The Weigh Forward
Dutch fresh produce processor accelerates its packaging automation efforts with state-of-the-art multihead weigh scales
Located in the North Holland region famed for the high quality of its local fresh produce, Vezet B.V. is one of the largest vegetable and fruit processing businesses in The Netherlands, leading the market in freshly chopped ready-to-cook vegetables.
Vezet’s cutting-edge vegetable chopping facility produces a range of about 250 different products. The family-owned enterprise aims to be the best and most progressive developer, producer and highly valued supplier of processed vegetables and fruit for immediate consumption.
Currently packing about 220 million bags of product annually, with bout 180 million of them supplied to the Albert Heijn national supermarket chain, the company’s has recently decided to boost its manufacturing output to 300 million bags over the next five years.
With ambitious plans to add new capacity and invest in more automated machinery, the company recently made its intentions clear with addition of a new line for packing ready-to-eat salad mixes.
Based on its previous positive project experiences with Multipond weighing systems (distributed in Canada by Abbey Packaging Solutions), Vezet again invited the MULTIPOND International group to spearhead the project.
The production process revolves around a busy bowl line located in the plant’s high-care section, where bowls are filled with various ready-to-eat salads consisting of a main ingredient—for example different leaf salads or cooked noodle— and several salad toppings like shrimp, chicken, mozzarella, olives, pineapple and mandarins right up to small pieces of beef or boiled egg.
Depending on the recipe, the target weights for the ingredients are between ten and 150 grams.
As the plant’s general manager Hans Boshuizen relates, “In packaging products of this type, the market demand for bowls is steadily increasing.
“So it became imperative for us to invest in an additional bowl line.
“We simply wanted to have the best and fastest line in the plant here,” he states, “and that’s where MULTIPOND, our partner of many years, came into play by bringing us its project expertise.”
The entire line consists of six filling points in total—including three automated stations and another three requiring manual filling. Located above the ceiling, the three weighing systems include a 14-head MP 14-3800/1250-H model weigher for weighing the main ingredients, and two 10-head model MP 10-1000/400-H weighers for the toppings, with funnels built directly into the ceiling to dispense the product.
To complete the system, a custom-made three-track product transfer system, developed specifically for this application, distributes the prepared servings into the bowls.
According to Boshuizen, all product contact parts are precisely adjusted to production requirements and to the products being weighed to render the most perfect product flow possible.
Upon arriving at the weighing systems, the products are first conveyed to the pre-feed hoppers by the radially positioned feed trays and then to the weigh hoppers underneath. Here, using the partial portions, a computer determines the combination which corresponds to the target weight to be achieved, or is closest to it.
After the actual weighing process, the precisely weighed servings are transferred via the outlet funnel by means of a timing hopper to the swivelling funnel, which distributes the portions to the product transfer system. The system maintains maximum accuracy and hopper availability with calibration systems integrated in each load cell—making completely automatic calibration possible even during operation.
All in all, the line runs at speeds of about 40 bowls per minute, with standard deviation of less than one per cent, while complying with the highest hygiene requirements in the salad sector.
Says production manager Sam Mos: “Thanks to the simple user interface, our employees can operate the MULTIPOND weighers in the shortest amount of time, which is tremendously important for us. The reliability of the machines is terrific.”
General manager Boshuizen wholeheartedly agrees: “If you consider all the factors like giveaway, reliability, spare part requirements and personnel costs, then the MULTIPOND systems pay for themselves in the shortest amount of time.
“A genuine partnership between the two companies has developed over the years as a result,” he concludes, “and there are further joint projects being planned for the near future.”