This month, Pack World explores recent plant updates by Philadelphia Macaroni Co., a contract manufacturer that specializes in cartoning mac and cheese. The largest of its three plants, in Grand Forks, ND, recently cleared about 25,000 sq ft of warehouse space to make room for a second high-speed cartoning line with faster, new equipment for their largest customer, Annie’s Home Grown brand.
“What it came down to is that volumes were growing and we needed a second line,” says VP of Operations Frank Radano. “But we wanted the new line to have more functionality and run at higher speeds.”
The new line has a number of upgrades from the existing, 10-year-old manufacturing method that increased speed of output.
“The end-of-line portion is especially well designed” says Radano.
Machine functions including dynamic lane dividing, case/tray packing, robotic palletizing, robotic corner board application, and stretch wrapping are executed by a machine from ARPAC, an OEM integrator.
“The ARPAC team did a great job of making it all fit, making it run smoothly, and helping us with various questions we had on handling various case and tray sizes,” says Radano. “They were always responsive to any issue that surfaced.”
Key differentiators between the older line and the new one include:
- While the older line tops out at about 300 cartons/min, the new line routinely does 350-400/min.
- X-ray inspection is used for metal detection.
- Shrink-wrapped corrugated trays and wraparound corrugated cases are palletized by a robotic system as opposed to an overhead palletizer.
- Protective corrugated corner boards are applied robotically rather than manually.
- The vertical cartoner that puts pouched cheese and pasta into the cartons is primarily servo controlled while its predecessor was more mechanically oriented.
“The key to any robotic packaging application is to make everything as simple as possible for the operators, the ones who encounter the equipment day in and day out,” says Paul Moore, Director of Robotic & Integrated Systems at ARPAC.