Food Processing and Packaging Trends (Part II)
The first part of this two-part series can be read here.
Advancements in cost reduction techniques and an increased commitment to sustainability will lead the way in a dynamic and evolving 2011. Companies are focusing on increasing productivity and becoming responsible members of their communities. These trends will likely shape the food industry in 2011.
Reducing Cost and Increasing Performance
In times of economic strife, focusing on efficiency is imperative. With the twin goals of increasing sales and cutting costs , producers are dependent on equipment that allows them to maximise Return On Investment (ROI) and increase output from their lines. Manual operation and product handling slows down production speeds and can impair performance. Therefore, manufacturers are increasingly relying on higher levels of automation and software in their equipment. Automated technologies can greatly improve reliability, reduce changeover times, free up staff and reduce downtime.
Equipment suppliers have responded to this demand with advances in robotic technologies, allowing for higher speeds and more flexibility than ever. Bosch Delta robots now come in numerous varieties and with numerous grippers to suit a wide range of products and technologies are continuously improved to handle new formats and shapes. Easy operation requires less staff training and frees up operators for other tasks, and the robots perform reliably at greater speed. Robots fitted with additional capabilities such as vision guided systems can improve production efficiency even further. Technologies such as the Gemini 3 simulation tool by Bosch are able to simulate new production processes and products virtually before production, which shortens installation times and lead times for new product launches.
Recent technological advances also allow quicker belt changes and easier and faster cleaning so different product varieties can be handled. Automated cleaning systems such as CIP make it possible for products such as sugar and sugar-free varieties of candy to be handled by the same line. The result is increased equipment availability due to higher cleaning speed, quick format change and, ultimately, increased Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and availability.
Another area that can affect ROI during the production process is the level of accuracy achieved by dosing equipment for ingredients. High dosing accuracy is not only crucial for good product quality but can also significantly reduce costs, especially for expensive ingredients such as aromas and vitamins. In addition, standardization of manufacturing techniques and lean manufacturing principles can maximize resources and create a more efficient environment. Close collaboration with an experienced partner can greatly reduce lead times and speed up production when new elements are integrated in a line. For manufacturers wishing to incorporate new formats, services such as those offered by Bosch can speed up time-to-launch and ensure the format is right for the line. For confectionary manufacturers wishing to introduce new product varieties, Bosch can deliver plastic samples for new forming dies in only 24 hours to help producers decide on new formats.
Overall, increased performance can be directly linked to the quality and level of automation of the equipment. With the average number of industrial robots per 10,000 people employed in manufacturing in European companies now at over 100 , and continuing to grow, manufacturers are dependent on pick and place systems to produce increasingly complex packaging styles.
The Future is Green
While sustainability has been a buzz word for the past couple of years, its impact can be felt more strongly across the food industry in 2011. Brands are under mounting pressure to demonstrate environmental efforts due to government stipulations as well as more aware consumers.
Equipment suppliers are developing new, sustainable technologies capable of helping companies reduce their environmental footprint. According to PMMI, motors and drives account for 68 per cent of the energy consumed in industrial settings. Suppliers such as Bosch responded to this with new equipment with fewer drives, such as the Bosch Miniwrap BVK 2000. In addition, compact, integrated systems have the ability help producers save on space and energy. Lines capable of handling multiple product varieties not only maximize ROI and equipment efficiency, but can also cut the company’s ecological footprint as they reduce the need to run additional machinery.
A major factor affecting sustainability is waste. To reduce packaging material waste, new technologies such as ultrasonic sealing constitute a powerful alternative to traditional heat sealing methods. The technology requires less energy than heat sealing, is compatible with environmentally friendly packaging films and requires less packaging material. Products themselves can also account for significant amounts of waste if unsatisfactory and unsuitable for sale. Product waste can be limited with machines with gentle handling, reducing product damage and rejects.
Even production lines themselves can constitute an environmental hazard. Retrofitting, rather than replacing whole production lines, has the potential to increase production efficiency while reducing equipment waste. In addition, new modules with improved and more energy-efficient technologies can give the entire production cycle a sustainability boost. Integrating flexible modular elements, such as the Bosch Module++ concept into existing lines, allows manufacturers to redeploy assets with greater efficiency and create a more sustainable production environment.
In the current climate, food manufacturers are not only challenged with having to increase output while keeping cost down, but also need to satisfy complex demands posed by consumers and environmental constraints. By getting more out of their machinery, producers have the potential to meet the current challenges and trends facing the industry and make 2011 a prosperous year.
Bosch Packaging Technology, based in Waiblingen (Germany), is one of the leading suppliers for complete systems for packaging and process technology. In 16 countries worldwide the company develops, produces and distributes modules and systems for the pharmaceutical, confectionery, and cosmetics industries, as well as other food and non-food industries. For more information, please visit www.boschpackaging.com.