Automatic end-of-line packaging machinery ensures optimal product protection and load stability for potting soil distributors
Serving the fast-growing market for potting soils such as peat, humus and alternative plant substrates, German-based OEM BEUMER Group (www.beumer.com) specializes in supplying tailor-made packaging solutions based on standardized machine concepts to pack these materials safely and ready for transport, despite the significant differences in their consistency and other physical characteristics.
“The corona pandemic has certainly fueled the demand for potting soil, peat, humus and alternative plant substrates considerably,” says Jörg Spiekermann, head of the Consumer Goods Sales Division at BEUMER Group.
“During the pandemic people couldn’t travel anymore, so they took more care of their gardens and patios,” says Spiekermann, noting the trend is still continuing with no signs of slowing down soon.
The company’s customers—including include large retail chains, horticultural markets and owners of large garden areas who cultivate various types of vegetables in the professional and hobby sectors—turn to BEUMER for robust, durable and highly available systems that pack these products in stable and palletized product stacks.
The producers of potting soils come mainly from Europe, where the largest peat deposits are located. The BEUMER Group supplies these producers with complete packaging lines, including high-performance palletizing and packaging machines.
For bagging and processing such as dosing, sieving and even chopping, the system provider works with partner companies, helping with selecting partners for proper consumables.
Essentially, customers receive everything from a single source.
“It’s the seasonal business that makes this industry special,” says Spiekermann, explaining that the machines have to run non-stop for several months, often in multi-shift operation, to successfully transfer the usually enormous order quantities of different soil materials.
“The machines must always be highly available and powerful, he says, “with no downtime in this limited time frame.”
One of the biggest challenges for packaging is the different compositions of the soils. Peat, for example, behaves in a different way than humus, bark mulch and alternative plant substrates, which impacts the filling speed and the stability of both the bags and the palletized stack.
Peat is a form of humus that is a much sought-after raw material for many potting soils. It is formed in bogs, where due to the lack of oxygen under water and the acidic pH value from dead moor plants, peat is composed of incompletely decomposed and preserved plant remains, especially those of peat mosses.
These remains are saturated with water, because moors store a lot of rainwater or are fed from groundwater.
“Moist peat is particularly easy to bag,” says Volker Feldmeyer, business development manager at the BEUMER Group.
But it’s a different story for peat-free or peat-reduced soils, increasingly being used more often, because the plant materials deposited in peat consist largely of carbon compounds.
Peat is therefore an important CO2 reservoir, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that plants once absorbed from the air. This gas is released again during use, fueling the greenhouse effect.
It’s also a fact that peat is becoming scarce, with global reserves probably only be able to meet demand for a few more decades, and various regional mining restrictions also affecting the supply.
This is why substrates of wood fibers, compost, green waste, straw, perlite, lava, sawdust, various coconut fibers and bark humus are being increasingly used—fueling the market growth.
In addition to peat producers, more and more plants are being built in Germany that predominantly process these alternative municipal substrates.
“The materials are much coarser, and the water runs through,” says Feldmeyer. “And the coarser the earth, the more voluminous it is.
That’s why alternative plant substrates are much harder to bag and palletize.”
This is particularly the case with coarse bark mulch.
“We supply our customers with standard systems, which we adapt to the respective product,” says Spiekermann.
As he explains, these systems shake the bags less or more during the filling process to achieve optimum distribution during bagging.
The height of the bag flattening belts and the pressure force must also be adjusted in the downstream palletizing system in order to force the residual air out of the bags.
Once perfectly adapted, the bags and finished product stacks come out of the machine dimensionally stable.
“The palletized stacks can be up to 2.4 metres high,” Spiekermann points out, “so the stacking pattern has to be just right.
“This is relatively easy with potting soil, with the finished sacks as solid as bricks.
“But it’s much more difficult with the coarse-fibred bark mulch,” he points out. “If the pressing height is not set correctly, the bags could straighten up again after the bag smoothing process, negatively affecting the stack pattern.”
To provide the right solution for different products, the BEUMER Group offers various palletizing solutions, such as the BEUMER paletpac.
The system provider equips the paletpac with either a clamping or double-belt turning device to match product requirements.
The device quickly brings the bags into the required position and keeps them dimensionally stable.
The palletpac palletizer series is not only robust, but it is also designed for a long service life.
The BEUMER Group has completely redesigned it with a modular design using the same or similar components and modules are now used in all systems. Fewer components means fewer number of spare parts and speedier their delivery times, which has a significant impact on availability.
According to Spiekermann, BEUMER assembles the modules individually to match the customer’s requirements, tests them in-house, and assembles them at the customer’s premises. This not only saves time and money, but also simplifies any subsequent modifications and increases in performance.
The containers, precisely stacked on pallets, can then be conveyed to the downstream packaging system—the BEUMER stretch hood—which also offers the same advantages of modular as the BEUMER paletpac.
The BEUMER stretch hood covers the palletized goods with a stretch hood film that adapts itself to each stack. It is very stretchable and fixes the material on the pallet by means of horizontal and vertical contracting forces.
This process thus offers a significantly higher load stability, whereby the goods are also safely protected against environmental influences such as sun, dirt and moisture—both during handling and external storage.
Operators can transport products to their customers in perfect condition, ready for presentation at the point of sale.
“More and more customers are coming to us and demanding stretch hood film with the highest possible recycled content of up to 30 per cent in order to conserve resources,” says Feldmeyer.
“In the case of sack film, up to 80 per cent recycled material content is already possible.
“These films can all be processed reliably with our stretch hood series,” he asserts.
“Our robust machines are usually in operation for 25 years and sometimes for more than 30 years,” adds Spiekermann. “The experts continuously optimize the machines, like improving energy efficiency, for example.
“Another important aspect is comprehensive customer support, which ensures the constant availability of the packaging lines,” Spiekermann continues.
“The support includes, among other services, a 24/7 hotline, a rapid supply of spare parts, and service branches all over the world enabling fast support for customers everywhere.”
Says Spiekermann: “After the season, our service department takes a close look at the customer’s machine.
“Our experts check whether repairs are necessary and make them fully operational for the following season.”
Spiekermann adds he is excited about a promising market trend that more and more operators and contract baggers are turning to wood pellets or similar products in the off-season.
“These can be handled in a similar way to potting soil,” he concludes, “enables them to run our packaging lines all year round.”