Automating hand filling and weighing of stickier products, boosts throughput about 50 percent. Aurora Products, Stratford, Connecticut, roasts its own nuts and mixes its own trail mixes. No preservatives, artificial colors or additives are used in its All Natural and Organic dried fruits, nuts, trail mixes, salad toppings and granolas.
The variety of product makes it difficult to fully automate the packaging operations.
“The physical properties of our items are varied, requiring whichever machine, we choose, to package them to have quite a broad handling ability (i.e., more expensive),” says Matthew V. Blackwell, vice president at Aurora. Rather than abandon the idea, Aurora decided to explore ways to partially automate portioning and weighing, one of the most labor-intensive areas of its operations. Blackwell explains, “Aurora was utilizing both full automation and almost completely manual processing, depending on the order size and item being packed. The fully automated machinery is only really effective with dry, fast-moving items such as cashews, almonds and peanuts. It is not effective at packaging dried fruits, trail mixes or granolas. As a result, much of this product was being packed by hand.”
Since Aurora already ran various configurations of linear scales from Ohlson Packaging, Blackwell explained he needed a scale system that had the ability to measure a range of masses and then dispense accurately into an indicated chute, depending on operator input.
“My dealings with Ohlson Packaging are always easy and straightforward. I presented Ohlson Packaging with the challenge and they designed a system that would meet it,” Blackwell says. “The quote came in and was reviewed, along with the proposed solution, against the competition. Ultimately, Ohlson Packaging won the bid.”
In three months, Ohlson Packaging constructed a 10-scale Multi-head Weigher with a bucket elevator and floor hopper machine. “The machine was assembled in one day,” Blackwell reports. “Training was quick and easy as the panel is very similar to what many of our machine operators are used to on other Ohlson Packaging -sourced machinery.”
Installation specs provided by Ohlson Packaging also simplified startup. With the specs, Aurora was able to prepare the space and run air and electrical lines. Once installed, the system was an immediate success. “The machine was intended to replace just the hand filling and weighing part of the process,” says Blackwell. “The machine has the same output as four to five skilled operators. Of course, we need about three operators to run the machine properly, so real-world throughput/production increase is about 50 percent. ”
The pleasant experience working with Ohlson Packaging is not the only reason Blackwell foresees additional collaborations down the road. “I also like that they are relatively close as we are in Connecticut, and Ohlson Packaging is in neighboring Massachusetts,” Blackwell says. “I enjoy working with Ohlson Packaging because they’re able to come up with unique engineered solutions to my packaging problems. I have the opportunity to speak directly with the designers/engineers, and they take my input into consideration. The process is smooth and machine operation is reliable.”