Prior to the new bagging system, MFA had two packing lines running simultaneously: a valve packaging line for minerals, and an open-mouth sewn packaging line for pelleted and meal products. Combined, the two lines could output 70 tons/shift. Knowing these numbers could be improved, the company sought to combine both packaging processes into one system.
The purchase has paid off. Since the system was installed in December 2009, it has improved three main production issues. The company has increased daily throughput output by 20%. In addition to the increases in volume, the new system reduced the company’s labor by 50% on the packaging line; the overall operation’s labor requirements for the mill were reduced 33%.
“Once [management] saw the improvement in the operation — in regard to efficient use of resources — we were very pleased,” Wessler says.
The packaging system is rated for 20 bags/minute, but on average, the entire system moves 17 to 18 bags/minute depending on the product. The company targets manufacturing 100 tons/shift.
“Our ability to meet the 48-hour notice has greatly improved, and we are able to meet this window with certain product lines,” Staudt explains. “We push four major product lines in this facility, the new equipment helped make it not an issue that it was in the past.”
Here’s how it works: Empty bags are placed onto a conveyor and are indexed into the bag hanging device. The bag hanging device hangs the bag on the discharge spout, and the feed is preweighed on a duplex scale up above the discharge spout. When the feed is weighed and the bag is presented to the discharge spout, then the feed is discharged from the scales and then it drops into the bag. Once that is accomplished, the bag is released from the discharge spout and it travels down the bagging conveyor. At this point, a TagMaster tagging system applies a tag to the bag and it goes through a cut, tape and sew sewing machine to seal the bag. After this step, it exits the bagging conveyor and heads over to the automated robotic stacking system. At this point, bags are presented to the warehouse.
The system features automatic gusset reforming on the spout; it hangs paper and laminated poly woven bags; and allows for turnkey design/engineering and installation services. The system can change over in three minutes.
“This piece of equipment has enhanced our competitiveness and our ability to service our customers on a timely basis with good product,” Wessler says.
As the demand for food and feed products increases, MFA will explore automating other mills to enhance its efficiency, he says. If the co-op sees a potential return that justifies the investment in technology, it will make it.
“Technology enhances your competitiveness,” says Wessler. “As other costs tend to go up, you need to find ways to minimize expenses where you can and improve efficiencies. Improvement is a continual process.”
For more information, visit the co-op's website at www.mfa-inc.com.