Nature's Path on the right track with snack bars
The family owned company doubled the output of its organic rice and granola bars after installing a new packaging line. Earlier, the delicate and sticky bars often broke during packaging, jamming equipment and necessitating frequent downtime for cleaning. Nature’s Path new bar packaging system boosted production speeds and run time, resulting in up to six times the output.
The path to success
Bosch helps Nature’s Path double output of its organic rice and granola bars
Since its beginnings in 1985, Nature’s Path has prided itself on providing a variety of 100 percent organic food, including cereals and granola bars. Based in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, the family-owned company produces delicious products that are both FairtradeTM- and non-genetically modified organism (GMO)-certified. This has benefits up and down the supply chain, from farmer to consumer. Health-conscious consumers of all ages caught on to the company´s delicious and nutritious products – so much that demand began to outpace production.
In particular, Nature’s Path granola and rice bars, such as the Peanut ChocoTM Granola Bars and Chocolate Crispy Rice Bars, became so popular that the company needed to upgrade its packaging machine to boost output. The delicate and sticky granola bars often broke on the existing machine, jamming the system and necessitating frequent downtime for cleaning.
Nature’s Path partnered with Bosch Packaging Systems and Charles Downer & Co., Ltd., a manufacturers’ representative, for a completely reengineered bar packaging line for its Blaine, Washington, facility that doubled processing speed and quadrupled run time, resulting in up to six times the output of the previous solution.
To find the best solution for the challenging rice and granola bars, Nature’s Path approached several packaging companies and surveyed their solutions, including Bosch. Nature’s Path had previously worked with Bosch to wrap its signature toaster pastries using a Doboy flow wrapper. It became clear that Bosch’s bar packaging line provided the most advantageous and efficient system.
Nature’s Path’s previous solution featured one wrapper, cartoner and case packer with manual palletizing. The new system, a Bosch bar packaging line, is designed as a single, seamless system rather than a chain of machines. To achieve a reliable and optimized production flow, the speeds of all components in the bar packaging line are balanced to eliminate bottlenecks and minimize downtime. As a result, the completely automated line runs at speeds up to 500 products per minute – more than double that of the previous solution. In addition, the new wrapping material dimensions conform closer to the actual product, reducing material needed and resulting in a 6 percent saving on primary wrapping and tri-seal carton materials.The bar packaging line has been so successful that Nature’s Path has plans to add a second leg to further increase production.
“The bar packaging line is meeting all original design specifications,” said John Oucharek, director of engineering at Nature’s Path. “We’re now positioned to add a second leg if production capacity requires it.”
The rice and granola bars’ gooey and sticky characteristics are treasured by consumers but present particular packaging challenges. Because the product is so sticky and prone to breakage, production on the previous solution had to be halted every two to three hours due to extensive build-up of damaged products. The new bar packaging line’s non-contact infeed guides the product with minimal breakage, allowing the system to run at double the speed than the old line and up to eight hours before cleaning. This quadruples production time and the output by up to factor six.
As Nature’s Path packages different products on the same system, easy and thorough cleaning was of paramount importance to eliminate all traces of possibly allergy-causing ingredients. The bar packaging line features standardized parts and components, as well as high visibility and accessibility, that simplify cleaning and maintenance. All belts, endrollers, catch pans and scrapers can be removed without tools for expedited cleaning. In addition, the bar packaging line offers the flexibility needed for speedy product changeovers.
With the fully-automated bar packaging line, Nature’s Path was able to reduce manpower from eight operators to two, allowing the company to redirect workers to higher-skilled tasks. All interfaces and components, including the distribution station, accumulator, flow wrapper and toploader, feature a uniform design. This makes operation of the entire line as simple as operating a single machine and reduces the risk of operator errors, which can cause lengthy and costly production stoppages. To ensure that the line functions with maximum overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), Bosch trained the operators during installation.
The primary wrapping system comprises several components, beginning with the single-leg Product Distribution System (PDS). The bars begin their journey with the Head of Line (HOL) consisting of an entrance conveyor, which is equipped with a servo-driven row aligner, a pullnose dump that inspects row geometry and metal contamination, and a bi-directional evacuation conveyor to discard unacceptable rows or contaminated products. As a result, the HOL components ensure that only top quality products reach the packaging system.
Then the bars travel along a 90 degree curve conveyor to the row regulation conveyor that facilitates constant product feeding, and the distribution-gentle direct (Sigpack DGD) crossfeed station with a storage and recycling belt with direct reefed function. The Sigpack DGD offers several cleaning and maintenance advantages, such as belt changes in under 20 minutes, tool-less disassembly in under five minutes, and easy access for allergen clean-up. This allows Nature’s Path to achieve maximum uptime and the highest food safety standards.
The bars continue to the primary wrapping leg that turns the products 90 degrees via the product turning unit. Each product then goes through the product alignment, inspection and rejection unit that measures length, width and height to ensure that each bar meets required standards. The bars then go through the non-contact double pullnose inline feeder, key to preventing products from sticking together, which would result in faulty indexing and halt production.
Bosch’s patented feeding positioning chain (FPC) which positively (no friction/no build-up) transports the bars directly into the folding box. This minimizes the need for cleaning due to product build-up while ensuring correct positioning of the bars into the wrapper, maximizing uptime and performance. The FPC also features transparent guards that grant a clear view of product build up, allowing the operators to react early. The combined non-contact feeder and FPC is a unique patented solution that runs successfully on sticky and chewy products.
The bars then travel to the Sigpack HCM flow wrapper, an electronically controlled servo-wrapper equipped with coldseal film. The Sigpack HCM features an automatic reel splicer that allows operators to simply place a new reel onto the splicer while the machine is running. The flow wrapper has precision splicing at speeds up to 120 meters per minute, reducing waste and saving material costs.
Speedy cartoning and retail-ready packaging
The now-wrapped bars are ready for the TTLx high-speed topload cartoning system, consisting of the high-speed TTL Toploader, designed to accommodate a small footprint. The TTL toploading platform features the product infeed feeding wheel (FWV) and two independently driven belts for product indexing and grouping. The TTC and TTF then wrap the cartons around the grouped products and close them by gluing the flaps in a tri-seal style respectively. The TTLx cartoning system can package up to 120 cartons per minute and features no change parts for easy and fast changeover, as well as tool-less spindle adjustments.
Nature’s Path also selected Bosch’s Elematic 3000S for speedy retail-ready packaging that resulted in a 15-percent reduction on corrugated case material. The operator simply programs format selection, position, speed, timing and glue position via a touch panel. Additionally, the Elematic 3000S can package up to 25 cases per minute. The casepacker is able to create 35 different styles of cases, including wrap-around and two-piece retail-ready display cases allowing for further possibilities of point-of-sale differentiation. Lastly, the finished cases are transferred to the Euroimpianti palletizing system.
Nature’s Path has been very happy with the complete bar packaging system and is positioned to further accelerate production to 750 products per minute. “Bosch’s complete line solution was perfect for increasing production of these challenging bar products,” said Oucharek. “With Bosch as a single source supplier, everything is simplified – from installation throughout production.”
About Bosch Packaging Technology
Based in Waiblingen near Stuttgart, Germany, the Bosch Packaging Technology division is one of the leading suppliers of process and packaging technology. About 4 700 associates at over 40 locations in over 15 countries worldwide develop and produce complete solutions for the pharmaceuticals, foods, and confectionery industries. These are complemented by a comprehensive after-sales service portfolio. The global service and sales network provides customers with local contacts. Additional information available online at www.boschpackaging.com or contact:
Phone +41 58 674 6613