Leading French food manufacturer Marie Surgelés has selected Ishida to design and install a new line for the weighing and packing of ready meals into microwavable trays.
Marie produces chilled and frozen products at several sites across France. At its Airvault plant, the majority of its production is for a leading consumer brand of weight-control products, with the remainder split between the highly successful Marie label and retailers’ own brands.
Marie has been supplying the weight-control brand for 15 years and was keen to help its customers capitalise on the market trend towards ready meals packed in microwaveable trays.
The company awarded the contract for the new tray line at Airvault to Ishida largely because of its project capability, which enabled ‘single-source’ responsibility for the whole line. Another important factor was the established reputation of Ishida equipment, not least its revolutionary QX-1100 Traysealer, which was installed for the first time in France at Marie.
The Ishida solution includes two tray denesters, an Ishida multihead weigher with distribution system, an Ishida QX-1100 Traysealer, a volumetric dosing system for rice and pasta, a 20m chain-and-peg conveyor, a converger and a central control point for all the equipment. Two existing sauce-dosing systems also had to be integrated.
The 24-head multihead weigher is divided into two sections of twelve heads, each capable of acting as a separate weigher. Each section is fed separately, with the option of using a fast vacuum feed system for chilled or frozen products.
A typical example of the output of the new line is a calorie-controlled ready meal of pasta and prawns in a sauce, with diced courgettes.
Empty trays are separated and placed in two lines on the conveyor by two high-speed Ishida tray denesters. Spaghetti is added by the volumetric system, followed by a dose of sauce. Trays then pass to the Ishida multihead weigher, one side of which handles the prawns and the other the courgettes.
The distribution system collects the weighments from the two weigher outlets into a set of timing hoppers, positioned above four dipping funnels, each with a right hand channel for the courgettes and a left hand channel for the prawns. This array tracks four trays (two from each line) at a time, adding the ingredients in a neat but well-distributed presentation, with splashing or bouncing contained by the funnels, which dip below tray-edge level before release. Importantly, this system does not require any slowing or stopping of the conveyor.
The filled trays are then conveyed to a QX-1100 Traysealer. This model has already made an impact across Europe because of its unique combination of speed and flexibility.
The QX-1100 offers speeds of up to 200 trays per minute, with rapid, easy changeovers, and exceptional control both of the sealing process and of the atmosphere within the tray. It also readily accommodates most types of sealing materials.
The 350g meals emerge from the traysealer at over 90 packs per minute, and are converged into a single line for sleeving and secondary packing.
Julien Le Garrec, sector manager at Marie in charge of the trays unit, particularly appreciates the convenience of a single control point. He commented: “The support from the Ishida technical people has been excellent, and the line is very user-friendly, and offers simple changeovers as well as being very easy to clean.”