Columns

Keep on churning

April 4, 2006
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
With a fluctuating economy and pressure to keep dairy prices low, the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association was looking for ways to improve product processes for its Laurel, MD, manufacturing plant, which processes butter, condensed milk and non-fat dry milk for use in infant formula, ice cream, candy and bakery items.

A Westfalia/Fuji EC-61 robotic palletizer was installed in Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers' Laurel, MD, plant where it helps the company save manpower and increase efficiency. Source: Westfalia.




One area under specific scrutiny was the plant's packaging and palletizing process, which required manually packaging and palletizing its perishable butter in 50-lb. and 25-kg. boxes with plastic liners. This process, on average, required two-and-a-half workers per shift. But in times of seasonal flux when more product was being handled, the worker's throughput rate of 100 boxes per hour was too static to get the job done.

"The average age of our workforce is 45," says Randall Fischer, assistant division manager at Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers. "Lifting hundreds of 50-lb. boxes each day would be hard on even younger workers. For this reason, the stacking job was the least popular, most strenuous job in the facility, and there was always a significant risk of injury when the job was done by hand."

To improve manufacturing efficiency, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers approached Westfalia Technologies, a York, PA, provider of material handling and warehousing automation systems, about a robotic palletizer. The company determined that the Westfalia/Fuji EC-61's rate and size characteristics fit the co-op's requirements. Another benefit of the robotic palletizer was that it required only 220 volts of power, which eliminated the need for an electrical upgrade.

In addition, the system features user-friendly programming software with a touch-screen operating system that enables operators to program changes in seconds, perform inventory monitoring, onboard diagnostics and real time I/O monitoring. Operators can also access an onboard lubrication schedule system and a fault history log.

While the equipment was ideal, there were three distinct challenges associated with installing it in the Laurel plant: a harsh environment, restricted budget and short, three-month timeframe for installation.

"We were particularly concerned about finding equipment to fit the environment," says Fischer. "Because we steam clean the butter churn and butter silo daily using the clean-in-place method, it creates a very warm, damp atmosphere. Some vendors offer stainless steel equipment, but that would have been cost prohibitive."

Further complicating matters was the floor of the butter line which was constructed of brick laid over a sand base. Westfalia's engineers had to determine how to keep the robotic palletizer and its base platform dry in this damp environment while properly anchoring and supporting the weight of the system.

The engineers decided to remove the floor where the robotic palletizer would be installed down to the concrete sub floor and pour a 4-ft.-by-4-ft. concrete pad/curb to an elevation of about 4 in. above the sand and brick floor grade. The base and the robotic palletizer were installed on this pad, providing the needed stability and allowing the base to be kept out of the water that accumulates during washdown.

Westfalia engineers were able to have the system installed eight weeks after receiving the purchase order and the final cost was less than the cooperative had budgeted for the project. So, not only were the location, time and cost obstacles overcome, but the process has benefited, as well.

"One person can now operate the line," says Fischer. "This system saves on manpower and eliminates the liability associated with a manual palletizing operation. Within two years, the palletizer will have paid for itself."

For more information: Tom Price; Westfalia Technologies; 570-945-7834; tprice@westfaliausa.com

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

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

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

Fabulous Food Plant: Paramount Citrus

Learn more about this fabulous food plant in Food Engineering's article, found here.

Podcasts

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

What was your favorite part of FA&M 2014?

View Results Poll Archive

THE MAGAZINE

Food Engineering Magazine

Food engineering magazine 2014 april cover

2014 April

Catch a preview of the Powder and Bulk Show in this April 2014 edition of Food Engineering. Also, be sure to check out a coffee stick making a real stir and a major advancement in the the pet food industry.
Table Of Contents Subscribe

THE FOOD ENGINEERING STORE

Food-Authentication-Flyer-(.gif
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.

Food Master

Food Master Cover 2014Food Master 2014 is now available!

 

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

Visit www.foodmaster.com to learn more.

STAY CONNECTED

FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.pnglinkedin_40px.png