A leading Midwest supplier of aeration technologies and natural treatments to maintain ponds and lakes has slashed filling times and labor requirements with an automated feeding system, transitioning from manual filling of roughly one package per minute to filling and weighing as many as six units a minute. The equipment allows the packaging operation to significantly reduce labor costs and expand capacity, improving its potential for growth.
Airmax Ecosystems is a long-established supplier of natural pond care products. What started as a hand-filling operation 10 years ago has expanded to a new, 57,000 sq ft facility in northern Michigan. "We used to need five of our people on the plant floor for months at a time during the busy season," observes warehouse manager Mike Kroll. "Now we can do the same volumes with three people in a matter of weeks."
The company has been using the Martin E-Z Auto-Scoop Filling System from Martin Vibration Systems Solutions for several months to package a variety of dry products, including natural pond treatments, fish foods and pond salts. "In the past, workers used to scoop these products from 40- to 60-lb bulk containers and fill retail-size containers on a scale," Kroll explains.
"Now we use the keypad to set up our fill and establish the tare weight, and operators use a foot switch to automatically fill and weigh each package. Even the five-pound units only take about 15 seconds each. It's almost faster than the operator can seal the bags and box them up," he says. Kroll estimates that the company has packaged about 24,000 pounds of materials over the last three months.
The E-Z Auto-Scoop Filling System incorporates a precision digital scale with programmable logic and a high-performance vibratory feed system that assures fast and consistent flow of material. The system was developed for small to medium-sized packagers, but has proven capable of 750 fills per hour (depending on the material and package size), an average of more than a dozen per minute.
The electro-polished stainless steel construction is well suited to chemicals, food, powdered beverage and spice operations. "Cleaning is easy on these models," comments Mike Lindbeck from MVSS. "The live storage hoppers lift off easily, and because they're mounted without fasteners, no tools are required."
MVSS supplies both loss-in-weight feeders and volumetric feed/weigh systems. Customers find benefit in the company's worldwide network of parts and service, and from the use of industry-standard components and non-proprietary software.
Kroll says the productivity increase has been substantial, eliminating the need to hire temporary help to manage the spikes in activity. He estimated payback on the system would be between six to 12 months, depending on order volumes. "It's incredibly easy to set up and run," Kroll concludes. "It's made a big difference in our output, and has reduced spillage and cleanup time, also. Overfills are pretty much a thing of the past."