Corporate, Industrial scales, Inspection solutions, Load cells, Service, Software, Weighing electronics

Automate your production processes; create efficiencies every step of the way

Automation is increasingly being used on processing and packaging lines to overcome difficulties and keep them running effectively and efficiently. The impact of global challenges on local economies is impacting on the manufacturing of products and consumables; therefore, the automation of processes is one of the ways to overcome these challenges for customers. Labour shortages, demands for consistency and meeting food safety standards are just some of the issues but other drivers are coming into effect. The desire to reduce packaging, waste and be more environmentally friendly are increasingly at the forefront of customers’ minds so it is important to provide them with the solutions they need.

Peter Walker, Country Manager for the UK and Ireland said “Normally the overwhelming justification (for companies buying automated machinery) is product saving, but we’ve really noticed a switch now to labour saving - and not just labour saving but automating a process because there is no labour available to them”. By automating more of the production process, the need for staff diminishes allowing long and consistent runs of product. It also reduces the requirement to train and maintain staff’s skills and absence is no longer a worry or concern for management. Consistency has been proven to greatly improve because everything is being checked and everything’s being done in a consistent way time and time again. Peter continued “One of the biggest buying motivators for customers is because staff costs are rising – and that’s when you can get the staff. And, of course, what people realise is that as they automate, they generally manage to pack much better and in such a way that they don’t give away so much product. That will result in savings. Additionally, there’s currently a two-year government incentive to buy equipment that is very tax-efficient for people investing in automation.”

Identifying where automation is key

The wide range of products within the Minebea Intec portfolio enables customers to easily identify products that can facilitate their manufacturing and where automation is key. The success of implementing these solutions lie with an experinced and dedicated sales team who work day in day out to overcome customer challenges. Mark Clifford, New Business Manager – UK & Ireland said, “We offer a consultancy where we visit the customer and talk through the entire process, so we can really understand the requirements and challenges they face. As part of that consultation we identify where automation can benefit them and then demonstrate how it can be implemented so they are confident in making an investment in it.”

One of the most recent additions to the Minebea Intec range is an automatic weigh price labelling machine WPL-A. This application is used mainly in fresh produce industries such as meat, cheese and fish where weights vary and therefore other variables such as cooking times get automatically printed on product labels. Long-standing customers Norseland, a cheese specialist in Ilchester had a fairly manual process of labelling their cheese portions. When the time came to replace their old equipment, they decided to automate the process. By incorporating the WPL-A into the production line, they eliminated the requirement to have somebody stood there sticking on labels and now make better use of their staff time within the factory.

Another recent addition to the portfolio is a range of vision systems which automatically check the printing of barcodes and the integrity of the product being packed. Several models are available including the VisioPointer®. This automated application provides manufacturing businesses with yet another solution on their processing and packaging lines to ensure reliability and quality of product.

Evaluating whether to automate

When evaluating the pros and cons of automation, customers should firstly review payback and consider the ROI. They also need to look at futureproofing: Can this equipment adapt if my products adapt? What are my limitations? What if I change my packaging sizes? What if I change my label sizes? How flexible is the equipment that I’m buying? On top of that, the experience that the equipment manufacturer has is important, as well as their presence and support for the chosen product.

Peter concludes, “We have our own in-house service team, and we offer a range of contracts to the requirements of each individual customer depending on the type of response times they are looking for and how involved they like us to be with their maintenance. We do offer support right up to 24-hour, seven-days-a-week, on-site support for customers who feel that’s important. We also have a network of partners that we can use to help us cover some of that if we need to. Additionally, we’ve got our Minebea Intec Academy where we can train customers’ staff and maintenance engineers to run the machines efficiently and look after them. We can either run training courses in-house in our training and showroom, or we can do that on-site. ”

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