Ishida Europe has designed and installed three complete packing lines for leading Spanish meat producer Embutidos F Martínez., which have eliminated all human handling from the packing of minced meat, as well as maximising speed and efficiency. From insertion of the meat into trays to placing the sealed trays into pallet-ready cases, the lines are achieving a total capacity of over 72,000kg of packed product per shift, supplying national retailer Mercadona.
Ishida and Martínez worked closely in the development and implementation of the project. One of Ishida’s particular areas of expertise was its ability to maximise synergy among the various packing line elements, which included denesting, traysealing, labelling, metal detection, seal testing, label reading and ‘pick-and-place’ packing into Eurocrates. Most of the equipment supplied was Ishida-made, adding the benefits of single-source manufacture to those of single-supplier design and project management.
Ishida also applied a range of project management techniques and expertise to implement the programme, which included extensive liaising with the customer’s suppliers of enterprise resource equipment and software, and of upstream (mixing and portioning) equipment.
Extruded minced meat is automatically cut and check-weighed, and correct portions are fed to the tray loading point. An Ishida tray denester, which can run in excess of 120 trays per minute, separates trays and places them on the belt in a single lane. The denester tray reservoir allows stacking of nested trays to extend right up to the floor above, where topping up is automatically cued by a sensor.
The trays travel to the loading point, where the minced meat portions (usually either 400g or 1kg) are accurately dispensed into them. Co-ordination of tray and portion is achieved by means of several sensors positioned before the loading point.
The traysealer is an Ishida QX-1100, capable of speeds of up to 200 packs per minute (ppm). Sensors at the machine’s in-feed check the length of any object passing by. If it is of incorrect length (as in the case of a skewed tray or a foreign object), the belt stops, allowing the operator to straighten the tray (or remove the foreign object) and restart the belt without delay.
The precise control of temperature at the sealing units causes the film to shrink just the right amount to produce a tight and secure seal of very neat appearance.
On leaving the QX-1100, the packs are labelled. All pass through an automatic quality testing station that comprises a metal detector, a seal-tester and a vision system. The Ishida seal-tester is able to detect a 1mm diameter hole at speeds of up to 140 packs per minute. The vision system checks both label positioning and orientation. It interacts with the company’s MIS system to verify the information in barcodes and text, such as dates and traceability information.
At the end of each line, the packs reach an Ishida IPS twin pick-and-place system which is capable of up to 150 packs per minute. The IPS offers excellent flexibility in terms of crate layout: each layer can be arranged in a different collation pattern, which provides greater stability for the usually multi-layer crates. In addition, the machine is able to include incomplete layers, very useful when packing to a specified number of trays.
Filled crates are removed via a crate elevator for any necessary labelling and forwarded to palletising and dispatch.
The customer set project objectives of 100ppm for their 400g pack and 80ppm for their 1kg pack, higher than would have been thought achievable in the days when portions of sticky meat had to be laboriously weighed and packed by hand.
These speeds were achieved, and indeed are routinely exceeded by each of the three lines. “Much of the equipment is capable of considerably higher speeds.” says plant manager José Luis Temprado Pérez., “The limiting factor is currently the rate at which the meat can be extruded.”
To get the entire batch into crates of labelled and thoroughly quality-controlled 1kg packs takes just 15min. The product is kept rigorously at a temperature of -1°C up to the point where it is protected by a modified atmosphere (O2 + CO2 in a 70:30 ratio). From then on its temperature is maintained below 4°C.
Combined with excellent logistics and thorough control of the raw materials, the result is that the product reaches Mercadona with a nine-day shelf life.
Efficiency has been excellent, with the Ishida equipment attaining an overall equipment efficiency (OEE) as high as 90%, and never below 80%.
Temprado was impressed with the performance of Ishida’s Solutions team. “This was a genuine partnership, from our earliest free-wheeling discussions to the specification, scoping and project management practicalities,” he comments. “Throughout, Ishida were ready to tailor things to exactly meet our needs.”