Case Packing Benefits

Semi-automatic case packing was a ‘rate limiter’ that had to be addressed at this growing food manufacturer serving foodservice customers

Oct. 16, 2016 - Like other food manufacturers experiencing steady growth, JTM Food Group of Harrison, OH, has found automation to be a sure answer to coping with that growth. Its latest investment is in case packing, where it has shifted from a semi-automated approach that, according to Co-owner and Vice President of Operations Joe Maas, was a “rate limiter.” Now operating smoothly is a three-machine solution from Delkor Systems that is completely automated, from case erection to robotic case loading to case closing. “We do eight-count cases of three-lb bags, six-count cases of four-lb bags, or four-count cases of five-lb bags,” says Maas. “And we handle them all at a pretty steady rate of 68 cases/min.” The bags he refers to hold pumpable meat sauce products like chili, taco filling, or spaghetti sauce with meat. These cooked products are filled on a pair of vertical form/fill/seal machines, which is followed by chilling and then conveyance to the Delkor systems. Case packing previously was done manually, while case erecting and case closing was done automatically. “We’re no longer constrained by how quickly an operator can load bags into a case,” says Maas. Also improved, he adds, is product appearance when it reaches the foodservice institutions—schools, hospitals, correctional institutions—who are JTM’s customers. “The operators loading the cases in the past were always rushed, so inevitably some of the bags wouldn’t be placed nice and flat the way we want them to be. Keep in mind that the cases go directly into a blast freezer once they’re sealed, so whatever orientation the bags are in when they go into the cases is the orientation in which they are frozen solid. So what we used to experience on occasion was a less-than-perfect presentation once the case was opened, something we’re happy to say is now a thing of the past.”