There’s tired and there’s down for the count. Eugene, OR-based grain processor Grain Millers, Inc. was both before changing bagging machines in 2008. Today, with a new machine on its floor and workers who no longer have to break their backs to get the bagging job done, Grain Millers increased its production by about 40%.
Grain to Table
Grain Millers has been packaging conventional organic whole grain products for more than 30 years. These grains are used in baked goods, breads, cereals and a wide range of other products served around the world.
Getting the grains from raw commodity to finished product is a long process, one that involves several steps before packaging. From flake rollers and dryers to vibratory trays and bucket elevators, Grain Millers relies on several machines to come together and create a smooth, cohesive process. “We operate a closed loop system,” says Tony Selby, Grain Millers’ plant manager. “Basically, it means we’re able to connect each piece of machinery together so we don’t interrupt the flow and disrupt the progression of steps.”
Each machine is important, but the key to the entire Grain Millers system is in the final step — packaging. Grain Millers now accomplishes this key step with the TOPLINE® bagging system from the Behn + Bates brand of Haver Filling Systems.
Fatigue and frustration
Before Grain Millers had a TOPLINE, its people were shouldering all the weight in a manual bagging system. The strain was beginning to show, not only in the workforce but also in the company’s bottom line. The manual system required operators to move bags that weighed anywhere from 25 to 50 pounds, weigh each bag to ensure accuracy, take the bag through heat sealing and, finally, place it on a pallet.
“It was a tedious and extremely tiring process,” Selby says. “It really took expertise to properly run the manual machine, and it was extremely labor intensive work.”
The physical strain left operators fatigued, often with sore arms and backs. In addition, the system required two or three operators at any given time. In a typical workday, operators would rotate out and take frequent breaks to keep fatigue at a minimum. That created another problem. The constant pauses and downtime meant inefficient production and lower bag filling rates.
The Grain Millers team knew it needed to find a solution, one that would increase production efficiency by decreasing labor requirements. The company’s research led to the TOPLINE, a machine that seemed like the ideal solution. Even so, Grain Millers explored all its options. “It seemed like we just lucked out finding the TOPLINE, so we didn’t stop there,” Selby says. “We communicated our needs to several manufacturers and asked them to let us know how their bagging machines could meet them. At the end of the day, we couldn’t find a system that fit what we were looking for better than the TOPLINE from Haver Filling Systems.”
Top of the line
Grain Millers has had the TOPLINE system and Haver’s one-of-a-kind HAVER MEC weighing control system for about four years now. The fully automated system accomplishes the entire bagging process from product weighing, to filling and finally bag closure.
“It’s really a remarkable system,” Selby says. “One of our biggest challenges had been finding operators who could run the labor-intensive system, both from the skill level required and the physical demand. When we saw how easy the TOPLINE system was to operate, we were pretty much sold.”
The TOPLINE weighs the product, fills the bags and seals the filled bags and, best of all, requires only one operator to oversee the process and stack empty bags into the automatic bag placer. Product flows into the machine through a hopper system. Once inside, the TOPLINE takes an empty bag from a preassembled bundle, fills it to its specified weight and then ends the process with the densification and sealing of each bag. From there, an optional robotic system takes the bag from the TOPLINE machine and places it on the pallet for shipping. The system works quickly and requires very little manual labor by the operator.