When an iconic Australian food company needed a new method for the reliable continuous supply of snack biscuits to its high-speed weighers and feeders for packaging, it sought the assistance of two leading Australian manufacturing companies to help.
Collaborating together, Victoria-based Kiel Industries and Sydney’s Pro Ali Design in Sydney designed and built a new production line for their client, solving a major requirement for replacing existing bins and handling systems with a line that used a cleaner and more versatile bin.
‘Cleaner’, says Kiel managing director Colin Kiel, meant that the 650-litre food-grade polyethylene bins required had to be pallet-sized with smooth walls, easy to clean, able to be stacked safely up to eight high, able to be emptied completely, and with no residual biscuits being trapped by corners or edges. And it wasn’t an easy proposition.
Their client’s biscuit production process involved several stages:
• Pastry is made and spread before the topping is added and then cut to shape and baked.
• Once through the ovens, the snack biscuits are placed into the Kiel-designed plastic storage and transport bins in large plastic bags.
• When the biscuits are ready for packing, the bins are moved and the biscuits decanted to portion pack sizes of 25g and 70g.
• Portion packs are retained in the Kiel bins until bin emptying is required to create multipacks on the packaging line. The portion packs are then boxed, ready to be sent out to supermarkets across the country.
On top of that, the biscuit manufacturer insisted on a 14-day turnaround between baking and packaging to retain freshness. During this two-week period, approximately 1000 bins of snack biscuits are produced and, to meet this demand and ensure there are always sufficient bins, Kiel manufactured 1500 bins in total.
To make matters even more challenging, Keil was only given four months to produce the minimum number of 800 bins. “This was a little tight because during our normal operational shifts, one mould can only produce 100 bins per month,” Colin Kiel says. “We had to maximise the efficiency and utilisation of the production line to make best use of the machines.”
Once the design of the bin had been confirmed, prototypes were sent to Pro Ali Design in Sydney for development of the automated tipping machinery that was to be part of the new production line. The company was selected because it specialises in the design and construction of state-of-the-art stainless steel conveying systems for the food industry, including customised package and box handling conveyor lines.
Pro Ali’s Jon Ball says the main requirement was to improve efficiencies and remove the need to manually load biscuits from different shaped bins. Because Kiel’s bins had to be robust to withstand being picked up and moved around, Pro Ali incorporated a heavy-duty bin tipper.
“We were working with very fragile product in both the contents and the packaging,” says Ball. “The consumer packs are highly decorated so cannot be scuffed during transport along the line.” The packaging line included elevated and radius conveyors, so Ball had to ensure that there were minimal junctions, bends, lips and edges in the line on which packets of biscuits could be caught.
Feeder hoppers all include a laser level, which sends an alert when the biscuit level is low and requests another bin be decanted into the packaging line. The line has four units operating on a continual basis to ensure that it is conveying a regular, constant stream of product.
The processing line design incorporates a number of safety features to protect workers, including light curtain safety lock-outs. “Safety was paramount and our design had to reflect this,” Ball added. “When the beam of one of the light curtains is broken, the system shuts down and must be manually reset in order to start the process again.”
One feature of the project was that the new production line be built on a blank floor area dedicated to the bin tippers and conveyor system; not around or over existing machinery as is often the case.
“This allowed us to have a lot of straight runs to ensure nothing got stranded high up on an elevated section,” Ball said. “In the past, it was possible to get the contents of different packs mixed because some got caught at a junction and dislodged on a later run.”
Gaining access to the area – a clear, open expanse – was not a simple matter. “We had to remove a wall and then unbolt, raise and reconnect a number of conveyors,” Ball says.
Pro Ali was given approximately six weeks to design and build the bin handler and conveyor system, with more time spent during the design phase because the snack biscuit manufacturer requested numerous reviews before signing off on the system.