Field Reports

Survival food bar packaging line needed resusciation

Redesign and upgrades of the line yielded a 125 percent increase in throughput.

Datrex is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and distributors of safety and survival equipment and supplies used in the commercial marine industry. Critical among these survival necessities are food bars which, over the past 20 years, has become a continually expanding product line for Datrex in emergency preparedness kits used during earthquakes, flooding and hurricanes.

In mid-2011, Datrex opted to expand and upgrade the line to increase its throughput volume. “We got to a point where we had so many orders coming in that the line just could not handle the production requirements anymore,” says Scott Mills, executive vice president, operations at Datrex. The line manufactures and packages two sizes of survival food bars: 2,400 calorie and 3,600 calorie bars, both made with all-natural ingredients, and supporting a five-year shelf life.

From the early 1990s, the Datrex food bar line was primarily a manual process. The production process used a tablet depress to compact the product to approximately 3- x 4- x 3-in. cubes. In 2008, Datrex upgraded the speed and performance of its tableting machine to a multi-station rotary press to improve throughput.

An automated diverter feeds bars to each of the line’s shrink wrappers on conveyors
An automated diverter feeds bars to each of the line’s shrink wrappers on conveyors with Slip-Torque technology, which minimizes product damage. Source: Shuttleworth Inc.

Once manufactured, the bars were conveyed to a shrink wrapper, individually wrapped, run through a heat tunnel and sealed, then manually placed into pouches that were vacuumed sealed, boxed, palletized and put into storage or sent straight to shipping.

Throughput on this line was governed by the speed of the existing wrapper. But escalating sales volumes demanded higher throughput. To handle these production levels, the company needed to expand the throughput capability of the downstream packaging line. To engineer a solution, Datrex reviewed design proposals from a number of packaging manufacturers. It selected Conflex to design a shrink wrap solution and Shuttleworth to engineer an automated conveyor and wrapper infeed solution.

A unique aspect of the new packaging line is its split-wrapping functionality. Instead of designing a line where one wrapper runs at exceptionally high speeds, opening the door for jam-ups, miswraps and accelerated equipment wear, the Conflex/Shuttleworth design team maintained the existing wrapper and added a second, higher-throughput capability wrapper, integrating the two wrappers into two separate-but-integrated shrink lines.

After the food bars exit the tableting stations, they are conveyed in single file through a section of specialized accumulation conveyors with low back pressure, called Slip-Torque, before being diverted into one of two separate lanes destined for the different wrappers. Conveyors with Slip-Torque have the ability to modulate the speed of different sections of the conveyor via a central control PLC and HMI. Then, an automated diverter feeds a preset number of bars into the slower, original wrapper lane and feeds a larger quantity of bars into the lane with the faster wrapper. Each wrapper is fed the proper proportion of food bars relative to its speed capability.

Completed in March 2012, the new packaging line is a model of throughput efficiency, with the capability of processing a high volume of ration bars through the line with a minimal defect rate. “With the installation of the new packaging system, we have increased our production capacity by more than 125 percent compared to what we were previously running,” explains Mills. 

 For more information: Shuttleworth, 260-359-7850,

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Food Engineering's Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo 2015

Images from Food Engineering's Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo in Clearwater Beach, Florida, April 12-15, 2015. The event brought food and beverage processors and suppliers together to gain valuable information on the latest trends and technologies in manufacturing, automation, sustainability and food safety.


Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts

Food Engineering

Food Engineering May 2015 Cover

2015 May

The May 2015 issue of Food Engineering explores effective tools for hitting manufacturing targets. Also, read how processors are looking for faster ways to detect harmful pathogens in food and beverages without sacrificing accuracy or reliability.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Plant Facility/Site Issues

What issue about your current plant facility/site keeps you up the most at night?
View Results Poll Archive


Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.


FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.png linkedin_40px.pngGoogle +

Food Master

Food Engineering Food Master 2015Food Master 2015 is now available!

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit to learn more.