The modernisation of the flagship factory of Maître Prunille, France’s brand leader in dried and soft fruit and the world’s third largest producer of prunes, has included a new packing hall for which Ishida Europe has been a valuable automation partner.
The company has worked with Maître Prunille from the earliest design phase to ensure that its stringent hygiene standards are maintained across a huge variety of different packs.
Maître Prunille handles many soft fruits, which are packed into Stabilo or Quatroseal bags for both home and export markets. The packing hall, at the company’s Casseneuil site near Villeneuve-sur-Lot, features five separate lines, each including a sorting area, an Ishida multihead weigher and a vertical bagmaker.
These are complemented by end-of-line equipment, including Ishida checkweighers with built-in metal detectors, supported by Ishida’s IDCS software which enables the company to monitor production line data to help increase line efficiency. An Ishida IX-GA 65100 X-Ray Inspection System stands guard over the final product and links into Maître Prunille’s data systems to ensure traceability.
A key requirement for Maître Prunille was the ability to make the frequent production changes demanded by the export side, now taking 30% of output, with its many different products, pack sizes and labels. Hygiene is also an important issue so the amount of time taken to clean equipment thoroughly is crucial to a fast product changeover, and therefore to efficiently fulfilling a wide range of different orders.
Maître Prunille takes the issue so seriously that the company has its own tests for equipment cleanability and it was largely on the basis of their performance in this respect that Ishida multihead weighers won out during the initial tendering process.
Each Ishida Weigher has 14-heads, with 3l hoppers. The main body, with its rounded construction, is simple to hose down and offers no ‘traps’ for spores or other contaminants to linger in. All contact parts, including feeder troughs and hoppers, can be lifted off the machine without the need for any tools and hung on a special Ishida ‘wash wall nearby, where a whole set can be cleaned by spraying in five minutes.
For volume production runs (which can last up to 18 hours) the legendary reliability of Ishida equipment comes to the fore. And altering such parameters as pack format or fruit grade takes just seconds using the presets programmed into the machines. However, for those crucial points, for example, where cross-contamination could be an issue, changeovers with thorough cleaning can be accomplished in less than 15 minutes.
Ishida was already well-known to Maître Prunille, which has two Fresh Food Weighers to handle sticky dried fruit. However, this latest project is an example of an even closer partnership in which Ishida has gone far beyond the role of a manufacturer and contributed packing expertise and ideas on matters such as overall concept, hall layout and infeed and elevator design. Ishida has worked closely on this project with Maître Prunille’s technical management.
Frédéric Crispel, in charge of industrial development at Maître Prunille, foresees a decade or more of service from the packing lines. He describes the new hall as "a tool for the 21st Century", which is driven by the market, specifically by the current and forecast needs of the company’s many customers, who he sees as "…helping us to raise our game, particularly our Anglo-Saxon customers who demand BRC or IFS certification."