11th Sep 2016 | By Paul Wilkinson

A Pacepacker packing solution, which includes a versatile robot that can easily switch between bag and box palletising, has taken centre stage at Preva Produce’s new highly efficient multi-million pound premium potato packing plant in Snetterton.

The turnkey installation, designed by Pacepacker, bags and palletises salad potatoes in 10-25kg sacks for the wholesale food market. The system includes a C21 sack placer which places up to 10 sacks per minute onto a filling spout, a Total Bag Control (TBC) sack closing system that supports and guides a bag throughout the closing process, and a pre-owned Blu-Robot which is capable of palletising either boxes or bags of potatoes at the new site.

The Blu-Robot has been fitted with suction cups as well as gripper arms so that it can easily switch between stacking sacks and boxes dependant on the product option selected from a pre-programmed list of recipes.

“Within our budget constraints, we wanted a versatile robotic palletising system that would sit between a bagging line and a box packing line, which with little human intervention, would quickly switch between the two types of packing style dependent on current market demands,” says Preva Produce Managing Director Ian Anderson. “At half the cost of a new system, Pacepacker’s pre-owned Blu-Robot provided us with an affordable solution; we should see a return on our investment in just over three years.”

The potato grower Preva Produce, which farms 700 acres and packs 15,000 tons of salad potatoes per annum, built the new plant to address their capacity and quality needs.

“We had been using a third party co-packer which packed by hand, but outsourcing our packing operation in this way was cost prohibitive, provided inconsistent pack quality due to human error and didn’t give our business the flexibility and growth options that we desired,” says Ian.

“Understanding the quality and efficiency gains that could be made by bringing the packing in-house, we chose Pacepacker for their knowledge of automation, to design and manufacture a system which would provide a premium looking pack with very little waste. Their value for money line has made our new plant highly efficient; the new line requires few production staff and in turn has kept senior managers’ workload to a minimum.”

Typically incorporating a high quality ABB robotic arm originating from the automotive industry and is approximately 35% of the way through its expected 100,000 operational hour lifespan, the Blu-Robot presents low production and seasonal fresh produce packers with an affordable option.

“I’d defy anyone to identify that we’ve installed a pre-owned robot; it came delivered as new,” says Ian.

“Pacepacker’s expertise, project management and after-sales support have exceeded our expectations; the project has given us the additional capacity that we required, credibility with customers as a company who invests in automation to achieve a superior product, and most importantly we now have total control over all aspects of production. We are delighted with the outcome,” concludes Ian.

For more information, please contact:

Paul Wilkinson, Business Development Manager
T:+44 (0)1371 811544
F:+44 (0)1371 811621