Located in the heart of New Jersey is the maker of Welch’s Fruit Snacks. Founded in 1979 as Promotion in Motion by CEO Michael Rosenberg, the company was renamed PIM Brands last year. With its large customer base and multiple product offerings, including Welch’s Fruit Snacks, Original Gummi FunMix, Sun-Maid Milk Chocolate Raisins, Sour Jacks, Nuclear SQWorms, Toggi Fine European Wafers, and Tuxedos Chocolate Almonds, the company is one of the largest candy and snack makers worldwide.
PIM Brands recently upgraded the packaging lines at its Somerset, N.J., facility, where it produces different varieties of Welch’s Fruit Snacks. Because of the challenging nature of the product, standard belt conveyors and transition points present many difficulties with conveying.
The fruit snack maker was looking for a vibratory conveyor solution when Layton Systems happened to cold call PIM Brands about its manufacturing equipment needs. After vetting other vendors, PIM Brands chose Layton Systems to provide a vibratory conveyor to resolve the sticky situation.
One plus with Layton machinery is its design, according to Chris Greco, engineering project manager for PIM Brands. “The Uni-Vibe conveyor doesn’t have a bunch of rubber strips or something that they have to hang in,” he states. Layton’s design includes a post that is connected to the vibratory motor. “It’s a very compact piece of equipment that doesn’t have many moving parts at all,” he adds.
Another feature of the Uni-Vibe is sanitary design, Greco says. “I see it as more sanitary than a belted conveyor. You can truly wipe down a Uni-Vibe, where with a belt conveyor, you’d have to take it apart and clean the machine and rollers.”
Since there are minimal moving parts on a vibratory conveyor compared to a conventional conveyor belt, operator safety issues are diminished. “It’s a lot safer as far as moving parts are concerned,” Greco says.
Constructed of all stainless steel, there are no rubbing parts on the Layton conveyors. Greco also appreciates the fact that the Uni-Vibe has no hidden parts or hang-up points, and everything on the machine is visible. “Maintenance is easy, too. With the first Uni-Vibes we put in, I haven’t heard many problems with them,” Greco adds. “It’s two pieces—the vibratory motor and the controller—and there’s really nothing else that you have to pay attention to.”
When PIM replaced one of its lines, it also replaced some of the equipment that conveys the product with what the company calls its “shakeout line.” The candy maker also used a vertical ribbon wall conveyor with flights.
Layton’s unique belt allows easy product release and has a thumping mechanism inside of the belt as it dumps product. From there, PIM has another Uni-Vibe machine that brings the product to a conveyor that goes both forward and in reverse. “We have two lines, basically one to do our oiled product, and one to do our sanded product that gets the sugar sand on it,” says Greco.
PIM mainly produces oiled product, which goes to another vibratory that moves into an oiling drum to make it shiny. “Product moves to another Uni-Vibe for discharge then feeds another ribbon wall conveyor, where the sugar sanding line and the oil line come together to feed that second ribbon wall conveyor,” he adds. Here, product is collected in trays that are taken to the warehouse and later moved to other packaging lines.
In another line upgrade project with Layton that PIM calls Mogul 5, processed goods directly feed the packaging lines producing finished goods. Interlocked takeaway conveyors collect pouches from the packaging machines. “They run underneath the packaging machine, and the pouches move to the GEA bagging lines,” states Greco. “Then they’re conveyed up and onto the rapid return reversing conveyor, a linear motion conveyor from Layton that either puts the product forward toward the cartoning line or is directed to bulk collection. “The system collects product if our cartoning line goes down, so our baggers don’t have to stop producing,” he adds.
All of PIM’s Uni-Vibes are mounted, providing support structure. With that, some of the other line equipment can sit on those support structures. “Layton works with the other vendors to make sure that machine vibrations don’t interact with each other,” explains Greco. “For example, we have a support structure made by Layton that holds Multipond scales. Vibrations from the scales aren’t going to be affected by the vibrations from the vibratory conveyor.”
Layton integrates machine communications in the human-machine interfaces (HMIs), so end users can troubleshoot the entire system through the control panel.
Productivity-wise, cleaning and maintenance has become easier with the Uni-Vibe machinery, Greco says. “They’re very reliable, there’s very little maintenance that needs to be done, they don’t break down as easy, and there’s nothing that can break.” There are also few replacement parts required.
Yet another production line has three packaging or pouching cells, with a group of six baggers. Two groups of six pouching lines feed a cartoner directly. In Mogul 5, eight pouching lines feed a cartoner directly.
PIM Brands is currently undertaking several new mogul and packaging projects to meet continually increasing demand for its Welch’s Fruit Snacks.