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Natures Way Foods in West Sussex is using a Marco yield-control system to streamline the high-speed manual packaging of its prepared-fruit range.

Natures Way Foods supplies high-quality pre-packaged prepared fruit and salads to major supermarkets, restaurant chains and food-service outlets.

Initial consultative site trials carried out by Marco showed that operators on the prepared-fruit packing lines were consistently overpacking by between four and six per cent, which had a direct negative impact on bottom-line profitability.

The size and weight of individual fruit components, which include apple, pineapple, mango and orange, can vary considerably in each pack.

Without an effective feedback system constantly monitoring individual pack trends and operator performance, companies find it very difficult to reduce this level of giveaway and so run the risk of producing underweight packs and packs with unacceptable ingredient inconsistency.

Marco’s Trac-It system reduces pack giveaway to almost zero, while improving productivity.

Its packing-line system at Natures Way is based around custom-built mobile stainless steel Linemaster III portion-control workstations.

The operator displays give information relating to the particular product run and high-contrast multi-section bar graphs – changing from red through amber to a green acceptance zone – indicate whether the correct amount of product has been accepted.

These systems are language transparent, making them ideal for multi-national workforces.

Weight data from these user-friendly scales is transmitted via a robust wireless network to the central Datamaster terminal, which runs Marco’s Software Editor Suite.

When order requirements are sent to this terminal from the main ERP system, the required target weights are automatically transmitted to the Linemaster stations.

The Marco system features the Automatic Optimisation (AO) software module, which helps to reduce giveaway to almost zero, without going outside allowed tolerances.

This continually fine-tunes pack target weights based on real-time factory floor data.

Operators are unaware of these subtle ongoing adjustments and continue to pack to the ‘green light’ on the Linemaster scales.

Results from dozens of Marco installations demonstrate that giveaway can be reduced to fractions of a gram per pack without affecting fruit balance and line speed.

The head of operations at Natures Way Foods said: ‘Within hours of Marco’s system going live, giveaway had been reduced to below 0.1g per pack.

‘This level continues to be maintained without affecting the ingredient balance and savings go directly to our bottom line.

‘In parallel our productivity has increased and we now have full traceability from the packing line.

‘The operators find the system very easy to use and the mobility of the Linemaster stations allows us to change line layout with minimum disruption.

‘All this is good news for us and good news for our customers and consumers.’

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