“Our lines may be a little slower, but they are much more precise”

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In early March, Koppert Machines shipped Nature Fresh a snack tomato seal line feeder from the Netherlands, where the company is based. Nature Fresh is a leading tomato, pepper and cucumber growing company in Canada. “A lot is still done by hand in Canadian packing facilities, and there are virtually no shakers and buckets. They also give away a lot of their products for free, thanks to incorrect weighing,” says Paul Koppert of Koppert Machines.

“Nature Fresh already had a high-speed line that could handle 90 packages/minute. But they wanted a little more flexibility, so they ordered two single lines that each feed 50 packages per minute to the upper sealer. A local company supplied the top sealant. In the Netherlands we also outsource this to other companies like Multivac, Ulma, Proseal or Pack Automation.″

Brake flaps cushion the fall
Koppert Machines supplied the entire feeding system, from weighing the snack tomatoes to automatically placing the containers and feeding them, filled, to the top sealer. “The tomatoes are placed manually or automatically on a buffer belt which transports them to a conveyor belt where they are still sorted by hand,” explains Paul.

“The initial selection is already done in the greenhouse. But with today’s snacks, tomatoes are all pretty similar in size. After that, the tomatoes go into a multi-head weigher which places them in the package. To cushion the fall, we work with inclined plates with brake flaps. Tomatoes don’t really fall, they slide down. Then it’s on the top welder. »

Weight offered
In Europe, weighing is done very accurately, Paul says, while in North America they prefer to use “fillers.” “They don’t take the given weight very seriously yet. They are more concerned with the volume. But that can quickly mean a loss of seven or eight percent. They often have high-speed but inaccurate lines, especially for the blueberries.” Our lines ensure that Nature Fresh does a good job in this area. Our lines are not slow, but they are also very flexible and precise. “

Top seal trumps shakers
In North America, the top seal is more popular, while Dutch supermarkets more often carry shells, cups or shakers. “In America, they also have bowls, like the well-known Nature Sweet wrappers. But you won’t find any shakers there. The market in the Netherlands is now also gradually turning to top seal, but the Americans were earlier,” continues Paul.

“Buckets – which use slightly more plastic than top-sealed containers – seem to be becoming less and less common in the Netherlands. Redstar, as well as growers and small businesses, who package their products themselves and deliver them directly to supermarkets.″

Extensive automation not always beneficial
The first line that Koppert Machines supplied to Nature Fresh was fully automated with robots. “But if you work with different packaging formats, automation can become a barrier. It’s not always easy to switch from one robot to another packaging,” says Koppert.

“Suppose you are working with seven different formats and sizes, as Nature Fresh does; then you also need different clamps to put the packages into the cartons. Our current line can handle many types of formats. Nature Fresh has now opted for a simple, slightly slower line system where packages are manually placed in the box, but which can handle many more formats.”

Many still handmade
In the United States and Canada, packing facilities still rely heavily on cheap Mexican labor. “But everything gets harder and more expensive,” Pauls says. “During the pandemic, it was quite difficult to bring people from Mexico. And the minimum wage in Canada is now considerably higher than in the United States. So now you need to consider increased automation.

The line can be supplied including management software that provides several parameters such as speed and weight. The after-sales service is entirely online. “Our technical division provides online support. But, of course, a company like Nature Fresh is so big that it employs its own technicians. And it’s not like she has problems with the machine every week or every month, so it’s fine,” concludes Paul.

Paul Koppert
Koppert-Machines
Avenue Vlot 616
2681 Monster TX
[email protected]
www.koppertmachines.nl

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