Since 1958, Kägi Söhne AG of Toggenburg, Switzerland, has been producing one of the best-known Swiss wafer specialties, Kägi fret. Founded 75 years ago by Otto Kägi, the company began as a manufacturer of a variety of biscuit products and in 1958 introduced the milk chocolate-coated wafer that has now become a Swiss institution. Today Kägi employs more than 80 associates and produces more than 3,000 tons of wafers and biscuits annually. Over the years, the company has expanded into new markets too, with exports now accounting for 40% of its overall production.
Recently the company found that its existing carton-packing equipment could no longer meet the growing productivity requirements of its Kägi fret product. Explains Hanspeter Scherrer, Production Manager at Kägi, “The previous line used outdated technology, and it is vital for our production that we have a line that is available at all times. This is why we decided to renew the top-loading process.
“Our main objectives for the new line were higher efficiency and plant availability, along with the fast and easy format changes required to maintain increasing output levels.”
Having a long and successful history with Bosch Packaging Systems AG, a company of Bosch Packaging Technology, Kagi selected the supplier’s Sigpack TTM top-load cartoner, which can pack products into virtually every common top-load carton style at speeds to 150 cartons/min.
“Ultimately it was the [equipment and service] package as a whole that decided it for us,” says Scherrer. “The physical proximity of Bosch in Beringin, Switzerland, and the company’s reliability and accessibility also contributed to our decision in favor of Bosch for this project. With the Sigpack TTM, we have acquired a powerful platform with state-of-the-art technology that also gives us the potential of being equipped for future challenges.
“The new line also brought us a number of technical advantages designed for a high and consistent output, including 100-percent carton control as well as high Overall Equipment Efficiency.”
Flexibility ensures competitiveness
Packaging wafer products for both domestic and export consumption requires that Kägi be equipped with packaging systems that allow for significant flexibility for a range of packaging formats. In considering new top-load carton-packing equipment, the company was looking for a machine that could handle the formats it currently produces as well as any new packaging styles that may be requested by its customers in the future.
Kägi currently produces five different packaging formats: 20-, 25-, 40-, and 50-g products packaged in flow wraps, plus a 50-g product packed in a sleeve. The company also uses four different carton formats that hold between 24 and 30 wafers, in a range of packaging configurations. This results in frequent equipment changeover—a process that Sherrer says the Sigpack TTM excels at.
“The highlight of the system is the simple, repeatable format change,” he says. “Quick-lock interfaces and pre-set format rods ensure that the changeovers are all 100-percent reproducible. Due to the easy and tool-less changeover concept and lightweight changeparts, it is even possible for one operator to make changeovers to the machine.” He adds that a single operator can complete a three-dimensional carton changeover with a vertical restart in less than five minutes.
“Fast changeovers are invaluable for the production process,” Scherrer says. “After all, higher availability means increased production. A repeatable format change brings advantages for the planning process because it allows us to rely on fast changeover times, which gives us more flexibility in reacting to changing batch sizes.”
Robot picks and packs
Among other advantages of the Sigpack TTM for Kägi are its compact footprint as well as its top-load cell concept with integrated control cabinets. A three-axis robot suspended from the top of the machine loads product into cartons, ensuring flexibility for future applications, such as a change from loading products in a lay-flat position to loading them upright.
“Production requirements are constantly changing, and I expect that in the years to come, there will be an increasing emphasis on flexibility in the production process,” says Sherrer.
The secondary packaging process begins when Kägi fret bars are carried on a conveyor from the primary packaging machines, either flow wrapped or in a sleeve in single or double packs, to the infeed of the Sigpack TTM. The wrapped wafers are then indexed in the machine into a grouping unit in a lay-flat position, with the short side leading to be presented to the top loader within the grouping pockets.
Meanwhile, the three-axis robot, supplied by Stäubli with linear axis equipment from Bosch Rexroth, forms the cartons from flat blanks. It then picks up groups of wafers using custom-engineered grippers, and places them in the cartons. After loading of the products, the Sigpack TTM closes the cartons, which are carried to the outfeed of the machine and to end-of-line equipment that seals them with a tri-seal closure.
A perfect fit
With the Sigpack TTM top loader, Kägi can react quickly to market demands as well as increase its productivity. This gives Kägi a clear competitive advantage. Thanks to the long partnership of both companies, the project was implemented fast and successfully.
“We have known Bosch for many years as a reliable supplier, but I would still like to highlight the transparent and professional manner in which the project was run together with our colleagues in Beringen,” says Sherrer. “From the start, the right questions were asked, and any minor problems, which will occur in any project, were dealt with openly—something that cannot be taken for granted. The end result is a line that reflects our wishes, and this is what matters.
“The TTM allows for very fast, optimized changeover times; changes between formats are quick and convenient. The machine runs reliably and free of interference. Due to the efficient feeding of products, we achieved an increase of our productivity by 10 percent. The careful handling allows us to deliver flawless, high-quality Kägi Fret with out any dents.”