Fresh potatoes, seed potatoes, processed potatoes, ready-prepared potato products—you name it and Branston Ltd., one of the largest potato companies in the U.K., likely produces it at one of its three plants. The firm was founded in 1968 and now handles some 350,000 tons of potatoes annually.
To keep up with demand, the firm recently acquired a new packaging line for the packaging of crispy slices—i.e., fried potato slices, which are very popular in the UK. The core of the line is a 14-head multihead weigher from Multipond.
The packages being filled are thermoformed of recycled PET and each pack holds 350 g of crispy slices. In the future, more products will also be packed on this line, such as rosemary potatoes or various other sweet potato products, which are currently still packed by hand. In total, 300,000 packs per week are packed in the plant, 76,000 of these being packed on the new line.
The crispy slices used to be packed by hand at a speed of 12 packages/min. The system now continuously provides 77 trays/min. This means that the line now works six times faster than before with less manual input. Use of the Multipond multihead weigher, at the core of the line, has also reduced the giveaway from the previous 6% to 0.4%. Richard Heppleston, General Manager, appears to be extremely satisfied with the results: “Due to the reduction of giveaway and personnel cost on the line, the investment is improving on its payback target. It runs seven days a week on one shift. We are now packing 30% additional volume in less than half the time previously achieved. The numbers speak for themselves.” A second line with a multihead weigher from Multipond is already being planned in order to further optimize the packing process.
The weighing system is a type MP 14-2400/1250-H MULTIPOND multihead weigher. All product-contact parts were precisely adapted to the production requirements and to the products to be weighed in order to facilitate a perfect product flow. Once at the top on the weighing system, the product is first conveyed to the prefeed hoppers via the radially positioned feed trays and then to the weigh hoppers below. Here, using the partial portions, a computer determines the combination that corresponds to the target weight to be achieved or is closest to it. After the actual weighing process, the precisely weighed servings are transferred via the funnel outlet by means of a timing hopper to the swiveling funnel, which distributes the portions to the Multipond custom-made product transfer system. Maximum accuracy and availability are provided by the calibration systems integrated in each load cell, which makes completely automatic calibration possible even during production. The weigher meets even the toughest hygiene requirements in the food industry. In a final step, the product-transfer system delivers the prepared servings to the trays on a servo-driven single-chain-and-peg conveyor that was supplied by Multipond UK as part of its turnkey solution to Branston.
The weigher is operated by means of a user-friendly color touch screen monitor. “Thanks to the simple user interface,” says Happleston, “our employees can operate the Multipond weighers quickly and effectively, which for us is tremendously important. I gained experience as an operator on Multipond weighers in previous companies I have worked for, which contributed considerably to my belief in Multipond. For me, the Multipond name also stands for excellent reliability, and the highest precision at simultaneously highest speed. Quite simply the complete package.”
Downstream from the Multipond unit the trays have a 26-micron polyester heat sealed to them. Refrigerated shelf life is seven days, and the U.K. consumer pays £1.50 per pack.
The complete installation of the line was planned and implemented by Multipond on site and proceeded without any problems. The service provided by Multipond was unparalleled, says Heppleston. “When someone needed something, someone was on-site immediately. Since installation, the Multipond weigher has run without problems. The collaboration has been simple and uncomplicated, and support from the company has been superb.”