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Threefold increase in nut production

January 29, 2014

3 Min Read
Threefold increase in nut production

The per-capita consumption of almonds in the U.S. has increased by more than 50 percent in the past five years, and Paramount Farms, Lost Hills, CA, has been at the forefront of this trend, manufacturing popular products like Sunkist(R) brand Almonds and Almond Accents(R). With more than 24,000 acres of permanent almond orchards, Paramount Farms is California's largest almond grower.

Paramont Farms' 40- and 48-oz jugs of roasted, salted almonds are one of its most popular products, but existing packaging efficiency was impeding the company from meeting growing consumer demand. Though a semi-automatic orienting machine had been purchased to help employees hand pack the jugs, speeds were only reaching about 20 units per minute, with five people needed to support the packaging operation.

Victor Gaona, project engineer at Paramount Farms, then booked a flight to Las Vegas for the 2003 PACK EXPO show to research cutting-edge automation technology. There, Gaona spotted polyethylene terephthalate jugs, similar to those that Paramount uses, running on equipment in the New England Machinery (www.neminc.com) booth. Satisfied with what he saw operating live at the show, he purchased an unscrambler and an orienter that has increased packaging efficiency of Paraound Farms' jugs by 300 percent. "The bottom line was that 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.

"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.

To speed up Paramount's almond jug-packaging process, Gaona decided on a 72-in. Model NEHHLP low profile unscrambler and a Model SO-3/690 off-center neck linear orienting system from New England Machinery. The NEHHLP is a heavy-duty plastic bottle unscrambling system designed for minimal maintenance and ease of changeover. The unique low profile configuration places the container-sorting bowl at floor level, allowing easy access and operator vision. "We found that the NEHHLP was uniquely capable of handling our large, forty-eight-ounce containers at high speeds," says Gaona.

Operating on-demand without operator intervention, the NEHHLP automatically responds to changes in container supply and demand. Optional multi-speed drives are also 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 SO-3 orienter to accept, convey and orient rectangular jugs with offset necks and handles, much like Paramount's almond jugs. The SO-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 SO-3 is that 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.

The company now packages the jugs at 60/min with only two people—a 300-percent rise in speed and a 150-percent drop in labor. The additional employees spend their time conducting precise inspections to enhance product quality. The increased throughput has also enabled a unit-cost-per-pound decrease of more than 50 percent. "Besides, the system's reliability is much better," says Gaona. "Downtime has decreased by more than ten percent."

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