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    Meat packer doubles production capacity

Compact rollstock thermoform/seal and dual-chamber vacuum machines tighten packaging efficiencies at a Mid-West Meat distribution facility.
- Judy Rice, Contributing Editor


A Wholesale meat distributor based in the Mid-West US, custom packages portion-control and subprimal cuts of porterhouse steaks, ribeyes, veal chops, poultry, and hamburger for food service customers in two overlapping shifts each day. The company was enjoying increased demand for its products, but had budget constraints and limited floor space to install new packaging equipment.


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After investigating various machines that could perform up to the company’s expectations and still fit into the limited available plant space without busting the budget, the company opted to install three new compact R140 thermoform/seal rollstock machines and two compact C500 vacuum chamber machines, all manufactured by Multivac Inc. The double-chamber vacuum machines were selected because of their capacity to efficiently handle primals such as tenderloins, strip loins, ribeyes, bulk ground beef, and all large pieces or quantities over 10 pounds. All the machines are easy to clean, meeting stringent sanitation requirements.

About 10’-long each, the R140 rollstock machines offer versatility for use with both flexible and semi-rigid film and can be extended to include additional equipment components. The C500s are double-chamber vacuum systems that work in tandem with dip tanks to hermetically seal packages of meat cuts up to 20”Lx8”Wx3”H. The dip tanks shrink the packaging film, reducing wrinkles to produce a better package appearance.

Installation and start-up

From placement of the machinery order until installation spanned 10 weeks. Multivac engineers installed the machines, assisted in start-up, and then trained plant personnel in machinery operation and maintenance procedures for a week.

The company opted to use a coextruded barrier film made of ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) and polypropylene from Cryovac, a division of Sealed Air Corp., as the meat packaging medium. The bottom web of the packaging is 7 mils, and the top web is 3 mil. Modified-atmosphere gases are not used in the packaging operations, although the TFS machines provide that option in the event the company decides to incorporate MAP at a later date.

The meat packages are printed on the top web just before package sealing with date codes and USDA establishment numbers, using Model No. aa4318 stamper-type equipment from Bell-Mark. They then are manually boxed for shipment in refrigerated fresh or frozen states, based on individual customer needs.

Reaping benefits

Since installing the new packaging equipment, the company now efficiently packs at least 30,000 pounds of product daily. The company's vice president of notes, “With our new machines up and running, we have more throughput and can cut up to an hour or more each day off the back end—eliminating the bottlenecks and reducing overtime labor costs. We went from 5.5 cycles per minute up to 8 or 9, and moved from 22 to up to 50 filets per minute, and from 5.5 stacks of hamburger patties up to 14 stacks per minute—more than doubling overall production.”

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The company's vide president also notes that changeover from one product size or type to another takes only about three or four minutes—especially important because the company runs about 13 different product and package sizes. The finished packages also have a vastly improved appearance—tight and smooth with no wrinkles—enhancing the overall quality image of the company's products.

 
 
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