Frontline Packaging Limited has recently completed the installation and commissioning of a major, innovative new packaging line for ethical, fair-trade tea producer Clipper Teas. Tony Hacker, MD at Frontline Packaging explains why this is an exciting project for the business. "It's a first for Frontline Packaging in many ways and represents the development of the business into the design and manufacture of a new case packing machine, as well as the supply of complete end-of-line packaging systems. We're very happy with the way it went, we handled the whole project in-house and it has worked extremely well since the day it was commissioned."
Boosting tag and bag tea production capacity
Due to an increase in business, particularly from the export market, Clipper needed to increase their production capacity for string & tag tea. This led to the purchase of an additional tea machine to manufacture the tea bags which in turn created the need for a whole new packaging line to pack the tea cartons in to perforated shelf-ready cases. The line needed to produce and pack a wide selection of case collations including cartons containing many different flavours.
It was a complex project and Clipper chose Frontline Packaging Ltd because it displayed a clear understanding of the brief and had performed well when it previously supplied and installed four automatic shrink-wrapping systems and a pallet stretch wrapper. Frontline initially surveyed the application and proposed a complete solution for packing the tea cartons from the point where they exit from the tea bag making machine.
Designing the system
Frontline designed and manufactured the case packer and conveyors and supplied a carton closer, case erector, case sealer and print & apply labeller. It then installed and commissioned the complete system and co-ordinated the whole project through in-house project management. It also worked closely with Clipper to ensure the design of the cases worked efficiently within the new system.
There were a number of specific technical challenges that had to be overcome with this project, and this is where Frontline was able to add value with its knowledge and experience of end-of-line packaging and specifically case-packing applications.
The main challenge was to place the rectangular cartons into the case without clashing with the open case flaps. A Universal Robot supplied by R.A. Rodriguez was chosen for this part of the task because it allowed Frontline to tilt the collations of cartons to deflect the top flaps of the case and therefore avoid any clash.
Another key challenge was to orientate the cartons into the right position for packing, which required three ninety-degree rotations as they travel through the system. Each rotation had to be consistent and reliable to ensure the cartons were delivered in the correct orientation to the next stage of the process.
At the heart of the system is the case packer and the collaborative Universal Robot was key to its design. It was chosen because it works well in a more compact machine. It is specifically designed to allow enhanced and safe human/robot collaborative working - making it easier and safer to use in areas with limited space. It also has a very easy to understand, intuitive touch-pad control system, which allows the customer to easily modify or create programmes.
The combination of these features allowed the machine to fit into the limited space available and to be adapted easily to the varied nature of the application.
The shelf-ready cases posed another challenge. They are particularly long and narrow which makes them difficult to erect, load and seal. A key factor in over-coming this was Frontline’s contribution to the design of the cases and to various features that were incorporated into each machine within the system.
Delivered and working within a week
Steve Norris, Engineering Manager at Clipper Teas, is very happy with how the project went. " The fact that Frontline had control over the whole of the packaging project is the main reason that it worked so well and was up and running so quickly. This allowed us to concentrate on the tea bag production side of the project, safe in the knowledge that Frontline was taking care of the down-stream equipment. We're extremely pleased with the system and it's performing really well and we were particularly impressed that it was up and running so soon after delivery."
“Another benefit of having Frontline control the whole project was the speed of delivery and commissioning. Delivery of the equipment took place on a Saturday, it was moved into place on Sunday and it was running by Wednesday, followed by commissioning and training being completed on Friday. Since then the system has been extremely reliable and we have already proved its versatility by adding a new format that was not part of the original design brief.”
The success of the project marks another significant milestone for Frontline since its formation in 2012, which now operators from new premises near Cambridge, by showing that it can handle the design and manufacture of its own case packing machines as well as project management of complete systems. This also complements its on-going activities of supplying and supporting a highly regarded product range including case erectors, sealers, shrink wrappers and pallet wrappers.