At Pack Expo 2012, Hartness International introduced a patent-pending, automated process for the robotic uncasing and collating of variety packs, also known as "rainbow packs."
The heart of this solution is a unique robotic uncasing and mixing system which offers greater flexibility of product configuration in a smaller footprint than traditional, fixed automation solutions.
While Hartness has executed many rainbow lines throughout the last 15 years, many of those solutions were executed with minimal automation. Volume growth in the variety pack segment and increasing labor costs, coupled with consumer's desire for more choices and brand owner's need for product differentiation on the shelf are resulting in the implementation of more highly automated variety pack solutions.
"It's important to understand that variety pack has been around for a long", says Matt Job, general manager of Hartness' Robotic Automation. "For years, it was difficult to meet ROI hurdles on variety pack lines, so the majority of the production was outsourced. But after 15 years, many companies have come to the conclusion that this is not a ‘fad.' It is a sustainable product. So, we see more people bringing the manufacture of variety packs in-house for pure cost savings."
In recent years, Hartness has executed both semi-automated and full-automated systems. This variety pack lines in a number of industries including juice, sports drinks, soft drink and food. It has created solutions for both primary packs (bottles) and secondary packaging.
When asked about Hartness' success in the variety pack segment, Ryan McCart, general manager of Hartness' Systems Group explains Hartness' unique position in the market. "Because of our systems integration experience and our long history as a packaging equipment supplier, coupled with an industry-leading robotic team, we really have all the skill sets necessary to guarantee the success of a variety pack line." McCart continues, "Many existing systems have forced customers to compromise between flexibility and simplicity. Our solution does not force us to make that compromise."