Packing scampi at double the speed
In the UK, frozen seafood manufacturer Whitby Seafoods has been able to double its packaging speed by installing a new packaging and distribution line.
Based in Whitby, a traditional fishing port in North Yorkshire, UK, Whitby Seafoods is a leading producer of frozen seafood products. The growing family company specialises in locally sourced langoustines — or scampi — that are breaded and sold in bite-size portions. A recent rebrand has meant that the company updated its packaging design to appeal to an even wider audience. New pack sizes range from between 200 and 300 g in a standard pillow bag format. Whitby Seafoods therefore required a flexible packaging and distribution system that would allow it to expand its product portfolio and allow efficient product changes and integration with existing elements of the production line.
Faster packaging speeds
Whitby Seafoods was looking to increase capacity with a third packaging line. It chose to install the tna robag FX 3ci — a vertical, form, fill and seal (VFFS) packaging solution that would allow consistent high quality at a fast speed for a range of bag sizes.
Simon Hill, Regional Sales Manager at tna, said: “Packaging line speed is crucial to maintaining food safety with frozen foods like seafood. While the two existing production lines operate at 70 bags/min (bpm), the new line works comfortably at 140 bpm, effectively doubling product throughput. This now helps Whitby Seafoods to ensure products are processed as quickly as possible.
With growing consumer demand for new and exciting products, Whitby Seafoods needed a flexible packaging system that would allow it to enhance production capacity. The new tna installation exceeded the frozen seafood manufacturer’s initial objectives in terms of packaging speeds, which are integral to the company as it grows in the future.
tna’s robag FX 3ci was chosen thanks to its ability to deliver a high-quality finish to Whitby Seafoods’ packaging. With a rotary jaw design that uses advanced sealing technology for improved seal integrity at high speeds, the new system helps to deliver a consistently appealing end product. The compact design, including a shorter bagging system height and small footprint, was suitable for the low ceiling in the Whitby Seafoods factory. With the ability to walk around upstairs, operators have better visibility of the line and therefore stricter quality assurance standards. The new equipment also has a user-friendly interface, making it simple and easy to operate. This will help Whitby Seafoods to save significant time regarding ongoing operation and training in the long term.
Helping to realise further performance benefits, the packing system was fitted with the tna intelli-weigh omega 314 multihead weigher. With capabilities for a 2200 kg/h in-feed to the packaging system, it was imperative any upstream equipment could keep up with the fast speed of the bagger. The integration of the tna intelli-weigh omega 314 allowed for high-speed weighing with superior precision.
A race against time
Due to the frozen nature of the Whitby Seafoods product range, it is crucial to maintain a continuous production process and keep the product moving throughout the line to avoid thawing. Lengthy stoppage times for a film or product changeover can therefore compromise food quality and safety, as well as increase wastage. Quick changeovers save valuable time and ultimately help to maintain high food safety standards. The tna robag FX 3ci and its simplified film system for easy film threading and high accuracy control has improved efficiencies at Whitby Foods by reducing film waste and cutting changeover procedures from two minutes to 30 seconds.
Key to improving efficiencies was achieving the smooth transfer of products from one part of the production line to the next. Whitby Seafoods was keen to improve product storage methods between different systems to minimise production downtime. Previously, the company was faced with the time-consuming and costly process of transporting product from the production line to a freezer facility to prevent the product from thawing while on the production line.
Installing the tna roflo VM 3 vibratory motion distribution system with integrated controls was found to be the perfect solution. Feeding into the tna robag FX 3ci, the distribution system has helped to increase product throughput, by providing an additional online storage facility. This is achieved by allowing product to accumulate on the conveyor for up to 12 minutes, without the need for additional storage space. Previously, dwell time was as low as two to three minutes. The result is an increased ‘buffering’ time, which allows for short, unplanned production outages.
Constructed from food-grade stainless steel, the tna roflo VM 3 is also suitable for use in frozen food environments. Able to withstand the harsh cleaning agents and frequent high-pressure washdowns required when working with frozen food products, the conveyor can be easily cleaned to reduce product residue build-up and optimise hygiene levels. Similarly, the tna robag FX 3ci was customised with stainless steel parts and a parabolic throat metal detector to ensure the highest possible safety standards.
Total project management from a single source
Working with just one supplier can make installation processes much simpler. tna implemented the additional packaging line within a short time frame of five months, providing Whitby Seafoods with the high-performance solutions they were looking for, while also delivering full integration with existing equipment.
A key consideration for the installation was that operations between the new and existing lines would be seamless. To achieve full integration, tna trialled how the new installation would work in the factory as part of the wider production process. As part of this process, the team carried out extensive 3D modelling, to ensure the system was tailored to exact requirements. This also helped to ensure the system was up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Hill also commented, “There are numerous benefits of having a single source supplier. Not only does it save Whitby Seafoods time by simplifying the implementation process, but ongoing customer service becomes much easier as there is one point of contact for everything, such as spare parts, after-market support and warranty services. We have provided Whitby Seafoods with optimum line efficiency that goes above and beyond their key requirements.”
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