A customised packing line solution devised by Ishida Europe and the company’s Belgium sole distributor BRN has increased production output by 200%, greatly reduced product giveaway, and improved flexibility at leading Belgian tomato producer/packer Frani.
First established as a tomato growing business, Frani’s activities have expanded to include trading and packing for other growers, and today the company is a major supplier to many of Belgium’s leading supermarket chains.
Previously, the weighing and packing of tomatoes was done manually, which in addition to being extremely labour intensive – usually taking 18 people between 12 and 16 hours per day during the tomato season – often resulted in inaccurate pack weights. Frani wanted to make the whole packing process less labour intensive and more accurate, and at the same time introduce the popular ‘shaker’ style trays for its cherry tomatoes. However, this created its own set of challenges as shaker trays are notoriously difficult to handle in an automated process.
The Ishida/BRN solution provides a fast and flexible means of handling both the shaker trays for the cherry tomatoes (at a target weight of 250g) and rectangular trays for the larger tomatoes (at a target weight of 1kg).
Tomatoes are placed on a belt for manual inspection before being taken to the top of a specially designed Ishida CCW-RS-214W-S/30-SS multihead weigher. The weigher incorporates a number of ‘gentle handling’ features, including bancollan lining for the hoppers, which provides a cushioned surface to avoid bruising of the tomatoes, and a gently sloping 45° discharge chute.
After weighing, the tomatoes are guided in two lanes into an innovative timing hopper beneath the weigher, which ensures a controlled discharge, one by one, into the tray to avoid blockages. At the same time, a tray denester provides reliable and accurate positioning of both types of trays under the weigher.
After filling, the trays are manually inspected and lids placed on them before passing over an Ishida DACS-W-012 checkweigher for a final weight check.
Despite the challenges of the installation, the new line was able, from the start of operation, to achieve the required 62 trays per minute for the 250g shaker trays, and 32 trays per minute for 1kg trays. As well as reducing the number of personnel required on the line from 18 to only four, weighing accuracy has been improved, with product giveaway reduced by as much as 6%, while the line is operating to close to 100% efficiency levels.
“Ishida’s and BRN’s approach to our packing line requirements and the solution that was devised have been excellent, with the installation being carried out smoothly and on time,” comments owner Nico De Wachter of Frani.
His wife Karine Van Ostaeyen confirms: “Ongoing support by BRN has been equally impressive with any problems sorted out on the same day, while BRN has also established an internet link that enables remote diagnostics and service to be carried out from its offices.”