A flexible flow-wrapping machine for a wide selection of biscuit varieties

05 October 20217 min reading

Dominique Spitz Area Sales Manager Schubert

Living like ‘God in France’ – of course this has to include fine baked goods. Before connoisseurs can enjoy biscuits, waffles and other specialities, however, the goods must be securely packaged. An Alsatian manufacturer with over a hundred years of heritage relies on a modern flow-wrapping machine from Schubert to package its baked goods. The flexibility of the robot-assisted flowpacker ensures that the producer will be able to switch to more sustainable packaging in the future.

Today, the variations in material and shape of packaging are practically endless. After all, providers have to satisfy an increasing variety of customer requirements and wishes. The sustainability aspect is becoming increasingly important. Especially in the B2C-dominated food sector, the share of paper-based packaging elements is steadily increasing – for example, for sweet baked goods. This change is not only driven by industry giants. Small and medium-sized confectionery manufacturers, many of them with a long heritage, are also closely examining the possibilities of packaging their popular products sustainably in the future or perhaps already today. One of them is a producer of traditional baked goods from Alsace: A new packaging machine is required to satisfy the customers’ desire for packaging that is as natural in origin as the delicious contents. Baking heritage with a hundred years of experience This small bakery in Alsace has been making biscuits for over 100 years. As you would expect from a traditional operation, it is not the quantity that counts, but the variety. A wide range of fine pastries are produced here, including many products in organic quality. Wafers and biscuits with and without chocolate, in layers or fully coated, and all in a wide variety of sizes – every biscuit lover will find what they are looking for at the Alsatian bakery.

As a result, the production managers placed great importance on the flexibility offered when looking for a new packaging machine. For medium-sized companies in particular, the switch to new types of packaging cannot be made overnight, and client needs can evolve differently depending on the sales market. What was needed, therefore, was a real multitasker that could keep up with the wide range of products and packaging, including sustainable solutions.

Packaging as diverse as the contents Specifically, the bakery wanted to be able to handle plastic and paper-based films, trays made of cardboard and plastic, and U-boards. Also in demand was the gentle processing of a wide variety of biscuit shapes, from directly after the production process, through quality control and packaging into flowpacks bags, both with and without trays. There was no question that the changeover of packaging forms and products had to be carried out quickly and efficiently. And finally, there was another requirement: The packaging machine would have to be as compact as possible, because the available space at the site is limited.

Many formats, a wide assortment, a short footprint – the bakery was delighted to receive Schubert’s offer of a flow-wrapping machine that met all its requirements. It was especially the necessity of a compact design that spoke in favour of the flowpacker from the packaging specialists from Crailsheim: “Our integrated system, which includes de-stackers, pick & place robots and the Flowmodul flow-wrapping unit, was the ideal solution from our point of view,” explains Dominique Spitz, Area Sales Manager at Schubert.

Robot-supported handling of all formats In a small space, the flow-wrapping machine in Alsace has been handling all steps of the packaging process since its installation in June 2020. Flexibility is required right from the beginning of the process, because the biscuits come directly from the oven to the packaging line without a buffer. This is how the robot-assisted flowpacker plays out its strengths perfectly: Long conveyor belts are superfluous; instead, the biscuits are picked up flexibly and gently from the product belt by three F4 robots and placed into the trays or directly onto the flowpacker infeed belt. Technology is key to the efficient use of available space: A fourth F4 robot is used variably. If packing into trays, it removes them from the magazine and places them into the tray chain for filling. On the other hand, for batches where the products are to be packed directly into flowpacks, it picks biscuits from the product belt and places them onto the flowpacker infeed belt.

Highest product quality thanks to image processing “By using robots in our flow-wrapping machine, we can minimise breakage, damage and waste,” Dominique Spitz points out. To entirely rule out damaged goods, each product must also pass through an incident-light scanner. Schubert’s image processing system only passes on the data of qualitatively faultless products to the robots’ control system. Defective goods are therefore not accepted. Only the high-quality baked goods are then either packed directly into a flowpack or stacked into trays or cardboard U-boards, which are in turn packed into flowpacks. To ensure that this last step of the packaging process is as efficient as possible, the Schubert line uses a specially developed sealing technology: “First, the flowpack’s longitudinal seam is closed by means of ultrasonic sealing. Then a heat-sealing system with a flying cross-sealing unit is used,” Dominique Spitz explains the process. The flying sealing unit adjusts itself fully automatically to the speed of the upstream pick & place robots for each flowpack. This ensures a high sealing quality with constant sealing times.

Fast format changes without expertise If a format change is required, only a few manual operations are necessary. Whether forming shoulders, drivers, robot tools or tray magazines – all format parts are easy to exchange and immediately ready for use without requiring subsequent adjustment. A changeover therefore takes less than half an hour. “The operator can easily perform the format changeover by themselves and do not have to rely on support from technicians,” Dominique Spitz highlights. The machine then restarts and immediately packs into the new formats. The change of the flowpack film during operation is also supported by a corresponding automatic mechanism.

Ready for a sustainable future Flexible robot technology and fast format changes are advantages that are already paying off today for the traditional Alsatian bakery – while equipping the company for the future: The flowpacker can not only process the usual laminated films, but also mono films, which are being used more and more frequently in the market – especially because of their ease of recycling. “However, it is already foreseeable that the development in packaging technology will continue, especially in the direction of paper-based films,” Dominique Spitz confirms. Schubert’s packaging line is also prepared for this. If the Alsacian customer decides to use recyclable paper-based packaging materials or new developments such as compostable films, the flow-wrapping machine can quite simply remain in use. Even the sealing unit is ideally equipped for the future: It can process paper-based packaging as well as plastic films. Whatever the direction in which customers’ wishes may develop, thanks to Schubert, the customer in the Alsace region is ideally prepared for innovation.

Alsatian pastries for connoisseurs Over 100 years of experience in traditional craftsmanship and a wide range of products are what distinguish this small Alsatian bakery. High-quality ingredients, some of them organic, recipes handed down from generation to generation and a feel for customer tastes are the formula that ensures long-term success – thanks to modern production methods and investments in the future. In the meantime, the biscuits from Alsace are not only appreciated all over France, but also in many other countries.

Facts & figures • Compact machine layout. • 9 different product formats. • Efficiency of 98%. • Output of up to 100 flowpacks per minute. • Sustainable packaging materials.

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