Customer contact: Robert Vrinssen, Project Engineer
Project: Pouch Handling system(s) at PPF production plant in Czech Republic
Partner in Pet Food (PPF) is an innovative and leading European pet food producer. The company supplies over 200 customers, including major grocery retailers, in the 36 markets in which it operates. PPF is the second largest producer of private label wet and dry pet food in Europe. They offer a full range of high quality cat and dog food products including; dry; cans; alucups; pouches; semi moist; snacks and cat milk. PPF is headquartered in Budapest and employs around 1200 people. Their eight production facilities are located across Europe in Hungary, Slovakia, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
PPF and Lan Handling Technologies
The first project between PPF and Lan Handling Technologies (former LAN Handling Systems) dates back to 1987. It involved a basket loader unloader. At the time, PPF was active under the name Rocofa. In 1993 Robert Vrinssen joined PPF but it was not until 2006 that he first contacted LAN Handling systems.
Since becoming independent from Provimi Group in 2011, the cooperation between the two companies experienced a real upswing at the moment PPF started to invest largely in innovation and the expansion of product lines.
Responding to market developments, PPF started to use pouches as a product carrier for its pet food products. For product handling, their initial interest went out to a “one stop shop” solution at INDAG GmbH & Co. Betriebs KG (Wild Indag), to supply both the filler and the handling system. For the handling system, the primary requirement was for robots to be part of the engineered solution since they offer greater flexibility and lower maintenance costs than conventional handling systems. Since Wild Indag did not have robotic pouch handling of their own Robert turned to his trusted network for advice where a respected contact advised him that Lan Handling Technologies would be the best company to provide a reliable automated robotic pouch handling system.
Once the contact with Lan Handling Technologies was established it did not take long for both companies to come to an agreement about the solution. “As we were going for quality and robustness, we knew Lan Handling Technologies was the right place for us to be”, said Robert Vrinssen.
So far, three pouch handling systems have been successfully installed at PPF’s production plant in Czech Republic, with number four and five currently in order.
The first pouch line PPF ordered with Lan Handling Technologies needed to fit inside an existing production hall that had limited space available. Partly thanks to the robotics, Wild Indag’s filler combined with Lan Handling Technologies' handling system could be built in a compact way. The next challenge was the physical transport of the stacks with pouches to the batch sterilizer. Due to the lack of space, an automated solution like a shuttle would not fit. In order to make this work an extension of the building would be necessary. PPF finally decided to go for a manual solution allowing them more flexibility against lower costs in the end.
The pouches come in from the supply belt seal to the front and gusset to the back. This specific pouch supply requires a different pouch stop mechanism. A stopper, which is more commonly used, would not function well in this particular case. Lan Handling Technologies solved this with a push rather than a stop solution. The pouches are pushed in the right position on the conveyer belt. Once the pouches are in position, they slide from one to the other conveyor belt directly in the correct position for printing. Lan Handling Technologies integrated a printer into the line and designed a flattener that shapes the pouches in the correct form for an imprint.
Another quality control feature is a sample pouch conveyer which is controlled from an HMI panel and enables the operator to take random samples.
Lastly, in the unloading part of the system, Lan Handling Technologies designed a tray turning unit which prevents pouches from being left behind on the trays before these will be stacked for manual transport back to the loader.
“From our first contact with Lan Handling Technologies all the way to the installation onsite we have experienced a professional and committed team that takes full responsibility for its product and all that is related with it”, says Robert Vrinssen, Engineer with PPF.
“Lan Handling Technologies really stands out from the crowd where it comes to communication, project planning and work done by the technicians onsite. But of course, I also see some room for improvement. Lan Handling Technologies’ standards are high and fundamentally this is a very good thing. In practice, however, we experienced some delays as well. Small issues that, to my opinion, could have been resolved quicker if Lan Handling Technologies’ onsite working staff would have had a bit more decision making power. From what I have experienced, I am convinced that they are capable enough to handle it”.
5015 BK Tilburg