Mark WILD, Fawema GmbH: “The objective of creating a complete turnkey automated packing system can be accomplished. From receiving raw material from the mill - either flour, pulses or other food products, with the correct equipment from a reputable supplier, a miller can enjoy a totally automatic process where no human contact with a bag or pack need be made. In fact it is possible that the first human contact with a packed bag will be that of the consumer when he or she picks the bag from the supermarket shelf.”
Being among the leading suppliers in packaging technologies, Germany-based Fawema GmbH has a history of over 95 years. That means significant experience and knowledge. Therefore, we interviewed Mark Wild, the Sales Manager of the company about what we wonder regarding the packaging technologies and points to consider in technology selection.
Saying that “Packaging technology is an essential part of the mill. The finished products are a reflection on the mill itself and poorly packed finished products will of course reflect negatively on the image of a mill.” about the meaning of packaging for a producer, Mr. WILD lists the points to consider in packaging as follows: Correct weights inside the bags, Safe and secure bags, Secure secondary packaging…
Fawema GmbH Sales Manager Mark WILD is telling us the details about packaging and packaging technologies.
Mr. Wild, first of all, could you give us some information about the types and size of packages (kg) used in flour and pulses packaging? Regarding flour and pulses packaging, what scale and materials are the most preferred in packages?
Let me start with flour. This could be wheat flour, maize flour or even rice flour. For retail pack sizes (typically 1 kg to 5 kg), the most common type of packaging material used by millers is paper in the form of a ready-made SOS block-bottom paper bag. Globally-speaking, packing in paper is used in: Europe, Middle East, most of Africa, South, Central and North America, Central Asia and Australasia. Geographical areas where plastic packaging materials are used for packing flour includes: West Africa, India, Pakistan and South East Asia. With regards to pulses, the most common type of packaging employed worldwide is in plastic - either in the form of a pillow pack or a brick back where the bags are made from a roll of flat film material and then packed before the bags are finally closed & sealed. This type of packaging also allows the consumer to see the product inside the bag before deciding on a purchase.
What kind of technology is used for packaging/bagging and filling? Could you tell us about the working principles of these technologies?
The type of technology used for packing (bag filling) differs from mill to mill and usually depends on the specific circumstances of the mill itself (i.e. whether a particular mill packs retail bag sizes or just bulk (or both), the size of the mill in tonnage throughput per day, the geographic location of the facility and whether or not the mill wants to minimize labour as much as possible.
On typical retail-size flour bags of between 1 kg and 5 kg, the most commonly-used machine in the industry is an automatic packing line like the Fawema FA217. This type of machinery offers the user, flexibility (the possibility to pack different bag sizes on the same machine with rapid & simple size changeovers), reliability (the machine produces perfect packs and is able to work constantly even on a 3 shift per day rota), total automation (no need for labour). The machine operator just supervises the line while the machine completes all of the packing work on its own.
The working principle of the machine is the following: The flour arrives from the mill or storage silo / bin into the charge hopper which is fitted on top of the packing machine. This charge hopper is of a special design which ensures that no bridging can take place and that there is always a constant head of product ready to be filled. The charge hopper is fitted with level sensors which guarantee that once the flour level drops below a certain level, a signal is sent to the upstream feed auger to deliver more flour to the hopper. This guarantees that the packing machine is never stopped while waiting for more flour. All the machine operator must do is ensure that the empty bag magazine is replenished and then press the machine start button. The packing machine then automatically transfers an empty bag into the machine, opens it, and fills it by volume with a special filling auger. Once the bag is filled, it is transferred automatically along the line where it is vibrated to settle the flour; dust is removed from the top of the bag to ensure hygiene and cleanliness. Once the product fill height is settled, the bag top is trimmed by an automatic trimming blade, the bag top is folded and instant-sealing hot melt glue is applied before the bag is finally closed in the shape of a brick. The bags are then transferred automatically to a check weighing and metal detecting station so that each bag is guaranteed to have the legal weight and any bags found to contain metallic particles are rejected from the line.
What is the place of a packaging technology in ensuring the automation in a flour plant or pulse processing plant? Why packaging technologies are important for those plants? Is it possible to combine packaging systems with the other technologies used in production processes? Is it possible to provide a full automation in a production process from receiving raw material to packaging final products? How this is provided?
Packaging technology is an essential part of the mill. The finished products are a reflection on the mill itself and poorly packed finished products will of course reflect negatively on the image of a mill. The business of a mill is to sell its finished products - whether that is bulk flour in IBC bags or 20 kg - 50 kg sacks, or retail size bags of flour and / or pulses and the essential criteria which must be met are:
• Correct weights inside the bags: Too much weight and the mill is losing money. Too little weight and the mill are not corresponding to legal requirements.
• Safe and secure bags: the bags must be closed securely to eliminate leakage and also to eliminate any risk of product tampering.
• The packs must be clearly marked with certain production data such as date of packing, best before date, batch serial number etc. This can be done automatically on the packing line with the use of a good-quality printing unit.
• Secure secondary packaging to ensure that products can be stored safely and transported over long distances without any risk of damage. This might be in the form of shrink-wrapped bundles, cartons, cases, or stretch wrapped pallets.
The objective of creating a complete turnkey automated packing system can be accomplished. From receiving raw material from the mill - either flour, pulses or other food products, with the correct equipment from a reputable supplier, a miller can enjoy a totally automatic process where no human contact with a bag or pack need be made. In fact it is possible that the first human contact with a packed bag will be that of the consumer when he or she picks the bag from the supermarket shelf.
What should an investor consider prior to investing in packaging? What are the points to take into consideration while choosing packaging technologies?
Any investor contemplating the purchase of packing equipment should consider the following points:
• The machinery must operate to a capacity which meets the throughput of the products coming from the mill.
• The machinery must be flexible in terms of pack size ensuring that if other sizes need to be packed in the future, they can be.
• The machinery must have the technical capability of correctly settling the products before the bags are closed. Finished packs should be compact and have perfect and leak-free bag closing.
• An investment in packing machinery will be a long-term investment therefore the buyer should ensure the lifetime of the machinery will match his expectations.
• Any buyer should (if possible) visit the factory of the machine seller before deciding on an investment. By doing this, one can evaluate the technical expertise of any potential supplier, look at the size of the company, check the efficiency of after-sales service and supply of spare parts for the machinery, look at other machinery undergoing manufacture and evaluate the quality of the equipment.
• Communication: This is also a vital element which any investor should take into account. When buying equipment, the buyer should satisfy himself that the supplier can communicate in English or the mother-tongue language of the buyer.
• After-Sales service: The buyer should ensure that the supplier has an efficient team of service engineers who can carry out service work when or if required within a reasonable time from receiving the request for a service visit.
What is the importance of packaging in terms of food safety?
Food safety is of the utmost importance and packaging can - both the machinery and the materials - ensure that the safety is not compromised in any way. With the correct machinery, there should be noo need for any human contact with the food products. Bag closures will be done securely by the packing machine to guarantee that empty tampering is not possible. The packaging materials should be sourced from reputable suppliers and the specifications should adhere to international regulations pertaining to food safety.
Is there any risky factor for product safety (hygiene) in packaging technologies? If there is, what are they and how to avoid them?
A packing line should always include an integrated metal detector which will guarantee that any packs contaminated with metallic particles which might have been picked upstream in the milling process (nuts, bolts, screws, metal shavings / particles), will be automatic rejected from the packing line. Another piece of equipment which can guarantee enhanced food safety is an integrated x-ray unit. A metal detector will pick out metallic particles but will not detect other potential risks such as: glass, rubber, bone, stones etc. which might have contaminated the flour in the upstream system. More and more supermarket chains now insist that before food products can be delivered to their stores, they must be checked both with a metal detector and x-ray unit. Our line that we mentioned above has been designed with food safety in mind and the machine now has no oil bath which means no risk of potential contamination with the flour or food to be packed.The machine also requires no rubber suction cups therefore eliminating the risk of any small rubber particles falling into a flour bag. The machinery is also completely guarded which means that no human intervention is possible in the area of the bag filling.
Finally, in order to use packaging technologies with maximum efficiency, could you tell us what we should pay attention to? What can you say about the maintenance requirements of packaging technologies?
A packing machine, like any machine will function at its best when certain maintenance guidelines are adhered to. That said, on the new range of modern machines (servo-drive machines), the requirements of maintenance (and therefore cost too) are significantly reduced. This is thanks to the mechanical drive components being replaced with innovative and energy-efficient servo-drive elements. Mechanical drives are subject to wear and tear and over time will need to be replaced. The efficiency (and accuracy) of a packing machine will also suffer due to mechanical wear and tear and therefore the new servo-drive packing lines offer a modern and efficient alternative for the future.