Processors put a green foot forward





‘Green' mandates the focus of GMA conference

Several of the industry’s largest retailers have instituted “green” requirements for consumer products manufacturers that are now looking to their suppliers to submit evidence of their sustainability initiatives as well. Requirements range from reductions in energy, waste and air pollutants to “eco-friendly” sourcing, labor practices and safety for employees and community. Manufacturers and upstream suppliers will share how they’ve met the challenges of “green” requirements throughout the supply chain on a special panel at GMA’s Conference at PACK EXPO 2010 on November 2, 2010 at 9:45 a.m. The panel is entitled “Upstream Migration of ‘Green’ Requirements for Suppliers.”

The panelists include:

  • Bruce Cords, Ph.D., vice president, environment, food safety & public health, Ecolab-Cords is responsible for managing Ecolab’s sustainability activities, including raw material profiling, selection and de-selection. He has held a variety of positions within Ecolab’s research, development and engineering group. He is a member of the American Society for Microbiology, the Institute of Food Technologists, the International Association of Food Protection and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.
  • Jon Doering, director, environmental health & safety, The Schwan Food Company-Doering is responsible for business development in the areas of health and safety, sustainability, loss prevention/security, environment planning and permitting, environmental health and safety management systems and engineering. He has developed sustainability, environmental management systems and health and safety management systems, taking them from concept to certification and/or recertification. 
  • Willie K. Johnson, associate director, global product supply sustainability, Procter & Gamble-Johnson is responsible for accelerating and enabling the delivery of key elements of P&G’s Operations Sustainability strategy. He joined Procter & Gamble in 1986 as a product technical engineer. Since then, Johnson has held a variety of engineering, operations and strategic planning assignments.
For more information about all the sessions at the GMA Manufacturing Excellence Conference, visit the GMA site at PACK EXPO.


Stonyfield Farm VP of Natural Resources Nancy Hirshberg talks with corn farmer Robert Hawthorn as part of the company's latest sustainable packaging initiative. Beginning October 2010, all Stonyfield multipack yogurt cups will be made from plants. Source: PRNewsFoto/Stonyfield Farm.



Stonyfield switching to ‘green' cups made from corn

Stonyfield Farm has begun switching its plastic yogurt cups made from petroleum to those made from corn. Every Stonyfield Farm multi-pack yogurt cup-including YoBaby, YoToddler and YoKids (as well as B-Healthy, B-Well, Probiotic and O’Soy)-are being made from plant-based plastic. The new cup cuts carbon emissions by nearly half (48 percent).

The dairy processor made this change with no price increase for its multipacks. The new cups look and feel just like the petroleum-based polystyrene (PS#6) cups they replace; the only difference is the “Made from Plants” stamp on the bottom.

Stonyfield’s new plant-based cup is 93 percent polylactic acid, which at this time is made from corn. Within five years, the US Department of Energy predicts non-food plants will be viable alternatives. Until that time, the processor uses an offset program to produce a sustainable grown amount of corn equal to the amount used for the cups. Consequently, by taking an equivalent amount of GMO corn out of production, Stonyfield is not supporting GMOs.

Like the polystyrene material it is replacing, the new, plant-based cup is not recyclable in most communities due to the lack of a recycling infrastructure. Currently there are only two facilities that can reprocess the new material, but as more plant-based materials are used by processors, more facilities and recycling facilities are expected to come on-line.



Frito-Lay’s electric delivery trucks were rolled out in Columbus, OH. Source: Frito-Lay.



Frito-Lay begins ‘green' electric truck deployment in Columbus

Frito-Lay North America began rolling out some of its fully electric delivery trucks in Columbus, OH. The 10 trucks will ultimately be part of the largest planned fleet of commercial all-electric trucks in North America. In addition to Columbus, the processor will roll out electric trucks in New York City and Ft. Worth, TX this year.

Electric trucks reduce fuel consumption, noise pollution and CO2 emissions, compared to traditional delivery trucks. In total, the processor will deploy 21 electric vehicles (EVs) this year in the US and Canada. The company projects rolling out another 155 EVs in 2011.

The trucks, designed by Smith Electric Vehicles, generate zero tailpipe emissions and operate for up to 100 miles on a single charge. The initial rollout in Columbus was facilitated through a partnership with Clean Fuels Ohio, a statewide non-profit organization working to advance Ohio’s energy, economic and environmental security. The US Department of Energy awarded Clean Fuels Ohio $11 million for alternative fuel and advanced technology and infrastructure projects. Frito-Lay is receiving a portion of this funding.



Automation News





Proximity sensors check the state of valves in equipment at the König brewery. However, moving piping elbows were too much of a challenge for old proxes. TURCK uprox+ sensors offered a solution with a much greater usable distance capability. Source: TURCK.



König Brewery maximizes uptime with the right sensors

The König brewery in Duisburg, Germany-maker of König Pilsener-is one of the largest breweries in Germany. König only uses choice ingredients for brewing: first-grade hops from the best growing areas of the world, mellow and ripe barley and top-quality water. The company also pursues high standards in production and quality assurance, and attaches great importance to internal research and design to continuously optimize the production process of one of the most advanced brewery systems in Europe.

System availability also plays a decisive role in highly automated brewing systems. “A single problem in the production chain can jeopardize the entire production process and cause a standstill. In order to prevent such costly downtimes, we have consistently opted for quality,” comments Heinz Dieter Poscher, manager of the electronics workshop in the König brewery. For more than 20 years, the company has specified TURCK sensing components.

Pipe elbow adapters, which distribute and feed liquids such as brewing water and wort-an intermediate brewing product-are a crucial point in production. “In the production process, it is often required to shift the pipe elbow from one position to the next. Due to frequent loosening and fixing of the screw connection, the seal suffers continuous damage so that the distance between sensor and pipe elbow varies,” says Poscher.

Position monitoring is a typical application of inductive sensors. However, these sensors often must be re-adjusted or flexibly supported due to a sensor’s varying switching distances. This procedure is no longer necessary since the brewery selected TURCK uprox+ sensors that have a much greater sensing distance-up to 30mm-compared to conventional sensors with a ferrite core. In addition, only very small metal-free zones have to be observed during mounting, minimizing installation errors.

A double-lip sealing system prevents the ingress of cleaning agents into the LCP front cap, the threaded barrel and the connector insert, and effectively seals the sensor. A robust stainless steel housing securely protects the sensitive measuring core. The sensors exceed IP68 and IP69K protection requirements and withstand cyclic cleaning procedures at temperatures of 80°C or more with high-pressure chemical cleaning agents.

For more information on TURCK products and solutions, visit



(Left): FR Drake makes automatic food-loading machinery for the frankfurter industry. (Right): Stainless steel servo motors help improve machine cleanliness and performance. Source: Rockwell Automation.



A simpler solution for a clean machine design

FR Drake is a manufacturer of automatic food-loading machinery in the frankfurter industry. The Waynesboro, VA company builds loading equipment that prepares individual frankfurters for packaging by lining them up in rows just before they enter a horizontal form-fill-and-seal (HFFS) machine.

FR Drake engineers have always been proactive about meeting their customers’ needs, including the need for sanitary machines that can tolerate rigorous and frequent machine washdowns. Since standard servo motors cannot withstand high-pressure, caustic washdown processes, FR Drake engineers historically addressed the situation by building stainless steel covers in an effort to protect the motors.

Unfortunately, food particles often caught and collected on seams and rivets surrounding the housing. Also, washdown fluids eventually worked their way into the housing and made contact with the motor. Finally, the caustic chemicals damaged the point where cables connected to the motors, and potentially corroded the housing itself.

Even with stainless steel housing, standard servo motors typically last only five to seven years in a rigorous washdown application. Because each frankfurter loader uses four servo motors, end users of the machinery could potentially find themselves replacing a motor about once every two years.

“The stainless steel covers we were building helped increase the longevity of the servo motors, but not to the extent that we wanted for our customers,” said George Reed, vice president of engineering, FR Drake. “We identified a few characteristics of the motor housing that, if remedied, could further improve the reliability of our machinery.”

Since a typical FR Drake frankfurter loading machine is in the field for many years, Reed and his team decided to find a motor solution that could withstand the lifecycle of the machinery. The machine builder turned to its longtime automation solutions provider, Rockwell Automation, for a new option. Rockwell Automation suggested the Allen-Bradley MP-Series stainless steel servo motor to help improve hygienic machine design.

The motors feature a smooth, round design suited to cleaning because it provides a surface area where meat and liquids cannot easily collect. The motor is comprised of 300-grade stainless steel, which goes through special processing after component fabrication to remove impurities and promote greater corrosion protection. The motors also have factory-sealed cable exits.

“Updating our machinery with the MP-Series stainless steel motor was a very simple and straightforward retrofit,” said Reed. “Since we already were standardized on [Rockwell’s] Integrated Architecture system, and because these motors come in the same form factor, torque and programming language as other Allen-Bradley servo motors, it was a virtual drop-in replacement for the motors we were using.”

The MP-Series stainless steel motors allowed the machine builder to eliminate the design time and costs required for building the extra protective housing unit. Subsequently, the improved reliability of the manufacturer’s loading equipment has reduced the number of warranty requests the company receives, as well as the amount of motor maintenance the company must provide for customers. For example, in the first two years of using the MP-Series stainless steel motors, FR Drake personnel have not been called for a single field service issue, and the company is currently working toward making the motors standard on all of its loader machinery.

For more information, Tanja Bartulovic, 440-646-4117, Rockwell Automation.



Blackmores’ DC runs on a Dematic material handling system and uses PickDirector software to interface with wireless voice picking systems. Source: Dematic.



Nutritional supplements company streamlines DC with automated pick system

Blackmores, one of Australia’s leading natural health companies, recently consolidated its packing, distribution and main offices into its new Blackmores Campus at Warriewood, on Sydney’s northern beaches. The company supports a customer base of more than 5,000 health food stores, pharmacies, supermarkets and health practitioners throughout the country and SE Asia markets. The new facility brings the company’s operations under one roof for the first time in more than 15 years.

For the distribution center (DC), Dematic was brought in to build out the material handling system including conveyors and sortation equipment, with particular attention to automating the company’s order picking, including voice picking, pick-to-light systems and RF.

“Bringing our operations under the one roof not only provided direct supply chain savings in excess of one million dollars per year, it also enabled us to significantly streamline our supply chain and enhance productivity across the board,” says Blackmores Director of Operations Liz Burrows. “We have taken the opportunity to install an additional production line in the new manufacturing facility, giving the business a 20 percent increase in production capacity to support future growth.

 “We have also optimized our distribution IT systems with Dematic’s PickDirector software,” says Burrows.

PickDirector supports a wide range of picking hardware and integrates with routing and sortation systems to increase efficiency and track containers and their contents, potentially eliminating the need for a WMS. Inventory data from the ERP system is pushed directly into the software application. The system operates with voice picking technology, pick-to-light systems, put-to-light systems and RF-based picking solutions.

The new DC, which processes up to 500 orders per day, provides storage for 5,000 pallets housed in a combination of narrow-aisle, double-deep and selective racking up to 28 feet high. The various storage systems are serviced by a mobile materials-handling fleet including wire-guided trucks, double-deep reach trucks and forklifts. Separate, non-DC storage areas are provided for raw materials, packaging and quality control.

All of Blackmores’ split-case products are picked from a pick module comprising two aisles of carton live-storage and a small area of static shelving. A central, powered take-away conveyor with gravity conveyors on either side transports orders through the pick module, while an automated carton erector delivers empty cartons direct to the pick face via an overhead conveyor.

Voice picking is used for picking full case SKUs which are labeled and placed directly onto a central take-away conveyor. The system takes order information directly from the company ERP and delivers it to the picker. Pickers wear a portable, belt-mounted speech recognition device and a headset. The terminal communicates to the host computer via standard RF. This highly effective, paperless picking method eliminates pick lists. Operators simply listen, speak and scan.

“The hands-free, eyes-free feature of voice picking is providing productivity benefits,” says Blackmores’ Supply Chain Manager Stephen Vile. “The performance in the full-case pick module has been exceptional. We are now able to pick full cases twice as quickly as before, and with only half the workers. For the first few weeks, we ran our existing RF system in conjunction with voice picking, until all of our people were familiar with the new technology. The voice picking performance was far superior.”

For more information, contact Lizbeth Tommy at Dematic Corporation; 616-913-6662;



Food Safety News







Bad eggs and good eggs

The FDA sent a warning letter on October 15, 2010 to Austin J. DeCoster, owner of Quality Egg LLC of Galt, IA, identifying serious deviations from FDA’s regulation on the safety of shell eggs with respect to bio-security, rodent control and other measures. According to FDA, the letter also finds that the eggs at Quality Egg LLC are adulterated because they have been prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions.

The letter states, “Failure to take prompt corrective action may result in regulatory action being initiated by the Food and Drug Administration without further notice. These actions include, but are not limited to, seizure and/or injunction.”

Quality Egg LLC is one of two companies that recalled eggs in August, 2010, and has not shipped eggs (as of Oct. 18) to the table market since the August recalls.

In another statement from FDA, Hillendale Farms (the other company that recalled eggs in August) has been authorized to ship eggs to the table market from three of its egg-producing houses.

FDA’s decision is based on a thorough review of the company’s response to the inspectional observations noted by the agency in August. In addition, the three houses have been extensively tested and found to have no evidence of Salmonella contamination. Four other houses overseen by Hillendale are undergoing further testing. Hillendale Farms has also committed to an enhanced surveillance program for Salmonella.



Will Australian officials approve Quorn brand meat substitutes?



Quorn brand foods may cause allergic reactions

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is calling on Australian officials to prohibit the sale of Quorn brand meat substitutes after several consumers have reported allergic reactions ranging from nausea, vomiting and diarrhea to anaphylactic symptoms. Quorn is a meat substitute based on the fungus, Fusarium veneatum, which according to CSPI, is a mold discovered in a 1960s British dirt sample. Quorn brand food products have been on sale in the UK for 25 years and in the US since 2001. CSPI has also fought the approval of these products in the US and UK.

Early Quorn marketing materials sought to convey a relationship with more desirable fungi, such as mushrooms and morels, says a CSPI release. But according to a statement made by an expert in fungal taxonomy to CSPI, “mushrooms are as distantly related to Quorn’s fungus as humans are to jellyfish.”

Nevertheless, a number of consumers report the same allergic effects when eating Quorn products, and symptoms appear within an hour or two of eating the fungal-based food, according to CSPI. The meat substitute is used in artificial chicken patties and nuggets, turkey-like cylindrical roasts and meat-free analogs of several British delicacies like “Cornish pasties” and “Toad in the Hole.”

The use of myco-protein as an ingredient used in Quorn brand foods was originally submitted to FDA as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by Marlow Foods, a subsidiary of AstraZeneca Ltd., on November 30, 2001. Marlow Foods had been petitioning FDA since 1986 for the myco-protein to be used as a food additive.

As with many food allergens-peanuts or shellfish, for example-not everyone is susceptible to ill effects when eating Quorn brand products. In 2002, the UK-based Guardian reported that 100 people in 14.6 million in the UK and Europe were affected by the food, this according to tallies from Marlow Foods. CSPI says it has been collecting adverse reaction reports online, and the total numbers “more than 1,500 to date.”