The client needed a greener solution for coffee packaging that would save energy, reduce waste and efficiently rework product without compromising production time or quality assurance processes.
The production of ground coffee for retail includes many steps–all subject to strict quality control. In the final stages, the beans are ground and then sent (via gravity) to lower floors of the factory where the coffee is packed for shipping. During the packaging stage, any number of issues can lead to product being discarded from the line. An incorrect bar code, a skewed label or any minor packaging defect can lead to otherwise perfect product being discarded.
Kraft needed a cost-effective solution that would allow for large amounts of product to be sent back back to the filling stations. Although it makes sense to the environment, “reworking” of product has a reputation of being costly, complex, time consuming and labor intensive. Often the costs are so high that it makes more sense to discard the product than rework it.
We were the specialist mechanical integrators who partnered with Kraft to find an ingenious and effective solution that would allow for a green and efficient recycling method–saving product without compromising quality, or wasting time and resources.
Design Build Partner–PIAB
Established in 1951, PIAB designs innovative vacuum solutions to improve energy-efficiency, productivity and working environments. Working with some of the world’s largest manufacturers, PIAB develops and manufactures a complete line of vacuum pumps, conveyors and suction cups for a variety of automated processes. PIAB is a worldwide organization with headquarters in Sweden and subsidiaries and distributors in more than 50 countries.
Challenge And Solution
The client needed a cost-effective rework system that would allow containers of coffee to be collected into a rework station. This would enable reuse of product in a system that would work efficiently, while minimizing waste and conserving energy.
We designed, fabricated, and installed a customized rework system using process piping, a vacuum conveyor from PIAB, and three rework stations with slide gates and product presence sensors. The system allows the client to easily transport reworked product to the main filling system.
Three customized stainless steel work stations were strategically placed on the first floor of the factory to provide efficient employee access. The rework stations are simple stainless steel constructed tables with integral surge hopper. The surge hopper is fitted with an access door and screen for product protection.
The surge hopper is also fitted with a level probe to signal the PIAB conveyor when product is in the hopper and ready for transporting back to the filler. A Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) ensures that reworked product is quickly and efficiently sent back to the filler for repackaging.
Each work station is isolated from the others with slide gates. When a work station is in use, the PLC queues the product by directing slide gates to either open or close. To conserve energy, the PLC shuts down the rework system when it is not in use.
Our Design Focus Adds Value To Everything We Do.
Working in partnership with PIAB, we delivered a greener, more cost-effective rework system. Our technically advanced solution adds value to the production process and gives tangible benefits, along with real incentive to reuse and recycle product.
Not only is this an entirely pneumatic system, it also functions completely on demand, running only when product is dumped into the hopper.
Large amounts of product that would normally be discarded, and wasted as a result, are now fed back into the production system.
The PIAB pneumatic conveying system does not have any moving parts and so is quiet and runs cool.