Even though counting is one of the fi rst skills we learn at a young age, it is sometimes a challenge. “I was in one food plant and they were supposed to have a stack of 15 crusts in every box. In reality, they had between 13 and 18 crusts in each box,” said David Brownson, engineering manager at Forpak, a division of MultiSource Manufacturing, LLC. “So they were either giving away a couple of crusts or shorting their customers – neither of which is a good thing.” Forpak is well-known for helping food manufacturers solve challenges like this and many more. Since 1989, the Burnsville, Minnesota-based machine builder has delivered cost-effective, efficient stacking equipment that helps customers package the right amount of product every time. After establishing its expertise in stackers for meat product, Forpak expanded to baked goods, such as waffles, cookies, sandwich thins and bagels thins. Recently, with its new GSII Stacker, Forpak is building equipment designed to meet the unique requirements of larger products, such as pizza crusts, pita bread and paper plates.
The stacking process is controlled by an Allen-Bradley CompactLogix programmable automation controller (PAC), which manages all machine functions – including motion – to help ensure the right count every time. The machine stacks at a rate of 80 pieces per minute per lane, which is ideal for larger product. Operators can easily monitor the stacking process using a touch screen Allen-Bradley PanelView Plus graphic terminal. The easy-to-view screen provides a window into the machine – displaying a slew of data, including machine statuses and alarms. Plant managers and operators can also access an uninterrupted flow of data running from the machine to the manufacturing and IT enterprise through the machine's managed switches communicating over EtherNet/IP™. This enables its customers to remotely monitor the GSII Stacker and use real-time operating data to make quick decisions that help improve efficiency.
“Because the machine uses exclusively Rockwell Automation technology and components, the entire installation and startup process is streamlined,” Brownson said. “A process that once took one to two weeks now only takes four days – a dramatic time- and cost-savings for our customers. In addition, maintenance is easier because most people in our industry are familiar with the Rockwell Automation platform.” The level of automation the machine provides helps reduce human error – especially when it comes to counting – and allows customers to re-allocate personnel to other areas in the plant.
The GSII Stacker is located between the cooling/freezing and packaging areas in the plant. “In some plants, there are between four and 20 people in this area orienting and stacking product, making it a heavy-traffic, error-prone spot,” Brownson said. “With the GSII Stacker, customers can reduce the number of employees in that area by at least 50 percent.”