Automation aids pretzel production but brings along other issues to be resolved.

Bagged pretzels first travel through Loma Systems’ IQ2 metal detector (background) before being transferred to the blue checkweighing conveyor. The touch screen controls enable easy LCW checkweigher changeover. Source: Loma Systems.

In business since 1986, East Shore Specialty Foods (ESSF) offers seasoned and flavored specialty pretzels in a variety of shapes and sizes. When served in combination with East Shore mustards, the two are a simple yet sophisticated snack.

In 1995, the Hartland, WI, company moved into a custom-designed plant. “For many years, we were filling bags with our pretzels by hand. Although several equipment manufacturers had approached us with automation ideas, we didn’t like the extra bag head space that resulted with typical form-fill-seal machines,” says ESSF owner, Jeri Mesching.

Because the company reaches an upscale gift and gourmet clientele, it was important that each bag that “looked nice and full.” But Mesching considered the “nice look” and automation mutually exclusive. A few years ago, however, an overseas equipment manufacturer offered to custom-build a form-fill-seal unit that could address Mesching’s aesthetic concerns. Automating this production step gave way to other issues. ESSF was changing from a heavily manual operation with multiple visual inspections to an automated operation where the product would travel through equipment with metal components. Further, there were concerns about weight accuracy.

“With the new form-fill-seal unit, the weight wasn’t always perfect. And we were now packing at faster speeds. We knew that it was not realistic to manually remove every bag and hand-weigh it, so we decided to add a checkweigher,” explains John Paul Mesching, operations manager.

After a recommendation from another equipment supplier, ESSF contacted Loma Systems to explore alternatives. Because of space restrictions, ESSF knew it would be a challenge to place a checkweigher-let alone a metal detector-on the production floor.  Loma suggested its LCW checkweigher, which has a frame that can also accommodate a metal detector. Instead of two free-standing units, Loma’s IQ2 metal detector can be mounted on the same frame as the LCW checkweigher.

 “Space was a real issue for us. Loma was able to simplify things by coming up with this solution,” John Paul Mesching says. “The checkweigher scale is very accurate.  Sometimes a pretzel can be ‘hung up’ in the filling tube and not make it into the bag.  The checkweigher allows us to catch the misfill immediately. Also, the metal detector is set at a highly-sensitive level so we are able to catch very small pieces. We know with certainty that we are giving our customers what they want, and that is very important to us.”

 “The touch screen contr tols enable very easy checkweigher changeover. The preprogrammed panel allows you to automatically adjust for bag length and belt speed so that the unit is compatible with the filling operation,” explains John Paul Mesching. “The metal detector is already preprogrammed to handle our product parameters, so we typically don’t have to adjust anything.” 

For more information: Gary Wilson, Loma Systems, Inc.,