Williams Sausage produces approximately 400,000 lbs of country pork sausages in its processing plant each week. The resulting products are distributed to customers throughout the Eastern and Central US.
The company decided to expand its line with a new line of ready-to-eat breakfast sandwiches. The addition of Williams Express Sausage, Egg and Cheese Croissants and other morning edibles meant that the company’s packaging lines needed to be revamped and integrated. One key change: a more streamlined shrink-wrapping system that could process 100 more sandwiches, deliver zero product defect rate and optimize uptime.
Williams Sausage runs eleven packaging lines: four for packaging sausage links and chubs, four for packaging patties, and three for packaging the breakfast sandwiches. One of the three is intended for jumbo sandwiches; the remaining two lines were the beneficiaries of the shrink-wrapping upgrade.
When the sandwiches first were launched, the company was content with moving 12 to 14 cartons per minute through the end of the line packaging process. As demand grew, Williams Sausage found it needed to boost throughput to keep up.
“Our production volumes had significantly increased,” plant manager Tommy Ray told FoodProductionDaily. “We needed to double our packaging capability, our throughput of cartons per minute, to keep up with the demand.”
Ray said the company found out the speed of its existing shrink wrapping equipment was creating a bottleneck.
“We were experiencing line interruptions and delays,” he said. “We needed to have the ability to shrink wrap 24 to 28 cartons per minute to keep the sandwich manufacturing lines moving.”
Seeking a solution
Williams Sausage contracted with Texwrap to engineer a shrink-wrapping system that could handle several challenges: working in a cold, damp environment, producing smooth shrink-film surface, avoiding material waste and minimizing downtime among them.
Among the changes: the processor had been using an L-bar shrink wrap sealer—adequate for slow to moderate throughput but not sufficient for a growing company. The equipment also did not offer the flexibility Williams Sausage was looking for.
“We have ten different box lengths for our sandwiches,” Ray said. “We have different carton sizes depending on what we are running. We have cartons that carry six twin-packs of 12 total biscuits, eight twin-packs of 16 biscuits, ten twin-packs of 20 biscuits, to name a few. The cartons are all the same width and height, but different lengths.”
Adding capacity and flexibility
The company opted for a Texwrap Model 2202 CR continuous-motion side-seal wrapper. With this unit, the incoming product does not stop while the end seal is being made, thereby increasing throughput speed. Its conveyors can move at 100 feet per minute and offer versatile carton handling. Stainless-steel construction facilitates quick, easy washdown.
The unit offers box-motion-style wrapping, in which the device making the end seal moves horizontally with the product as the seal is being made. When the seal is complete, the head raises and the carriage returns to engage the next package and make the next seal. The machine uses bottom and top-rail bearings to help increase throughput speed and durability.
Other features that reportedly help the shrink-wrap system performance:
- Motion Trim: This feature is designed to minimize the motion of the end-seal device.
- Speed Maximizer: This automatically brings the machine up to top speed for any carton-size setup.
- Auto-Spacing: The capability separates randomly-spaced incoming cartons for wrapping, with a photoeye above the infeed conveyor to detect front and rear edges of cartons and spaces them precisely.
- Embossed surfaces minimize slickness
- Freeze-resistant valves are placed on the air cylinders.
- A Model 1432 CR shrink tunnel has a single-chamber forced-air convection tunnel to ensure ideal shrink packaging.
- Digital temperature controls, high velocity fans, individual top and bottom controls for air direction, and variable-speed conveyors help put the right amount of heat in the right places, over the right amount of time for the best results.
According to Ray, Williams Sausage staff is pleased with the new shrink-wrap system performance. In fact, the company is expanding its shrink-wrapping system again—this time with servo controls to boost throughput and performance even further.
For more information about Texwrap Packaging Systems, visit the website here.