Developing and manufacturing premixes, correctors, and ingredients for the agri-food industry is not a simple task. In order to cover the vitamin-mineral deficiencies of different types of animals and to meet the demands of this market, a wide range of products with different characteristics and behaviors are produced.
Managing such a variety of products in a single plant is complex: Not only does it affect the manufacturing or the mixing process, but also the packaging and the packaging process.
In this article we want to show you the main points you should take into account when defining your packaging line for animal feed ingredients.
5 Key Factors to Consider When Defining the Bagging Line
There are many aspects to consider when defining the technical solution that meets the needs of each manufacturer. Here are the ones you should take into account:
1. Number of Products and Batches
Vitamins, macro-correctors, micro-correctors, preservatives, pronutrients, enzymes, antioxidants, flavorings--the range of products that a manufacturer of agri-food ingredients can work with is wide. In fact, production is often micronized, resulting in many small batches. This has a direct impact on the optimization of the production line, as every changeover cost time and labor (hygiene, replacing consumables, etc.), thus penalizing the total production.
If your company produces a lot of batches, you probably already know what we are talking about: The infamous and dreadful downtime. So what you need is a bagging system that allows you to make quick and agile changeovers and avoid cross-contamination. You can achieve this with a purpose-built bagging machine with a hygienic design finish, as well as the application of the tool-less concept (i.e. the machine can be cleaned without the need to use tools to access all parts of the bagging area).
2. Product Properties
Bagging pelleted animal feed is not the same as bagging a powdered vitamin corrector: The dosing system is not the same, nor is the complexity involved.
In an animal feed pellet production facility, the conventional approach is belt dosing and packaging in paper sacks with stitching, or perhaps a more complete closure in certain cases. There are no major technical complications.
By contrast, in the case of powdery products, such as vitamins, premixes, additives, agri-food colorings, medical ingredients, etc., where the granulometry of the product is usually measured in µm, things change. It is necessary to ensure a certain degree of tightness in the packaging process, as well as in the packaging itself. It is also necessary to provide for the aspiration of dust that may be released during the filling and bag handling process, or even to prevent the release of dust. The surfaces of the equipment must be prepared to be easily sanitized so as to avoid accumulations of dust that could result in sources of contamination. As aluminum bags are typically used, it is likely to be necessary to include some system for extracting air from the bag and even for de-fluidizing the product to ensure the stability of the bags and pallets.
The above aspects directly affect the configuration of the bagging line and the technology required to ensure an optimal bagging process in each case.
All food production facilities must maintain certain hygiene conditions to guarantee the quality of the product, whether for human or animal consumption (while in the case of products intended for human consumption the requirements are generally higher).
To this end, it is important to keep the environment clean and free of dust, avoid any remains in the ducts through which the product flows and establish a cleaning protocol that ensures the elimination of any product remains at each batch change.
This brings us back to downtime: The longer spent on hygiene, the shorter the uptime of the bagging line and the lower the profitability. This is why you need your bagging machinery to be as accessible as possible and designed in such a way that operators can clean it quickly. In other words, it has to meet the precepts of hygienic design.
When defining technical solutions for end-of-line, logistical requirements must always be taken into account. To this end, certain questions have to be considered:
- Does your product need an airtight bag to maintain its properties for longer?
- Are you going to transport your goods in containers?
- Are you exporting your product to countries with strict packaging regulations?
- Do you need to ensure that your product arrives fully intact at its destination?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, you may want to consider investing in good packaging and protecting the pallet with more than just plastic to ensure that unexpected costs do not arise in the long run.
Make sure you choose a bag that is able to maintain the properties of the product and that it is suitable for the bagging technology that permits the correct extraction of air from the bag. If the vacuum is carried out correctly, palletized loads will also be more stable. And if you also protect the pallet laterally with film and cardboard, you will ensure that no breakages occur along the entire handling chain of your goods avoiding returns.
5. Available Space
Whatever your product is and whatever bag you pack it in, there is one question you can't ignore before setting up your bagging line: How much space do you have for the end of the line?
Whether it is a new plant or an existing plant being renovated, it is important to consider the space that can be dedicated to packaging (including bagging, palletizing, stretch wrapping, and handling and stocking of full pallets). And not only in terms of square meters, but also in terms of height: A low building height can mean limitations for a defluidization probe or a Cartesian palletizer.
Furthermore, unlike many might think, a fully automatic packaging installation can sometimes be more compact than a semi-automatic installation. Bear in mind that the systems for closing bags, labelling, lying bags, etc. after bagging, also require space. Whereas an automatic bagging machine can contain all these processes in just 15 sq m (depending on the machine model).
All of the above factors must be analyzed, one by one, in order to finally define the appropriate technical solution in each case. Companies like TMI can help you with this so that the implementation of your automatic or semi-automatic bagging line is a complete success. Just to give you an example, we tell you how we designed the line that you can see at the following link video: https://youtu.be/-oCm0dfeNRA
This producer manufactures additives and blends for animal feed. The particle size of its products ranges between 190 and 212 µm, with densities between 0-5 and 1,3 g/cu m. In other words, powdery products that are a potential source of contamination in the plant, if not properly treated.
Initially, these mixtures and additives were manually bagged in aluminum and PE bags, from which the air was partially extracted manually, and a Goglio degassing valve allowed the evacuation of the remaining air. But this system--despite being practical in terms of hygiene, given the easy accessibility of the manual bagging machine--entailed certain disadvantages: labor, special bags, reduced shelf life of the product, etc., not to mention the difficulty of making higher pallets.
The need to automate this process was obvious. TMI carried out a laboratory study of the different products, with regard to densities and behavior. As a result, it was possible to define the appropriate dosing system for a range of products, as well as the bag size for each of the ranges that could be distinguished.
A bagging and palletizing line was designed to cover all the customer's packaging needs, consisting of the following machines: ILERSAC HCBSD automatic bagging machine for heat-sealable open-mouth bags, ILERPAL H hybrid layer palletizer, ILERGIR automatic stretch wrapper, and ILERBOX corrugated cardboard side protection module.
This installation has a small footprint, given that the processes of bagging, air extraction, heat sealing of the bag, weight control, rejection of non-conforming bags, palletizing, wrapping, top cover with film, and side protection of the pallet with corrugated cardboard are carried out in a surface area of approximately 75sq m.
Moreover, the conventional ILERSAC H has been redesigned to include a hygienic design, becoming the new ILERSAC HC, with the aim of making it a more accessible, easy-to-clean, and dust-free machine. Among others, the new improvements consist of:
- Prevent any dust emission during the bagging process, by means of a new mobile, flexible, and airtight bagging spout
- Apply hygienic finishes throughout the product flow path, as well as in the design of the machine surrounding the parts in contact
- Extend the distance between sections within the bagging machine to make it more accessible
- Prevent dust accumulation and contamination with hygienic cabling integrated into the chassis
The customer can therefore carry out batch changes much more quickly, optimizing time and resources.
Further optimization has been achieved by the customer at a logistical level: With the new ILERPAL H automatic bag palletizer, it can produce pallets up to 2.7 m high. This is clearly a logistical advantage, as it allows full use of the capacity of the HQ containers that are used for sea export. In addition, thanks to the ILERBOX module, side protection with cardboard has been automated, ensuring that the bags arrive unbroken at their destination.
For more information, call +34 973 25 70 98 or visit www.tmipal.com.