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Compact labeler adds big impact

At the labeler's touchscreen console, plant manager Wesley Sliwinski makes adjustments to handle a 160/min line output.

Guida-Siebert Dairy Co. could make pints passé in New England. With the element of surprise comparable to seeing a cow fly, the New Britain, CT, company is reinforcing its markets and entering some new ones because of what's happening with smaller containers in a small space in its massive plant.

Through equipment installed less than three months ago, that masked and caped cow is flying high. Known as Supercow, she has place of honor on full-body shrink labels decorating the new 12-oz high-density polyethylene bottles that, under the Super Solo™ brand identity, are nudging aside the dairy's 16-oz containers.

"Because of their initial impact, we're predicting that the new bottle is going to chew up more and more share of the single-use market," says Michael J.A. Guida, executive vp and general manager of the dairy, said to be one of the top 10 independent dairies in the country. "And we believe the Super Solo will place us in territory where we haven't been before," he tells PD during a recent visit to the dairy, which has been in continuous family control since it opened in 1886.

Riding above the bottling line's conveyor, the label rollstock is nonetheless carefully controlled as it enters the applicator.

Not that there's a distribution shortage–what with Guida products selling as far south as Maryland and west to Ohio–with New England, of course, blanketed. But that's before Supercow's latest incarnation.

Flying aid
What's keeping Mighty Moo moving through the plant with carefree abandon is a label applicator, the Trine CMS 650 Sleever from Trine Labeling Systems, seeing its first use on these shores. Installed on one of the dairy's nine bottling lines–ironically, the one that had been handling the 16-oz bottle with a wraparound, glued label–the machine operates at the line's 160/min standard output, though it's rated to 650/min.

With just a 4-ft footprint, the applicator can be spotted from a distance. Its dual-roll unwind floats the tubular film high above the conveyor for powered guidance via photo sensor control into the tension grip.

Watching the applicator's smooth action, dropping labels onto bottles filled with Guida's Vitamin D whole milk during PD's stay, is a little like observing a clock's second hand inch through its arc. With variable speed control through a three-phase inverter and sensor, the applicator uses a film reservoir air box to ensure consistent sleeve unwind tension. Sleeve tension as it moves toward the applicator is handled by an automatic dancer arm. Exact phasing of the bottles is regulated by Banner photoelectric eyes; sleeve cutoff is done by a high-speed scalpel blade.

After cutoff, the bottles convey through a shrink tunnel, supplied by Trine. The labels, produced by Gilbreth using a 2-mil vinyl film, are reverse-printed via gravure in up to seven colors on an eight-color Comco press for the milk, iced tea, lemonade, grape drink, apple cider and orange juice also packed in the 12-oz bottles under the Guida imprimatur.

Simple integration
The labeler's simple integration into the operation is confirmed by plant manager Wesley Sliwinski. He tells PD, "We installed it on September 12th–a Thursday–and before that weekend, it was running smoothly. And it has been working very well since then. It has been running at better than a ninety-five-percent efficiency level."

It fits in so well because of minimal impact upstream and downstream. With the plant layout, the bottling lines are on the second floor. On the lower level and close to the loading docks, all bottles, ranging from a schoolbag 4-oz, to institutional 120-oz and larger sizes, are automatically depalletized or uncased, washed and ferried to the appropriate bottling line through ceiling/floor apertures.

As labels are cut off by a high-speed scalpel blade, top, the new HDPE bottles convey to a shrink tunnel and an ink-jet coder. With a footprint exactly that of the 16-oz bottles they succeed, above, the 12-oz bottles use the same tray, which is shrink-wrapped.

The 12-oz line's installation by American Conveyor is somewhat affected by the size change as the bottles single-file under the 21 valves of the veteran Crown Cork & Seal gravity filler reconditioned by HH Franz. But, the fill speed increases to its current level with the lower volume per bottle, a stock blow-molded pinch-waist configuration made by Consolidated Container.

Moving at the pace established by the filler, a Portola Packaging sorter/feeder brings into application position the snap-fit color-coded closures, which it injection-molds with tear tabs of low-density polyethylene and into which it inserts foil-based liners using Selig's S55-FS113 material. The liner material is die-cut for pull-tab removal and is coated for heat-sealing to the PE. Closures are applied by a press plate built by Franz.

Michael Guida acknowledges: "We were the first dairy in the U.S. to adopt this cap and liner combination. It has a lot to do with the fact that we're able to code the bottles for an eighteen-day shelf life. Connecticut requires proof of a minimal twenty days, but we actually do better than that."

The closures are acquired through Crompton Sales, which also supplies the machine at the next station, an Enercon induction heat sealer. Exiting the heat sealer, the bottles are oriented to receive open sell-by dates by a Model 37EZ ink-jet coder from Videojet Technologies. In the changeover to the new bottle, the coder needs only to be adjusted for height.

What's old and new
No downstream alterations are required in the changeover, since the two bottle sizes share one footprint. The reconditioned SWF tray former from Franz is aided by a seasoned Nordson hot-melt adhesive applicator to glue the corrugated board blanks from Smurfit-Stone with hot melt made by Jowatt Corp. What's newer on the line format is the integration, at this point, of a Patrion Plus? ink-jet coder from Videojet.

Trays are then collated in a 334 configuration and packed by the new drop caser, the low-silhouette Hustler 2000 made by B&B Equipment. Conveying a few feet, the filled trays are shrink-wrapped with a clear 11/2-mil PE film, designated BD1 by Tyco Plastics, and pass through a Tempco heat tunnel. They then move overhead toward refrigeration for quick-turnaround shipment.

Michael Guida says, "The fast, reliable equipment can be worked into our production with minimal fuss. It means we can concentrate on other business, such as the introduction of our blueberry flavored milk, another first for us. We don't mind being first in anything."

Neither does a certain flying cow.

More information is available:

Labeler/heat tunnel: Trine Labeling Systems, 800/736-4267. Circle No. 201.

Labels: Gilbreth, 215/785-3350. Circle No. 202.

Photoelectric eyes: Banner Engineering Corp., 888/373-6767. Circle No. 203.

Press: Comco International: 800/883-5396. Circle No. 204.

Installation: American Conveyor Corp., 718/386-0480. Circle No. 205.

Filler: Crown Cork & Seal, 215/698-5100. Circle No. 206.

Reconditioning/press plate/tray former representative: HH Franz, 410/889-2975. Circle No. 207.

Bottle: Consolidated Container Co., 508/285-6743. Circle No. 208.

Closure/sorter-feeder: Portola Packaging, 800/227-7627. Circle No. 209.

Liner: Selig Sales, 630/953-1003. Circle No. 210.

Closure/heat sealer representative: Crompton Sales, 978/687-1207. Circle No. 211.

Heat sealer: Enercon Industries Corp., 262/255-6070. Circle No. 212.

Ink-jet coders: Videojet Technologies, 800/654-4863. Circle No. 213.

Tray: Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., 888/801-2579. Circle No. 214.

Tray former: SWF Companies, 800/344-8951. Circle No. 215.

Hot melt applicator: Nordson Corp., 800/683-2314. Circle No. 216.

Adhesive: Jowatt Corp., 800322-4583. Circle No. 217.

Caser: B&B Equipment, 860/342-5773. Circle No. 218.

Film: Tyco Plastics, 908/353-3850. Circle No. 219.

Heat Tunnel: Tempco Electric Heater Corp., 800/323-6859. Circle No. 220.

Wrapped trays convey out of a drop caser and are then moved off-line to refrigeration for quick turnaround and shipment.
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