Automated film roll splicing

Significantly improves vf/f/s packaging line changeover efficiencies.

JTM Group, headquartered in Harrison, OH, is a family-owned international, multi-segmented food processing company that produces and markets an expansive range of fully cooked and frozen products (about 700 in all). The diverse line includes hamburgers, meatballs, pork sausages, buns in various sizes/shapes, macaroni and cheese, taco fillings, and JTM’s newest product, beer cheese, just to name a few. About 65% of the company’s products are sold to school lunch cafeterias, 20% to restaurants, 10% to military, and 5% to retail groceries.

Many of these products are packaged using vertical form/fill/seal machinery from Prodo-Pak Corp. and Matrix Packaging Machinery, LLC. Specific film structures, gauges, and suppliers are considered proprietary by JTM. Company VP Joe Maas notes that JTM had been experiencing significant packaging line downtime, due to the need to stop and change film rolls on the vf/f/s equipment. Maas estimates that it was taking about 15 minutes for each packaging roll changeover and splice to the next roll, which adds up to a considerable amount of downtime during the course of each day.

Then, on a visit to PACK EXPO 2013, Maas discovered a possible solution to the film changeover and splice downtime problem. He and his team ran across a new fast and efficient splicing system that can be easily retrofitted to existing vf/f/s equipment. The automated splicing equipment, manufactured by Butler Automatic, is specially designed to eliminate film roll changeover downtime. Its automatic web splicing technology joins two film rolls together, maintaining registration, without stopping the packaging line. When the running roll expires, the machine fires a splice, joining the beginning of the new roll to the end of the expiring roll. After the splice is completed, the film roll accumulator is refilled, and the expired roll is removed with zero downtime.

JTM conveyed an inquiry to Butler Automatic, and a Butler salesperson visited the JTM plant to explain how the splicer could work in JTM’s operations. Consequently, Maas placed an order for one splicer and brought it on-line to test its performance. Maas reports that the effect was immediate and dramatic. He estimates that the roll-to-roll splicer reduced film changeover time from 15 minutes down to 2 seconds.

Speedy splicing
Based on the results of the first splicer installation, JTM has subsequently added three more units. Installation has been simple to accomplish and has allowed JTM to use the existing vf/f/s equipment and same number of packaging staff to increase line output.

Maas says, “These splicers are straightforward and routine to operate. We go through about 50 rolls of film per week and have gained about 8 hours of production time per week by adding the splicers. Now, when I look at vf/f/s machines without splicers, I am kind of shocked.”

JTM currently is building another processing/packaging plant and plans to buy additional Butler splicers for the new vertical form/fill/seal systems they purchase. Maas concludes, “Bottom line, we made a lot of money by stopping by the Butler Automatic booth at PACK EXPO.”

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