The new Retail Ready Line covers the entire fresh product weighing and packing process: tray denesting, weighing, filling, checkweighing, tray sealing, metal detection, weigh-price-labelling, automatic label inspection and automatic packing into cases or Euro crates.
The development comes at a critical time for food processors. There is growing legislative and retailer pressure on fresh product processors regarding product safety and hygiene.
In January 2005, legislation comes into force that obliges manufacturers to be able to trace their products right through the supply chain.
In addition, a highly price-competitive market means that producers' margins are being squeezed, forcing companies to look at every aspect of their operations to make savings.
"Retailers and consumers are placing even greater demands on fresh product processors and this in turn has created new challenges for the packaging industry," said Paul Griffin, Ishida Europe's marketing director.
"Larger volumes, faster throughput, increased flexibility, shorter lead times, maximum efficiency and high quality standards are all critical areas where packaging equipment manufacturers have had to respond."
Ishida believes that the new Retail Ready Line addresses these concerns. To maximise efficiencies and reduce waste, trays are checkweighed prior to being sealed. The company claims that its new range of Fresh Food Weighers means that multihead weighing technology can now be applied to very sticky fresh foods.
Compared with weighing the product by hand on static scales, Ishida says that the Fresh Food Weigher reduces product giveaway from typically 10 per cent to under 1 per cent per pack, typically saves three operators per shift and guarantees outstanding weighing consistency.
Customised filling systems, tailored to each application, transfer each product portion into trays to ensure a spillage-free, gentle and consistent tray filling process.
The filled trays then move across an integrated checkweigher, which ensures that any over- or underweight packs are identified and rejected before they are sealed. This saves packaging materials as the rejected trays can be re-used without wasting film.
When it comes to tray sealing, the Ishida QX 775 range of compact tray sealers can operate at up to 17 cycles or 100 packs per minute. This sealing process, says Ishida, is extremely precise to ensure the highest seal quality and integrity.
Using Inside Cut Technology, pack quality can be further enhanced and film consumption reduced by 5 per cent. Changes of tray formats and film can be carried out in less than 8 minutes to minimise downtime.
Metal detection is carried out before the trays are labelled. An integrated metal detector guarantees that any metal-contaminated trays are rejected and removed from the line before they are labelled.
Ishida's pioneering WPL 5000 Weigh-Price-Labeller features a unique applicator for labelling awkward pack shapes such as whole chickens, a special label cassette system for changing labels in 10 seconds, a long life thermal printer head with a typical lifetime of one year and the ability to apply both top and bottom labels.
A special label inspection system verifies that both label data and position are accurate and automatically rejects incorrect packs to ensure 100 per cent quality control. This allows the manufacturer to eliminate EPWs (Emergency Product Withdrawals) and RTMs (Return to Manufacturer).
Finally, the Ishida 'FPS' pick-and-place packer features a multi-axis pick-and-place arm with a selection of pick-and-place heads that can be specified to handle different tray- and pack types. Ishida claims that the system optimises packing line efficiency and typically saves two manual packers per shift.
"We believe our new Retail Ready Line provides a total solution that addresses these issues," said Griffin. "Importantly, while it provides a fully integrated line, it is made up of individual pieces of equipment which means each individual element can be tailored to the exact customer requirements."
Processing efficiency has certainly become an important consideration for food and beverage manufacturers. In addition to meet tighter costs, production line managers are experiencing ever-greater pressure to meet new climate control regulations, reduced emission targets and better waste disposal.
In Europe for example, EU ETS is one of the policies being introduced to tackle emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and combat the serious threat of climate change. The scheme comes into force on 1 January 2005, and is designed to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions in the energy and industry sectors are cut at least cost to the economy and help the EU and its Member States meet their emission targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
The environmental regulator has cautioned food and drink manufacturers that if they fail to comply with essential environmental legislation they risk hefty fines.