Quadrupling Packaging Efficiency, Lowering Cost

Paramount Farms keeps up with soaring almond demand with machinery seen first-hand at Pack Expo.

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Victor Gaona, project engineer at Paramount Farms (www.paramountfarms.com), Lost Hills, Calif., has an enviable problem: trying to keep his plant's capacity up with demand. The per-capita consumption of almonds has increased by more than 50 percent in the past five years, and Paramount Farms has been riding this trend, manufacturing popular products like Sunkist Almonds and Almond Accents.

So Gaona will return to this year's Pack Expo Las Vegas to see first-hand more of the packaging technology that in the past has enabled him to both increase packaging efficiency of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers by 300 percent while reducing cost per-pound by better than 50 percent.

A visit to Pack Expo proved fruitful for Paramount Farms' project engineer. He found a packaging machine that operates on-demand without operator intervention and helps his firm meet ever-growing consumer demand.

With more than 24,000 acres of permanent almond orchards, Paramount Farms is California's largest almond grower. The company distributes its products around the globe. Whether an order comes from a food manufacturer or a retail customer, the company can respond quickly with flexible, state-of-the-art packaging solutions, from flat bags and stand-up pouches to PET jugs.

Paramount's 40- and 48-oz. containers of roasted, salted almonds are two of its most popular products. Although a semi-automatic orienting machine had been purchased to help employees hand-pack the jugs, speeds were reaching only about 20 units per minute, with five people needed to support the packaging operation.

"The bottom line was our existing technology was unable to keep up with increasing demand," explains Gaona. "To make our operations more efficient, we wanted to upgrade to more automated solutions."

At a previous Pack Expo, Gaona spotted PET jugs similar to those that Paramount sought to process, running on equipment in the booth of New England Machinery, Bradenton, Fla. Gaona decided on a 72-in. model NEHHLP low-profile unscrambler and a model SOE-3/690 off-center neck container linear orienting system.

The NEHHLP is designed for minimal maintenance and ease of changeover. The low-profile configuration places the container-sorting bowl at floor level, allowing easy access and operator vision. Operating on-demand without operator intervention, the NEHHLP responds to changes in container supply and demand. Optional multi-speed drives are available to optimize container flow and throughput. The dual motor drive system minimizes the number of drive components and allows for easy changeover.

New England Machinery designed the SOE-3 orienter to accept, convey and orient rectangular jugs with offset necks and handles, much like Paramount's almond jugs. The SOE-3 distinguishes the 40- and 48-oz. jugs' incoming orientation based on container symmetry and orients the bottles accordingly. The bottles come out facing the same way to suit Paramount's downstream packaging operation.

Another benefit of the SOE-3 is it slides up to Paramount's existing conveyor. A simple height adjustment allows it to be raised when not in use and lowered for the next changeover, reducing time delay between different operations.

Paramount Farms can now package the 40- and 48-oz. jugs at 60 containers per minute with only two people - a 300 percent increase in speeds while decreasing labor by 150 percent. The additional employees spend their time conducting inspections to enhance product quality. The increased throughput also lowered unit cost per pound by more than 50 percent.

"Besides increasing speeds, the reliability of the system is much better," said Gaona. "Downtime has decreased by over 10 percent.

"Seeing equipment operating live on the show floor and being able to speak with technical representatives are key benefits of Pack Expo that helped narrow the search," explains Gaona. "Having all that information in one location is extremely valuable. Instead of traveling to multiple locations to view the technology we're interested in, we can see it all at once."

Pack Expo Las Vegas is sponsored by the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI). It and the co-located Food Processing Machinery Expo take place Sept. 26-28 in Las Vegas.

For more information about Pack Expo Las Vegas 2005, visit www.packexpo.com or call PMMI at 703-243-8555.

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