Bagger, Combination Weigher Improve BBQ Wood Chip Production by 118%

With labor being tight and unreliable, improved automation was the answer for this popular BBQ wood chip brand. But it took a special combination of bagger and weigher to withstand the hot Texas heat, and stand up to a less-than-free-flowing product.

When a Southwest area barbecue wood chip processor decided its labor costs were too high and its production was too slow, the company began to investigate alternatives to its current packaging process. Its previous horizontal bagging system faced challenges like frequent product jams, high labor costs, and low product throughput.Wood chips aren't exactly a free-flowing product, and caused frequent jams in legacy equipment. The new stand-up pouch baggers handles the chips well.Wood chips aren't exactly a free-flowing product, and caused frequent jams in legacy equipment. The new stand-up pouch baggers handles the chips well.

Not to mention the packaging line is located in an un-air conditioned plant in Texas, so equipment that could stand up to extreme temperatures was paramount. After researching packaging machinery manufacturers, plant operators at the wood chip supplier found vertical form/fill/seal and combination weigher specialist Triangle Package Machinery in Chicago. They reached out to Bob McAtee, Triangle’s West Coast Regional Sales Manager, who ultimately suggested Triangle’s Model XYRJ vertical form/fill/seal (vf/f/s) bagger and Model A918 Combination Weigher.

According to the company, the Model XYRJ features an easily rotatable sealing jaw that allows users to run numerous package styles, including pillow bags, gusseted bags, 3-sided seal bags and a Stand-Up Pouch (SUP). It is also available with an optional longitudinal and/or transverse zipper applicator. In addition to the variety of package styles the bagger can run, the ability to run a stand-up pouch on a vf/f//s machine can be a beneficial alternative to expensive pre-made pouches or less efficient horizontal baggers, which also have a larger footprint.

“Previously, the customer was running a pre-made bag at 10 bags per minute,” says McAtee. “We did a lot of testing at the Triangle facility to prove the concept of running a stand-up pouch on our vertical baggers instead. They found the stand-up pouch bag style produced on the XYRJ was perfect for their needs.”

Before selecting Model XYRJ and the A918 Combination Weigher, the customer had several conversations with McAtee, as well as demo trials to run the wood chips in a stand-up pouch. “The sales team guided us through the entire process,” says a company spokesperson, adding “We were not familiar with the bag types, films, etc.” In addition, they were able to see a live demo of the bagger and scale at Triangle’s booth at PACK EXPO Las Vegas, which helped them to see exactly how the system worked and explore important features first-hand.

To weigh the correct portion of product into each package, Triangle installed its Model A918 Combination Weigher over the vertical bagging machine. Model A918 features 18 selection buckets, with 262,143 possible weight combinations, vibration-resistant weigh cells, and mounts directly over the bagger to save space. In addition, both bagger and scale feature Rockwell Automation (Allen Bradley) controls and a single, operator-friendly touchscreen that integrates both the scale and bagger. Model A918 is available with 4- x 4-in. or 4- x 6-in. buckets; the customer chose the larger bucket size to accommodate the varying shapes and sizes of their wood chip product.

Results: Improved production, reduced labor, and material savings

With the installation of the new Triangle bagging and weighing system, the company is now reaping the benefits of an improved packaging process. While their previous system would go down frequently because of product jams with the horizontal system, that problem–and the excessive labor associated with tending to the issue–has been eliminated. With the new  system, bags are filled and sealed simultaneously, and discharged more efficiently. Production rates have improved dramatically, and the customer estimates product throughput has increased 118%. In addition, the new solution provides labor and film savings, as well as less wasted product.In this application, Triangle’s Model XYRJ vertical form/fill/seal (vf/f/s) bagger (shown above) combined with a Model A918 Combination Weigher to handle BBQ wood chips.In this application, Triangle’s Model XYRJ vertical form/fill/seal (vf/f/s) bagger (shown above) combined with a Model A918 Combination Weigher to handle BBQ wood chips.

Service and training

A Triangle service technician traveled to the customer’s Texas plan to install the bagger and scale; then provided a comprehensive three-day training session for machine operators and a supervisor. “The installation process went well. We had very good support, education, and training,” recalls a company spokesperson. “We were very happy with our sales rep, the technicians, and service department. Every step of the way, they were very professional.

“Even when we ran into a problem that was product-related and a surprise to us and Triangle, they pulled out all the stops to find a solution.” Due to the nature of the wood chip product, it can be difficult to work with because not all wood chips fit into the bag well.

“It’s not exactly a free-flowing product,” explains Kyle Wilson, Triangle service technician, “and product inconsistencies add to the challenges.” To help solve the challenge, the Triangle team completely re-engineered a bag shaker for the machine. Recalls Wilson, “It’s a non-standard design because it comes up from beneath the sealing jaws where the bag chute normally is; [we added] a trap door that allows the bag shaker to come up, settle the product, and retreat.”

In addition, Triangle added a software feature to the controls to prevent bags from being cut if there was product in the seal. This modification allows the company to rework that product, which saves money and wasted product. 

“Our experience with the Triangle group was better than expected,” concludes the customer. “As a matter of fact, they exceeded our expectations.” -PW

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