems all have smooth ramp ups and downs that never seem to agitate the shells or place the equipment under undue stress. Everything moves with relatively quiet, fluid-like motions. The general design of the machine is simple and user-friendly.”
The new cartoning machine was installed during the last weekend of August 2007. Hughes says, “We were in peak production, a risky time for making a major machine change. The old machine was on line until Friday morning, and the new machine went into production the following Tuesday. Once we had ordered, received, and moved the cartoner into its place, we connected the power and air and attached the infeed and discharge conveying systems. After this mechanical installation was complete, we stepped back, and Aagard’s technicians took over and brought the machine up to production rates before handing it off to us. This transfer was made in just a couple of days, which we deem outstanding. Aagard staffers then stayed at our facility for a week and provided 24-hour coverage for training our people and fine-tuning the machine”
Before the new cartoner was installed, Remington had been trying to run a 10-year-old machine. But the stress was too much for the machine, and constant maintenance was required. In contrast, the new cartoner easily handles Remington’s aggressive production rates (approximately 750 shells/min).
The .022-in-thick fiberboard, lock-flap, folding carton flats (supplied by an unnamed vendor) are loaded into the packing machine’s magazine. The shells are manually oriented and gently conveyed by a flighted, stabilized conveyor manufactured by Aagard to the cartoning machine, which automatically erects the cartons, deposits the shells in 25-count rounds, and closes the carton flaps (no adhesive required).
The cartoning machine then ejects the filled, closed cartons onto a flighted conveyor from Cumberland Conveyor (www.cumberlandconveyor.com) that transports the product to another area of the plant for casing and palletizing. The corrugated cases are supplied by Rock-Tenn (www.rocktenn.com), and the palletizing equipment is from FMC (www.fmctechnologies.com).
“With our old machine, we normally got an efficiency rate of 60 percent to 70 percent with a high annual maintenance cost,” notes Hughes. “The combination of downtime due to machine jams and maintenance required us to look for a better cartoning system. The Aagard consistently gives us 98 percent efficiency, and we get excellent remote technical support and line diagnostics, when needed.”