The TOPLINE bagging system from the Behn + Bates brand of Haver Filling Systems takes the load off workers and increases production rates at Grain Millers. Source: Haver Filling Systems.
Grain Millers, based in Eugene, OR has been packaging conventional organic whole grain products for more than 30 years. These grains are used in baked goods, breads, cereals and a wide range of other products served around the world.
Getting the grains from raw commodity to finished product is a long process, one that involves several steps before packaging. From flake rollers and dryers to vibratory trays and bucket elevators, Grain Millers relies on several machines to come together and create a smooth, cohesive process. “We operate a closed-loop system,” says Tony Selby, Grain Millers’ plant manager. “Basically, it means we’re able to connect each piece of machinery together so we don’t interrupt the flow and disrupt the progression of steps.”
The last step, however, was the backbreaker—weighing and bagging products manually. The strain was beginning to show, not only in the workforce but also in the company’s bottom line. The manual system required operators to move 25- to 50-lb. bags, weigh each one to ensure accuracy, take it through heat sealing and, finally, place it on a pallet.
“It was a tedious and extremely tiring process,” says Selby. “It really took expertise to properly run the manual machine, and it was extremely labor- intensive work.”
The physical strain left operators fatigued, often with sore arms and backs. In a typical workday, operators rotated out and took frequent breaks to keep fatigue at a minimum. The constant pauses and downtime meant inefficient production and lower bag filling rates.
The Grain Millers team knew it needed to find a solution, and its research led to the TOPLINE, a machine that seemed like the ideal solution. Even so, the team explored all its options. “We communicated our needs to several manufacturers and asked them to let us know how their bagging machines could meet them,” says Selby. “At the end of the day, we couldn’t find a system that fit what we were looking for better than the TOPLINE from Haver Filling Systems.”
Grain Millers has had the filling system and Haver’s MEC weighing control system for about four years. The fully automated system accomplishes the entire bagging process from product weighing to filling and bag closure.
“One of our biggest challenges had been finding operators who could run the labor-intensive system, both from the skill level required and the physical demand,” says Selby. “When we saw how easy the TOPLINE system was to operate, we were pretty much sold.”
The system weighs the product, fills the bags and seals the filled bags, and it requires only one operator to oversee the process and stack empty bags into the automatic bag placer. Product flows into the machine through a hopper system. Once product is inside, the bag filler takes an empty bag from a preassembled bundle, fills it to its specified weight and then ends the process with densification and sealing. The system works quickly and requires very little manual labor.
The MEC weighing control system is programmed with weight and specifications of every grain the company bags. Whenever a product or bag size is switched out during a shift, the operator simply enters the new product ID number, and the machine automatically adjusts to the specified product.
Since the transition, Grain Millers has seen a decrease in downtime and increases in production and accuracy. Production rates have gone from four to five tons to six to seven tons an hour. Production rates are up to approximately 54,000 tons per year, about 40 percent higher than the 38,000 tons Grain Millers was processing annually prior to getting the new system. At the same time, weekly maintenance time has gone down significantly, from six hours a week to only two.
“We’re working the same hours, but we’re able to produce two to three tons more every hour. It’s really made a difference in our operation,” says Selby.