Pluckr wins Food Valley Award

Pluckr, a machine that uses ultrasonic vibrations to rapidly de-bunch grapes without damaging them, has won the Food Valley Award 2014. The machine was developed by JFPT/foodlife and TOP.

“Winning this prize is fantastic,” says Patrick Jansen of JFTP/foodlife.

“It’s a real perk to continue to innovate. Launching a new technology and finding markets for it is quite a challenge. No doubt winning the Food Valley Award is going to make a difference.”

Wouter de Heij of TOP adds: “We are incredibly proud of the fruit of our partnership. Winning this award is the cherry on the cake. And it shows that innovative technologies can help increase profit margins in the sector. We are happy to be contributing to that.”

The new grape de-buncher is a compact piece of equipment featuring 3-12 heads, each of which consists of a small, stainless steel gripper and a vibration system.

Depending on the number of heads, Pluckr can de-bunch 300-600 kilos of fruit per hour. By comparison, the top speed of manual de-bunching is 20 kilos per hour.

The equipment is unique in its use of ultrasonic vibrations combined with the multidirectional drive technology. Grapes are gently shaken off their stems and stay whole, while on existing systems the fruit suffers damage from being ‘massaged’ off the stalks. An additional benefit is that the machine can easily be combined with another new technology for packaging the loose grapes in a modified atmosphere that extends their shelf life to 3 or 4 weeks.

In its praise for Pluckr, the Food Valley Award judges’ panel said: “We are impressed with the amount of research and development that went into this innovation. Thanks to their intensive collaboration, JFPT/foodlife and TOP successfully developed and combined new technologies into a single machine. We believe the de-stemmer has considerable market potential because of its wider applicability and offers great benefits to the fruit and vegetable processing industry. These considerations convinced us to crown the Pluckr the 2014 Food Valley Award winner.”

This is the 10th year that Food Valley NL has presented the Food Valley Award. An independent panel of experts has judged the entries on their innovativeness, economic viability, originality and degree of collaboration. The other nominees considered for this year’s prize were the biodegradable, isothermal champagne packaging developed by PaperFoam and Veuve Clicquot, and fresh, chilled, pressure-treated baby food by Pit-Foodconcepts.

FB Chain tastes success with food-grade conveyor solutions

A new range of lube-free plastic combination chains from FB Chain for the food and drink industries meets strict EU food processing standards.

The traditional stainless steel chains typically used in the food and beverage industries are ripe for premature wear. A risk of contamination from lubricants, especially where direct contact with consumables is unavoidable – such as in the production of bread and other baked goods – means that the chains are frequently required to operate dry. With a short service life and high replacement costs, these chains can be a drain on resources.

Enter FB Chain, who have developed a new range of corrosion-resistant chains specifically for the food and beverage industries that do not require lubrication for optimal performance and meet strict hygiene standards. FB Chain’s plastic combination chain is constructed from food-grade engineering plastic inner links, supported by 304 grade stainless steel bearing pins and outer link plates. The PC chain matches the strength of standard stainless steel chain but has a much lower friction co-efficient, eliminating the need for lubrication and increasing wear life.

The PC chain is also much quieter and an impressive 50% lighter, helping manufacturers to meet energy efficiency and environmental targets, while enjoying a significantly lower total cost of ownership. Furthermore, the bushed design of the plastic inner link ensures that in wash down applications there is no risk of food residue becoming trapped between the chain components and resulting in contamination over time.

FB Chain’s PC chain is available from stock in food-grade blue. A general purpose white engineering plastic is also available, with both versions supplied in sizes 3/8” to 3/4” pitch. The chain is dimensionally interchangeable with stainless steel chain, meaning no adjustments to sprockets or other existing conveyor components are required to accommodate it. Nevertheless, the company is able to supply a wide range of sprockets made from either stainless steel or food-grade approved polymers, as well as high quality thermoplastic chain guides as part of a total package.

Robert Young, process industry sales manager at FB Chain, says, “Plastic combination chain – even of the non-food-grade variety – is currently only available from a small number of chain manufacturers. We aim to be the leading supplier in this niche, helping customers in the food and beverage industries to significantly improve their safety, efficiency and profitability.”

Pacepacker rolls with UPM’s modular food-safe conveyer

With food automation making up such a large slice of Pacepacker Service’s pick, place and packing business, the equipment manufacturer recently specified a UPM Conveyors food safe IP69K certified conveyor system as part of a Cartesian pick and place robot solution for handling packs of fresh food.

Referred to by UPM as ‘SYSCON’ conveyors, the simplistic ‘groove’ design with side channels made from High Molecular, Weight Polyethene (HMWPE), appealed to Pacepacker, because it can be deployed in hygienic food processing areas. Ideal for transporting unpackaged primary products, this HMWPE conveyor caters to every type of product handling requirement, from raw fish, meat and poultry to sliced vegetables, biscuits and confectionery and fresh and frozen produce.

“Client requirements in the food sector can be both challenging and unique,” explains Pacepacker’s Business Development Manager Paul Wilkinson. “Like us, UPM Conveyors specialise in creating bespoke automation solutions. Their HMWPE conveyor system is just one of the design types we’re increasingly starting to integrate into our robotic pick and place systems, as it meets food manufacturers stringent hygiene requirements.”

Providing the full array of conveyors, manufactured in all types of materials, Pacepacker can supply everything from gravity rollers to belt conveyors and heavy duty palletisers. “Our clients may need delayed stops, accelerated sections or turning devices,” says Paul. “In every instance, the conveyor element is about optimising the production flow.”

When assessing conveyor options for food manufacturers, Paul cites flexibility, robustness and food safety as key criteria.

“This food-grade conveyor from UPM Conveyors is one of the few systems on the market that meets all of these specific needs and allows us to continue giving customers trouble-free and application-appropriate choices. As a company, they have more than 40 years expertise in the conveyor market and their HMWPE conveyor has been operating successfully the world over for over two decades.”

Since Pacepacker showcased the HMWPE ‘SYSCON’ conveyor at its recent open day event, the likeminded innovators have already collaborated on several client projects. So, what makes this conveyor different to conventional belts? “In traditional conveyors, the belt is stretched over two rollers and this requires regular tracking and tensioning,” explains Roy Fowler, UPM Conveyor’s Sales Director. “With our HMWPE design, the belt runs in the side channels - top and bottom. As a result, friction is significantly cut. And because there are no pinch or trap points, manufacturers can maintain the highest level of hygiene and reduce the risk of cross contamination.”

The sides of the conveyor are made of HMWPE with stainless steel support frames. This makes it fully compliant with FDA regulations and being IP69K rated can withstand high pressure and close proximity washdowns.

Having fewer parts also means there’s less to go wrong, which also reduces maintenance time. As a result, UPM confidently offers customers a zero maintenance guarantee. UPM can also customise the conveyor for any automation format, including horizontal (flat), bucket, vertical, swan neck and carousels.

Modular by design, Paul admits that he was impressed by the conveyors flexibility, which can be adapted to production flow changes. “Inevitably, production layouts change, especially if your conveyor has a 25 year life span! Built using joining rods, this UPM conveyor can easily be reconfigured. For example, if you have a horizontal conveyor but want to introduce a vertical element, modules can be inserted.”

“In terms of RTI, this increases the life of a conveyor indefinitely,” exclaims Roy.

“Because the conveyor is not welded together, you can break in at any point. Which means it is never obsolete.”

Another key benefit of the channel design is holds down rollers are eliminated, explains Roy. “If we look at a swan neck conveyor, any incline or decline in a traditional belt requires hold down rollers, which drastically increases the friction and wear and tear on a belt. With the channel design, you can create a food safe swan neck layout without them.”

UPM’s unique HMWPE design, which was awarded the Queens Award for Innovation, can be interfaced with any type of Cartesian, delta or robotic automation system. What’s more, the belt is so robust it can be installed in environments where temperatures reach or drop to +/- 200 °C. It can also be found in injection moulding and dye casting environments. “We’ve even created customised installations for blow moulding settings where operators can physically stand on a UPM conveyor,” claims Roy. “They are that durable and sturdy.”

As with any Pacepacker automation installation, production flow efficiency remains paramount. Collaborating with UPM is enabling the award-winning company to continue meeting customer’s exact specifications for food handling whilst also boosting the lifespan of their conveyor.

Age is no barrier to innovation at Hanovia

Hanovia has celebrated its ninetieth anniversary with a special event at its Slough HQ.

For ninety years Hanovia has been quietly innovating. From its early days making UV lamps for treating skin conditions to today’s high-tech UV water treatment systems, the company has always been at the forefront of UV science and, at ninety, age is no barrier to innovation.

Hanovia is now a world leader in UV disinfection for applications as diverse as food and beverage processing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, brewing, electronics, swimming pools, buildings, ballast water and fish farms.

To celebrate its ninetieth anniversary the company hosted a celebration at its HQ which was attended by Shafiq Chaudhry, the Mayor of Slough, Rob Anderson, Leader of Slough Borough Council, representatives from SEGRO which runs Slough Trading Estate and ex-Hanovia employees.

After a brief talk by John Ryan, Hanovia’s Managing Director, about Hanovia’s long history – and looking ahead to the next ten years – visitors were able to tour the factory. Everyone found John’s talk interesting and the factory tour was the first time some of the visitors had even see a UV system, so there were plenty of interesting questions.

Bagging at 28% faster speed

Just when you thought sack filling couldn’t get any faster; Pacepacker Services has pulled yet another innovation out of the bag.

Ideal for crop packing agricultural producers and contract packers, the award-winning designer and manufacturer of bagging, pick and place and palletising automation equipment has further enhanced its range of sack placers, creating a new system that is now up to 28% quicker.

Boosting output by almost 360 sacks per hour while running at its maximum speed of 20 sacks per minute, the new sack placer is aptly named ‘The FastPac’. It further enhances Pacepacker’s established sack placing range which has made light and precise work of accurately presenting sacks to a sack clamp for filling for over a quarter of a century. However, it’s not just speed that makes this new addition to the range a showstopper. In yet another first for Pacepacker, the new FastPac system can now handle ANY bulk sack and bag, from paper to plastic and woven polypropylene, including hessian and nets.

Modular in design, customers can select a system that meets their sack placing needs, with the added bonus of being able to easily upgrade as their business expands or application requirements change.

“As a result of this modular construction, customers pay for the system they need and not for features that will sit idle,” emphasises Paul Wilkinson, Pacepacker’s Business Development Manager. “The enclosed construction meets current UK and international safety requirements and a reject system has been integrated to expel poor quality or badly loaded sacks, without the need for manual intervention.” What’s more, customers that have invested in the T20 Series from Pacepacker will be pleased to hear that there’s an upgrade pathway, so they too can benefit from the increased speed and reliability.

The new sack placer has been designed to meet the needs of all agricultural and bulk handling producers, working seamlessly with the higher-spec multi-head weighers which are becoming a common sight in many produce packing plants today. Offering higher speeds at more accurate weights, sack systems need to match the pace of this increased output, which The FastPac system does effortlessly. Sack weights ranging from 2kg up to 50kg can be accommodated.

The FastPac system works by picking up and placing open mouth sacks onto a filling spout, before product is placed into the bag and then sealed. Designed with an innovative linear moving sack clamp, the machine can handle two bags at different stages of the process, resulting in much faster bulk bagging without compromising on control.

“The clamp, which moves to and from the sack placer, enables the next empty bag to be placed whilst the previous one is being manipulated ready for sealing,” explains Paul. “This increased packing capacity makes The FastPac an ideal solution for contract packers where speed and flexibility are paramount,” he adds.

The new ‘FastPac’ sack placer will be on show at the forthcoming LAMMA Show.

Top CEO inspires future food engineers

Students on the UK’s only food engineering masters' degree course dedicated entirely to food and drink manufacturing got to hear from top industrialist Fiona Kendrick, CEO of Nestlé UK & Ireland.

Fiona’s lecture provided a valuable insight into the operations and the engineering challenges facing the world’s largest food and drink company. The keynote lecture at Sheffield Hallam University was part of the MEng Food Engineering programme.

The degree supported by industry started in September 2014 and has been developed by the Food and Drink Federation, the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink and Sheffield Hallam University to create employment-ready engineers with the skills most sought after by the UK's largest manufacturing sector.

The lecture coincided with the publication of new research by Nestlé UK & Ireland that further highlights the skills shortage the course is seeking to address. It reveals that 62% of UK businesses feel that Britain is facing a worrying shortage of young people with science, technology, engineering, and maths skills to meet future demand.

Nestlé UK & Ireland is one of over forty companies that are supporting the degree, which has been developed in close partnership with industry to be delivered by the new National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering at Sheffield Hallam. The degree offers guaranteed competitively-paid work placements with the UK’s top food and drink companies and real job prospects to its graduates.

Angela Coleshill, Director of Employment and Skills at the Food and Drink Federation, says, “It was a wonderful opportunity for students to hear from a real expert who has really achieved in the field. There is no substitute for people with experience to bring to life the course curriculum.

“Our industry's ability to achieve our ambition of growing by 20% by 2020 by driving innovation lies very much in the hands of our employees, particularly our future engineers. This is why businesses from across the industry have pledged their support and worked together to create the MEng Food Engineering degree at Sheffield Hallam University, developing the next generation of advanced engineers and leaders of the future. It’s great to see companies like Nestlé UK & Ireland going the extra mile to promote the fantastic opportunities available in food and drink.”

Fiona Kendrick says, “The food industry does encompass a fantastic and diverse range of businesses and offers so many interesting opportunities and career routes. This £6.9 million investment is a breakthrough moment for our industry and a really fantastic facility and I am delighted that students here today and in the future will benefit from it.”

COPA-DATA show off ergonomic software for brewing industry

COPA-DATA, software specialist for industrial automation, will be showcasing solutions for ergonomic production at the BrauBeviale.

The international beverage industry fair is set to take place in Nuremberg, between November 11th and 13th. The COPA-DATA stand will be located in Hall 7 at Booth 444.

COPA-DATA’s experts have prepared live demonstrations to prove the advantages of Multi-Touch technology in the industrial environment. The main benefits include intuitive handling, a minimal amount of training and induction, as well as increased operating safety, thanks to two-handed operation and gesture-based login.

BrauBeviale is one of the most important international exhibitions for the beverage industry, featuring raw materials, technologies, logistics and marketing for the production of beer and non-alcoholic drinks.

From the brewing process and line management, to monitoring overall equipment effectiveness and optimising energy supply, COPA-DATA’s industrial automation software is essential for the brewing industry. The zenon Product Family allows beverage manufacturers to gain full visualization, intuitive handling, efficient control and continuous optimisation of complex equipment.

"Competitive pressure, stringent compliance requirements and increasing raw material and energy costs are forcing companies in the beverage industry to react more flexibly and economise more efficiently", explains Emilian Axinia, industry manager for food and beverage at COPA-DATA GmbH.

"zenon is the key to continuous and ergonomic production, filling and packaging processes, increased line flexibility, maximum equipment availability and reduced Total Cost of Ownership."

Students get a taste of engineering at Premier Foods

A group of students have got an exclusive insight into what it’s like to be an engineer working in the food and drink industry.

The University Technical College Sheffield students visited the Worksop factory of Premier Foods to find out how products such as OXO stock cubes and Bisto gravy are made. The year 13 students were given a tour of the state-of-the-art and high-tech food production facilities and took part in a production engineering exercise which involved an OXO cube and Supernoodle challenge designed to bring engineering to life.

The visit forms part of food and drink manufacturers’ drive to recruit students onto the industry-backed MEng Food Engineering degree at Sheffield Hallam University. This masters course has been specially designed to develop the food and drink engineers of the future and is delivered by the recently launched National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering.

The degree course, exclusively delivered by Sheffield Hallam University offers real job prospects for its graduates. Students starting the MEng Food Engineering degree in September 2015 may also be eligible for a Food and Drink Federation bursary of £2500.

Karl Smith, Factory General Manager at Premier Foods, says, “There are many exciting career opportunities in the UK food and drink manufacturing industry including, for example; engineers, food scientists and technologists. We’re delighted to welcome these young students to our site and we hope to encourage them to consider the MEng Food Engineering degree at Sheffield Hallam University and a future career in the UK food and drink industry.”

Nick Crew, UTC Sheffield Principal, says, "We are delighted with the support offered by Premier Foods in giving an insight into the production facilities and technical careers within the food and drink industry. We work closely with employers and part of that involves raising awareness of the range of fantastic careers opportunities available within food engineering.

"UTC Sheffield provides the perfect learning environment to support the technical and employability skills of the future workforce. Students have the chance to go onto apprenticeships or university including the recently launched MEng Food Engineering degree at Sheffield Hallam University."

Faerch Plast to double production capacity

Faerch Plast is set to double production capacity in the UK following the planned installation of an additional extrusion line and associated thermoformers at its Durham manufacturing facility by early 2015.

This key strategic move will ensure the company continues to meet its annual output for CPET ready meal trays and high clarity APET and PP materials for cold foods and snacks, including bakery, dairy, vegetables and cold meats.

Since it was opened in summer 2012, the purpose-built, 14,000 sq m plant has reported significant growth and currently boasts sixty employees, one extrusion line and accompanying thermoformers. It operates to stringent hygiene, quality and environmental standards.

As part of this latest investment, Faerch Plast will install a range of additional associated production equipment such as cutting-edge robot packing systems, cooling machines and compressors. The plant will also benefit from a 2000 sq m extension to boost stockholding capacity and 50% increase in headcount with focus on production personnel.

Lars Gade Hansen, CEO at Faerch Plast Group, says, “This on-going investment in Durham emphasises our commitment to local customers and further increases supply chain security for our wide range of food containers. This also underlines the commitment of our new owners, EQT, to continue investing in Faerch Plast’s growth. It marks a very important time in our business strategy and will help accelerate our expansion in the UK."

Joe Iannidinardo, Managing Director at Faerch Plast UK, says, “The investment also enables us to efficiently service our UK customers with an enhanced portfolio of products in a facility built to the highest standards of quality and efficiency. We remain dedicated to investing in our customers’ futures and to growing our business.”

In line with its environmental objectives, Faerch Plast has been successful in offering a closed loop – Cradle to Cradle – process for the manufacture of trays from post- consumer recycled PET, or rPET. In this context a good example is the in-market trial programme aimed at significantly increasing the number of black CPET trays that are recycled, which Faerch Plast, M&S, Sainsbury’s and leading industry organisations have launched.

Food grade rPET flakes are purchased from two of the UK’s top plastics recycling companies. Further cleaning and careful control of the extrusion and thermoforming process at Durham ensures maximum recycled content.

Faerch Plast A/S has also acquired a plot adjacent to the factory, and as a consequence now has 30,000m sq m of industrial site at its disposal in Durham, This will allow for the possibility of further expansion as demand increases.

Since it was established in 1969, Faerch Plast has built an unrivalled reputation for high quality plastics packaging products, supplying major blue chip customers in the ready meal, fresh meat, cold foods and snacks and ambient food sectors with a wide range of containers and trays produced from PS, CPET, APET, PP, MAPET II and AMPET.

PPMA Show makes its triumphant return to NEC

The PPMA Show reaffirmed its status as the UK’s premier complete production line event for processing and packaging machinery, as 8190 visitors took to the NEC for its 27th show. Joining over 320 exhibitors, visitors arrived to discover the latest product launches, technological developments as well as insights from industry leaders such as Coca-Cola Enterprises, M&S, Tesco as well as the newly appointed Groceries Code Adjudicator.

Run over three days, the show once again benefited from the community atmosphere associated with the UK’s manufacturing industries, with exhibitors quick to praise the business and networking opportunities available at this year’s exhibition.

Alison Davies, Commercial Manager for PFM Packaging Machinery, said, “We’ve been extremely busy at this year’s show and it has been a great opportunity to secure new business. The PPMA Show is a great place to showcase PFM’s new innovations and to catch up with existing customers. For us, it has been a very fulfilling and worthwhile three days and we’re looking forward to exhibiting at next year’s show.” With a hotbed of innovation on display, visitors to the PPMA show were able to view the latest machinery from the world’s leading packaging and processing machinery manufacturers.

Kliklok engineer Dan Stamp was the recipient of the gold title in the PPMA Show’s Ones to Watch competition which celebrates the contributions of those people under the age of 35 working in the processing and packaging industries. Dan was awarded the title after the judges singled him out for the impact he has had both on the business, the wider industry as well as his continued enthusiasm and determination to succeed as a chartered engineer.

Dan says, "I'm over the moon to have been selected as the winner of the Ones to Watch competition. All of the finalists have impressive backgrounds and are a great example of young engineers in the industry today. I only hope we can be an inspiration to other young people considering a career in the engineering and manufacturing industries."

The PPMA Show also boasted a seminar programme with insights from such industry leaders including Coca-Cola Enterprises, M&S, Tesco and Wykes Farm. Harford Control and Morrison Bowmore provided the speakers at Food & Drink International's seminar.

Taking to the stage on the first day, Christine Tacon, Groceries Code Adjudicator, led a combative talk on the UK’s leading supermarkets and took the opportunity to encourage manufacturers to share examples of supermarkets abusing their code of practice. She said, “I don’t want to interfere in your commercial relationships with retailers but if you know of a practice that is not only affecting you but is also likely to affect others - isn’t that a justification to tell me so that I can take action. Give me the tools and I can do the job.”

Grant Collier, Head of Marketing at the PPMA Group, says, “With the PPMA Group taking the PPMA Show back in house it was important for us that this year’s show was a success. We are delighted with how the show went, the feedback we’ve gained from visitors and exhibitors alike and a renewed enthusiasm for the return of the PPMA show next year! In fact, the floor plan for PPMA 2015 is already filling up fast and we can’t wait to be back on the show floor.”

For more information on the PPMA Show 2015, visit

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