German Cheese producer and supplier Jermi regularly supplies supermarkets with sliced cheese such as Gouda and Edam. Plastic blisters containing varying types of cheese are packaged in display cartons for this purpose. Jermi needed a new packaging line to make the existing production significantly more efficient. To achieve this, a special challenge in the packaging process had to be mastered: The more holes a packaged, sliced cheese has, the higher the plastic blister will be. The packing heights of the blisters therefore vary constantly. To tackle this difficulty packaging equipment supplier Schubert developed an efficient system for Jermi.
What began 120 years ago at Jermi Käsewerk GmbH with the production of cheese and butter for the local population has developed over four generations into an internationally active company with 370 employees. Still based in Laupheim-Baustetten near Ulm, Germany, Jermi produces its own processed and fresh cheese specialities and supplies sales, gastronomy, and food manufacturers in the sector.
An important part of the production is packing the plastic blisters containing the sliced cheese into cartons, which Jermi then delivers to supermarkets. Well-known varieties such as Gouda, Tilsiter, butter cheese, or Edam, which are available in blisters weighing 250 or 400 g, are packed into Retail Ready display cartons with folding tabs on the front. Most frequently, discounters make use of these convenient package sizes. The handy cartons can be quickly placed on the store shelves so that customers can easily remove the individual blisters. In order to better meet the great demand, Jermi planned to increase production to double the output. For this purpose, the company planned to invest in a packaging system that could pack the plastic blisters fully automatically and efficiently into the secondary packaging.
Variable product height is a challenge
Sliced cheese types with holes also share an unusual feature: The number of cheese slices per blister must be adjusted to ensure the weight of goods is identical in every pack. Slices with a lot of holes require more volume at the same weight. Says Kanellos Tzinieris, the responsible Area Sales Manager at Schubert, “For this reason, the deep-drawn plastic packaging varies in height. Blisters also bulge where cheese slices have plenty of holes. This means that more protective gas enters the packaging and can expand further.” The result is that different quantities of packs fit into the carton using the former system.
For the new equipment, Jermi had several specifications. First was that the same number of blisters should always be packed in one carton. At the same time, the packaging output had to be increased significantly, and the entire process needed to be fully automatic. Due to the technological challenges, Jermi Managing Director Gerhard Jerg chose Schubert for the project.
Special pre-grouping increases efficiency
As a solution for the variable product heights, Schubert developed a special pre-grouping system in which pick-and-place robots stack the blisters in matching cassettes on a Transmodul robotic transfer system. The plastic blisters are then placed in stacks into the trays provided and are compressed. A robot also pushes the blisters together again when the carton lid is inserted. This allows the space in the secondary packaging to be fully utilized. Moreover, this ensures that each carton contains an identical number of blisters.
For Jermi, the newly developed process with the special pre-grouping provides a decisive advantage: Around 10% more products can now be transported in the same space and displayed for sale. “We could put an extra layer of plastic blisters in the display carton,” says Kanellos Tzinieris.
Schubert equipped the packaging line with a further special feature. The TLM machine also inserts blisters into plastic crates instead of unmixed carton trays. They are later packed manually as mixed packages and temporarily stored in the crates in cold storage. This system also offers flexibility to handle 13 formats, if required.
Compact machine, fully automated technology
The compact TLM system consists of five sub-machines that together operate at speeds to 270 products/min. Two Transmodul sections are integrated into the system. The products are pre-grouped on one of them, and the other one transports the display cartons. While the cheese packages are being fed into the system, the cartons are removed from the magazine and erected. F4 robots pick up the cheese blisters from the infeed belt and place them into the cassettes provided on the Transmodul. From there, F2 robots remove the pre-grouped cheese packages and place them in stacks in the tilted display cartons. To insert the lids from above into the display cartons, a robot pushes the plastic blisters inwards from the rear wall of the cartons through two specially integrated carton cut-outs.
Gerhard Jerg is impressed with the result. The new TLM line, which has found its place in a specially built hall, now enables Jermi to package its product in an efficient, high-performance, and flexible way.