A More Efficient Way to Process & Package Produce

Wrabacon specializes in developing creative packaging & automated conveyor system solutions for our customers that make time intensive tasks efficient and easy. A recent example is a custom designed and manufactured series of conveyors that drastically improved the efficiency of a manual produce packing operation for a regional distributor and specialty packaging company of organic produce.

Client Challenge

The client needed to be able to sort up to 6000 lbs. of produce an hour, grade that produce, and then package it in a variety of ways including loose product, cased product, and bagged product. Prior to the Wrabacon system, the grading portion of the operation was done by opening a box of produce and hand picking the good from the bad and transferring the bad product into a separate box which was then disposed of, which was time consuming and inefficient.

The Wrabacon Solution

  • An automated conveyor system to improve overall efficiency
  • An inclined feed conveyor that is manually loaded
  • A grading conveyor that allows operators to physically sort different grades of produce quickly and easily
  • A waste conveyor to remove unwanted produce efficiently
  • A portable conveyor used for bagging produce that can be easily added when needed
  • Easy controls to allow certain parts of the system to be halted as product is moved by hand without interrupting the overall process

Produce Handling System Operation

After manually loading the produce onto the conveyor, operators stand along the conveyor and grade the produce as it passes by. The grading conveyor consists of ¾” diameter rollers that rotate the produce as it passes by. Unwanted produce is placed onto the waste conveyor that travels in the opposite direction. The good product is transferred into a hopper that brings the produce up to the top of a small hopper. From the hopper, the product is handled one of two ways; into a bulk case or directly onto a takeaway conveyor for individual packaging.

For packaging, the boxes or bags (the portable bagging conveyor can be easily moved onto place when needed) are placed on a scale and filled to the required weight. When that weight is reached, the conveyor feeding produce can be easily stopped via a button so the operator can move the box or bag off the scale. However, the grading conveyor is still filling the hopper, so the overall process does not get delayed. When the operator is ready to continue, a simple press of the button starts the process again.

Once the product is packaged, it is set along another conveyor that allows the containers to be clipped or tied and easily labeled.

How Creative Automation Made a Difference: Denesting, Labeling & More for a Major American Adhesive Manufacturer

The Problem: Denest, label and lid 3 pail sizes while improving throughput and minimizing footprint.

When a major American manufacturer of sealants and adhesives decided to invest in new automation equipment, Wrabacon Inc. was asked to create a proposal for the company’s pail denesters, lid denesters, lid presses, and pail turners.

What is Denesting? For the uninitiated, a pail (or lid) denester automates the pulling-apart of buckets or pails so that they can then be automatically placed into a system where they are filled, labeled, and sealed shut. Prior to installing a custom solution by Wrabacon, the facility’s only automation took place when pails were actually filled, and it could only be done as fast as an employee could manually move each bucket to and from the filling area. Denesting the pails, lidding them, and labeling them was all done by hand – which posed problems for ergonomics, production rate, and efficiency. By introducing a more automated solution, our customer could finally realize the fast, predictable, and effective throughput that would allow them to grow.

What Was the Need?

 

A system that could quickly and efficiently automate a pail filling line, while accommodating 3 pail sizes with their own fill rates, label and lid sizes.  

 

 

It Counts to Be Creative

After reviewing several other vendors for this equipment, the client chose Wrabacon’s proposed solution, not because our machine was fancier, but because it was tailor-made to meet their specific goals: a small foot print, and a high ROI. This was done by carefully considering their space and application.

To meet our client’s need, our creative automation experts went to work to carefully study the application, the environment, and the product at hand.

At Wrabacon, this stage in the process is critical. Not only does it give our engineers the opportunity to fully understand our client’s facility and process – but it enables our team to create a truly custom automation solution that accounts for the many possible variables at play with each application or environment.

The Solution: Wrabacon’s Denester

Reliable Throughput, Minimal Footprint

For our customer, the goal was to handle 3 separate container sizes, while ensuring both a small footprint and a high degree of reliability. Does that mean 1 complex system for all 3 sizes to save space? Or a hybrid solution that’s  slightly larger, but less intricate and more reliable? It’s questions like these that our team tackles for every custom system. 

Every creative automation project is a balancing act. Too much adjustability and size differential can cause problems with throughput and reliability. Too little, and the space required for each system component can become unwieldy.

Our team worked to strike the ideal balance. By carefully considering the customer’s facility and process, we made the determination that a single machine for all 3 pail sizes just wouldn’t meet their needs without sacrificing performance, reliability, and ROI.

Instead, our system uses one denester for bailed buckets in the two largest sizes, with a separate denester for non-bailed ½ gallon buckets. After the pails are denested, they then progress to a labeling area, a filling area (pre-existing), and a lidding area. Finally, each pail exits the system after being guided down an incline conveyor and manually removed.

Throughout the process, our design remains focused on carefully guiding each pail to its destination quickly and efficiently – with numerous stops and guides to ensure reliability and control.

Labeling

Orient, Adjust, and Label Pails in 3 Different Sizes

After pails are de-nested on their respective machines, they enter the labeling area where a pneumatic gate stops each pail before a set of side-belts rotate the pail to a preset position for labeling. After labels are placed, the system will release the pail from its position and lower a pair of stop gates to let the pail continue downstream to be transferred onto the client’s filling conveyor.

Lid Denesting and Rolling

Two Systems, Multiple Sizes, Greater Efficiency 

For this system, the two larger containers share a lid denester and placer while the smaller pails utilize their own lid denester and placer.  With hoppers that can be loaded at any time, the operation of this system halts each pail with a stopping gate so that lids can be released from above and dropped loosely onto the container. Next, they move downstream where each lid is rolled onto the container with a series of tapered rollers. The size difference between pails dictates the only change in functionality between large lid denesters and small lid denesters – which allows the smaller denester to handle two containers at once, with a dual vertical hopper.

The Result

Space Saving Reliability at a Competitive Price

Ultimately, our entire system was designed to be a simple and efficient automation solution to separate buckets and lids, while also handling alignment for labeling and lidding. In the beginning, all denesting, labeling, and lidding was done by hand. Today, the company experiences much greater productivity and efficiency – allowing them to accurately forecast throughput and productivity while more efficiently (and competitively) providing product to customers around the world.