Bradman Lake provides automated packaging line for Unilever

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Bradman Lake, the UK-based food equipment provider, has designed
and installed a complete automated packaging line for one of the
UK's leading low fat spread manufacturers.

Bradman Lake, the UK-based food equipment provider, has designed and installed a complete automated packaging line for one of the UK's leading low fat spread manufacturers.

The system combines sleeve packing, leaflet insertion and end-of-line tray erecting for throughput in excess of 720,000 250g tubs a week of Flora pro-activ.

When Alexir Chilled Packaging were awarded the contract by Unilever Bestfoods, they were committed to base level output of 180 tons of packed product a week, a target that could more than double at times of peak demand.

ACP are specialists in chilled temperature controlled and ambient contract and promotional packing for mainly dairy and chilled food products, and Unilever is a major partner.

Their strengths are in volume manual and semi-automatic operations but it was clear that packing some three quarters of a million tubs a week of Flora pro-activ by hand would be far too costly and labour intensive.

The answer was to automate the packing operation to meet the varying levels of demand.

ACP knew it needed the help of experts in packaging systems so three carton machinery companies were invited to make proposals for tackling the problem.

"We were impressed by Bradman Lake's detailed response, "​ said Commercial Director Gillian Laughlin. "They communicated clearly how they could assist with a total automated solution to meet our needs. With only a short time between concept and implementation, they showed they were able to take responsibility for the complete packaging line."

To pack 180 tons of Flora pro-activ per week to serve eleven different markets across Europe and Scandinavia as well as the UK, high line speeds have to be sustained.

Bradman Lake adapted a fully automatic SL902 end load cartoner to insert up to 150 tubs per minute into sleeves, open ended but with locking lid and base to hold tubs firmly in place. And, because existing stocks of tight-fitting sleeves designed for hand insertion had to be used up first, each of the sixteen pusher arms in the loading section was given a separate clutch to deal with any jams.

Feeding the SL902 are two custom built Bradman Lake units. First is an indexing product diverter which turns the incoming supply of filled plastic tubs through 90° into line for packing. Then a Smart Belt​ timer unit accepts them at random, collates and releases one at a time into the product pockets of the sleeving machine.

Every tub must carry a 12pp. information booklet under the sleeve so Bradman Lake integrated a Longford leaflet feeder into the line ahead of the SL902 loading section.

After sleeving, in a unique up ending​ modification of the outfeed conveyor, the packs are turned on end for coding and so that operators can easily pick up two at a time. A Bradman Lake XS2/60 tray erector forms and feeds corrugated trays automatically onto the line for hand loading. Trays of 12 sleeve packs then go through a shrink-wrap tunnel before being palletized and stretch wrapped for despatch.

"Putting in the Bradman Lake line has been an important development for us,"​ said Gillian Laughlin. "It makes a big contribution to productivity with major labour and cost savings. Now there are only 11 people on the entire line compared with 28 hand packers. And Bradman Lake's thorough operator training programme has ensured improved pack quality and consistency."

During all phases of the project, the Bradman Lake team worked closely with ACP management, Unilever packaging technologists and carton suppliers, Crest Packaging.

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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