White is the new gold

Packaging technology for the global milk powder boom

White is the new gold
(PresseBox) ( Schwäbisch Hall, )
There is no question, internationally there is still a strong demand for milk powder. Optima Consumer unites minimum quantity and mean value dosing in one machine, as required for a number of different markets, at high output rates. This can be shown within an industry solution installed in France.

Optima Consumer recognized the milk powder trend early on and invested in the development of technical systems. Two features stand out here: The hygienic design of the lines and the adaptability of weighing and dosing systems to the specific requirements of the international target markets.

Mean value or minimum quantity? Or both?

In Europe (harmonized) packaging regulations and averaging control are in force. In China on the other hand, minimum quantity filling for each container is mandatory, especially because the market demands it and customers often then weigh the product themselves. Any shortfall is regarded hereby consumers as an absolute “no go”. A brand where this happens would sooner or later risk heavy losses in sales.

In the case of average controls the dosing precision can be optimized over the total quantity via the averaging method (taking into account defined tolerance limits per pack). A statistical evaluation of previously achieved dosing amounts is worthwhile and is the basis for subsequent ongoing calculations of optimum dosing quantities. This differs from the minimum quantity regulation: Here the optimum result must be achieved in every dosing procedure. A “minus” i.e. below the stated pack contents, is simply not accepted by the market. The minimum target weight must always be attained but at the same time with as little as possible excess.

Minimum quantity per container or averaging controls – in both cases the milk powder producers aim to minimize the so-called “product giveaway”. Technically, a number of different optimizing procedures can be used, but these can all be implemented jointly in an Optima machine. Milk powder companies which produce for global markets, are thus especially flexible.

This process on the OPTIMA FS machine is known as “topping up”. As well as perfect implementation of minimum quantity regulation at average speed, (optionally) averaging control is carried out with high output. The OPTIMA FS works continually. For the operator this means high performance with a compact, single-lane, clearly arranged machine layout.

“Topping up” function for Asian markets

In the OPTIMA FS the containers are forwarded by feeding screw to the first check weigher. This determines the tare weight of the containers. Containers are then taken over by a star wheel where two auger dosing systems are installed (for high performance). Each of these two pre-dosers apportions the majority of the final fill quantity. This happens on-the-fly and regardless of high product quantities, the auger dosers are in a position to fill the milk powder into the containers in the shortest time - so short that the machine runs continuously without stopping. For dust-free filling the containers are lifted during dosing and their entire time in the carousel. Dosing unit and containers are thus almost completely sealed such that the machine remains largely free from stray product.

The containers are then forwarded via another feeding screw to intermediate weighing. Taking into account the tare weight, the weight needed for topping up in respect of the minimum quantity is calculated. This “topping up” function is taken over by a third auger filler in the line. Only a few percent of the total weight is added here in continuous transport. The gross weight scales show in the end whether the required amount of milk powder is really in the container. Containers with a faulty weight are rejected as appropriate at the last station and those with good control results are forwarded to the clincher and flanger.

Production at a French company:

Minimum quantity + 1.3 g

Here doses ranging from 400 to 900 g are filled into metal cans. Format changes are carried out in maximum 30 minutes. Only a few manual movements are necessary, no tools are required. Very quickly the transport screws and two more format parts are exchanged. The quick change of format is of course an essential contributing factor to the operational efficiency of the machine: The same performance could also be attained by a synchronized system but then with multi-lane assembly. In this case a format change would be more complicated, cleaning work then also more extensive and the space requirement would be higher in comparison.

Filling precision: For filling to minimum quantity, a mean value for overfilling of between 0.05 and 3.9 g is contractually agreed with the milk powder producer. In actual fact one of the first evaluations for a product at the customer’s site resulted in an average overfilling of only 1.3 g. In practice, therefore the agreed values were far surpassed. In this process the performance was max. 150 containers/min. The company’s Manager Dry Products & New Products: “For the international markets for which we produce our baby milk powder products we were looking for a solution which would enable compliance with the different applicable local regulations in respect of dosing accuracy. With the solution from Optima we are today in a position to produce with optimum weight for every market. Measured values confirm this. Data determined in actual production are again clearly better than the contractually agreed values”.

If the operating company wishes to change from the minimum quantity regulation to averaging control, the conversion takes place exclusively on the control panel. With the existing dosing and weighing system, an output of more than 130 cans per minute with the 900 g format and more than 220 cans per minute with 400 g format can be achieved. The mean value of overfilling is now around 0.1 to 0.3 g, based on the format of the container. In the first instance it could be assumed that it would make sense to use the average control process also for minimum quantity regulation and thus by adjusting the target weight higher as required. However, because of the broader dispersion of this process the product give-away over the long term would be too high and this procedure becomes uneconomical.

Hygienic design and more

Machine concepts by Optima for milk powder are optimized in respect of hygienic design. The materials used, and in particular those in contact with the product, were carefully selected; as far as possible no screws were used and the system was converted to singlecore wiring.

Optima deliberately decided on auger dosers for the portioning process because of the many different types of milk powder which are processed these days: from fine powders to granulate, from low fat to full fat. The essential advantage of auger fillers is that they can process over 90 % of the milk powder products.

Customer requirements are diverse, not only in respect of the dosing system. There are also a number of answers to the question of whether it would be better to invest in a modular machine system such as OPTIMA MPS, which can be individually adapted with additional process functions such as container cleaning, gassing, topping-up, membrane sealing, scoop inserts, leaflet inserts etc., or in a standard machine OPTIMA FS. Optima offers both variants: The standard machine FS also has both dosing process functions. It is made in small series, has a price advantage and is more readily available.

Capsules, complete line, InlineCan… Increasing variability

The market for milk powder remains exciting. New trends can be seen especially in the packaging materials. Previously, the round metal can held first place as the most popular form of packaging for milk powder but meanwhile, lighter and more flexible containers are steadily increasing their share.

Dairy companies have discovered the marketing potential of individual shapes and sizes of container at the POS as well as the convenience factor, for example when a portioning scoop is added to the pack. Benefits in terms of logistics and warehousing are also a further argument for alternative solutions. Sometimes the containers should also be additionally closed with foil. All this has an influence on machine concepts. More and more often, enquiries for a complete line are preferred, which Optima offers extremely successfully.

The InlineCan also represents a new and extremely interesting form of packaging. This new type of container combines form and format diversity with advantages in warehousing and logistics. The top quality, hygienic cardboard cans are produced from the roll, directly at the site of their use

The spectrum of machines that Optima has already implemented for milk powder ranges from the high-performance capsule machine for portion packs through to large containers with up to 900 g content. Line machine speeds begin at 50 containers/min and reach up to 300/min for average container sizes and for capsules even up to 1,500 capsules/min.
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