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Flexibility meets ease of maintenance

A new wrap around case packing system provides the flexibility to process multiple bottle formats and case styles for pet products manufacturer Hartz Mountain while offering ease of maintenance.

Case packing solutions increasingly need to have a design that supports multiple product configurations and case types to suit the variety that retailers and consumers are after, while making the equipment easy to maintain for operations. For Hartz Mountain Corp., a pet products manufacturer, its recent implementation of a retail ready secondary packaging machine is delivering on both of these fronts.

Since mid-December 2020, when it opened a new production line at its facility in Pleasant Plain, Ohio, Hartz Mountain has been running a new wrap around case packaging system for the line (SOMIC America). The 424 case packing system is meeting expectations with its space-saving design, performance and flexibility.

“The equipment is exceeding our expectations,” says Jake Wojtkiewicz, Hartz’s engineering manager. “We chose the SOMIC machine due to the flexibility of the case format and the design.”

Another benefit of the overall solution has been the speed of implementation, added Wojtkiewicz. “From the time we uncrated the machine to entering production, it took about seven days until we were able to run full production,” he says.

The decision to bring production back to the 250,000-square-foot facility comes at a time when the pet care industry is experiencing growth in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. Hartz has been in the pet care business for 95 years and offers 14 well-known product brands for dogs, cats, birds and fish, ranging from toys and treats to grooming aids and flea and tick sprays.

To accommodate, seven different bottle formats and two case styles—standard wraps and Shelf Ready Package (SRP) trays with corrugated covers—are run on the case packer. A total of 65,000 bottles are processed in one shift, five days a week. Wojtkiewicz says that depending on the product, they do either 5,400 12-pack cases or 13,000 SRP cases bundled as a five-pack.

“The case packer runs at a rate of 150 bottles (12.5 cases) per minute for the SRP five-packs,” he said. “We do not plan to increase the rate of the machine, but we did build this production line with the expectation of adding future shifts to cover increased demand and distribution.”

The case packing system design offers ease of maintenance as well as a less noisy production environment. “The design of the machine is novel,” Wojtkiewicz says. “I’m used to conventional case packers that use a lug bucket chain for the case transport with rotary tucking and folding tooling. The design eliminates that and replaces it with contrast folding tooling and a simple vacuum belt. “This makes maintenance of the machine significantly easier. It also reduces the noise level of the equipment while in operation and the overall footprint.”

The primary folding of the case takes place at a single station, Wojtkliewicz says. “We’re used to this operation happening while the case is in motion utilizing several servo-controlled tucker/folders,” he said, alluding to the machine’s high functioning mechatronic control platform.

“The design eliminated the need for the complex timing adjustments necessary with more conventional case packers,” added Wojtkliewicz. “The human machine interface is well thought out and provides full motion and timing control for all machine functions.”

The case packing system has versatility to handle multiple configurations. “The open design is great and makes it very easy for maintenance, changeovers and cleaning,” Wojtkliewicz says. “My operators have a full, unimpeded view of the equipment when it is running. This allows for better troubleshooting and adjustments since we can clearly see what is happening inside the machine.”

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About the Author

Roberto Michel's avatar
Roberto Michel
Roberto Michel, senior editor for Modern, has covered manufacturing and supply chain management trends since 1996, mainly as a former staff editor and former contributor at Manufacturing Business Technology. He has been a contributor to Modern since 2004. He has worked on numerous show dailies, including at ProMat, the North American Material Handling Logistics show, and National Manufacturing Week. You can reach him at: [email protected].
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