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Juice maker packs a punch

Clement Pappas & Co., Inc., Seabrook, NJ, is one of the largest private-label bottlers and canners in the U.S. A leading producer of the finest fruit juices, fruit drinks and cranberry sauces for more than 60 years, Clement Pappas creates products for a wide variety of private-label, supermarket and foodservice brands, while devoting a part of its business to contract packaging. Headquartered in Seabrook, the company has steadily expanded over the years, opening three additional, state-of-the-art manufacturing and distribution facilities in Springdale, AR, Mountain Home, NC, and Ontario, CA.

As Clement Pappas continued to experience rapid growth during the 1990s, the company realized that something needed to be done to update its case-packing capabilities to keep up with its ever-increasing orders. This challenge was exacerbated by the extensive assortment of products—in a variety of sizes, materials and shapes—that the company provides to its customers. These include a wide range of hot-fill polyethylene terephthalate bottles, from 10 oz to 1 gal, space-saving, rectangular packaging, multipacks, a variety of juice can sizes, from 5.5 to 46 oz, cranberry sauce cans in 8- and 16-oz and #10 sizes, and recyclable PET.

It was up to Tom DeThomas, director of engineering for Clement Pappas, to find robust, flexible case-packing machinery that would provide high line speeds and changeover versatility. “Flexibility was very important, as we run several different bottle sizes, and we have to be able to easily change over the packer,” DeThomas explains. “This is extremely important to us, because we can change the packer over two or three times in one day.”

To meet this challenge, Clement Pappas turned to Standard-Knapp (www.standard-knapp.com), a provider of automatic packaging equipment, including tray packers, tray-loading machines, case packers, shrink wrappers and bottle packers. Recommended for a variety of industries, including beverage, food, chemical, personal care and automotive, Standard-Knapp's packaging machinery can handle PET, glass, high-density polyethylene, steel, aluminum and fiberboard containers.

Clement Pappas' relationship with Standard-Knapp began in 1983, when the company purchased two case packers. At that time, the mainstay of Clement Pappas' business was glass containers. Thus, the company needed equipment with a lowering-head capability to minimize breakage. “We had great success with our first two Standard-Knapp case packers,” says DeThomas. “In fact, the same case packers are still in use, running every day. One is packing cans, and the other is packing plastic bottles, as we are no longer offering glass containers.”

The shift in the company's operations from glass to plastic containers more than 10 years ago led to further challenges. Clement Pappas needed to find a case packer that could match the speed of its operations. Because of the company's prior relationship with Standard-Knapp, DeThomas again turned to the machinery manufacturer. After Clement Pappas' needs were assessed, Standard-Knapp's Versatron™ 939s servo case packer was selected.

Although the Versatron 939s has a cycle rate of up to 45 cases/min, which, at the time, would have met Clement Pappas' speed requirements, DeThomas asked Standard-Knapp to incorporate another unique feature to the Versatron—“back-to-back” dual-case handling. With this feature, each load cycle of the machine is able to pack two cases simultaneously. As a result, packers with tandem case capability can operate at two-thirds to one-half the cycle rate of a traditional, single case packer and achieve the same case output. As DeThomas remarks, “I particularly like this feature of the machine, because I can reduce the actual cycle rate of the machine while more than meeting our speed requirements.”

Recently, Clement Pappas has shifted from packing two cases to three cases simultaneously, further increasing the speed of the case packer. According to DeThomas, “It's all about speed. We need to keep up with our growing business. The case-packing machinery is able to reach the speed we need. On an average day, the machine is packing 50,000 cases.”

Another feature that is particularly important for Clement Pappas is Standard-Knapp's unique “soft-catch” advanced motion-control system technology. Unlike conventional drop packers, Versatron's servo-controlled soft-catch lift table simultaneously begins a carefully measured rate of descent when the container is released from the packing grid that nearly matches that of the controlled-descent container, thus producing a soft, safe landing for the product.

Clement Pappas felt the soft-catch technology was especially important for the large, 1-gal bottle size. “If you were to drop such a large bottle on a hard surface, the package label could split or blow apart. The soft-catch capability negates this problem. Less stress is placed on the labels because the packer has the ability to catch the bottle,” explains DeThomas.

Packing the 1-gal containers in dual or triple mode means that more than 60 lb of product is loaded at each cycle, further illustrating the importance of Standard-Knapp's soft-catch servo-controlled system, which the company claims is far superior to the drop-stop and restart method used by competitive equipment. Its importance lies not only in protecting the product, but also in reducing the shock and impact on machine components, resulting in reduced maintenance time and parts costs.

The Versatron 939s is also able to meet Clement Pappas' flexibility requirements. Not only is the case packer flexible enough to pack the company's assortment of containers, but the machine is also able to pack in a variety of different case styles. “The ability to pack in more than one kind of case helps us tremendously, because we utilize a standard RSC, which has top and bottom flaps,” says DeThomas. Additionally, the Versatron 939s is suitable for use with plastic, corrugated, HSC, tablock and tray-case types.

Clement Pappas also appreciates the Versatron 939s' convenient and rapid changeover, which it says can be completed in less than 15 minutes without tools. This is made possible by a touchscreen operator interface, drop-in lane guide spacers and a patented, lightweight “snap-in” grid, according to Standard-Knapp. The machine manufacturer adds that its “by-the-numbers” changeover system allows even inexperienced operators to complete machine changeover with confidence. In fact, Clement Pappas doesn't need to utilize a dedicated, full-time operator for the machines.

DeThomas is very pleased with the results of Standard-Knapp's case packers. Prior to 1983, when the first Standard-Knapp case packers were purchased, Clement Pappas bottled less than 100 bottles/min. With Standard-Knapp's machinery, the bottle speed has increased to 200 bottle/min—a 100-percent increase.

“The case packers have been tremendous in terms of increasing our efficiency,” says DeThomas. “It's an especially tough business in this day and age with the cost of raw materials going up, including the cost of plastic, sugar, fuel and electricity. It can be difficult to stay competitive. So, as an organization, we have to find ways to increase efficiency. The case packers have helped a lot.”


More information is available:
Standard-Knapp, Inc., 860/342-1100. www.standard-knapp.com.
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