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Keeping turnkey options fresh for packhouses

At last month’s Propak Africa trade show in Johannesburg, the Trempak team focused on the synergistic capabilities of its Tremfresh and machinery divisions, which work collaboratively on packhouse projects to offer tailor-made end-to-end solutions for fresh produce across the full flexible packaging spectrum, from flow packs, shrinkwrap and tray sealing to modified atmosphere bags, doy packs and pouches.

According to Francois Cronje, head of the machinery division, packhouses no longer want to deal with three or four different suppliers on one line. They prefer partnering with one supplier that can provide a turnkey solution created according to their operation’s needs.  

Ezette de Scally, head of the Tremfresh division, added: ‘Our in-depth understanding of how the machinery and the films should be working together sets Trempak apart and provides packers with the peace of mind that as the film and machinery supplier, we can quickly and efficiently solve any problem that may arise.’

The company reported three noticeable trends emerging from the show. The first was an increased demand from packhouses to automate, improve production efficiencies and reduce the amount of single-use plastic they put into the market. 

‘We’ve witnessed packers that are utilising a fully automatic packing line with a recyclable polyolefin film – which is easily applicable in a high-speed solution and performs well at packing rates of 60, 70 or 80/min – increase their capacity to take on much larger orders and grow volumes from 3 000 or 4 000 units daily to around 12 000 units,’ Francois enthused. ‘The improvement in efficiencies is striking as packhouses previously had eight to 10 workers hand wrapping products all day without being able to control how fast one person wrapped.They now have absolute control over packing rates and this production data is recorded on the line and can be viewed remotely via Industry 4.0 connected platforms from anywhere in the world. Furthermore, they’ve been able to redeploy these workers to pack and feed the system and as a result, improve overall efficiencies to keep up with the machine’s capacity.’ 

When Trempak has directly compared the recyclable polyolefin shrink film to PVC in weight at a few packhouses it has calculated reductions of up to 60% in single-use plastic. One packhouse, for example, reduced the amount of film used during a year by 15 tons. 

The high slip properties present in this crosslink film provides end-of-line packing benefits as opposed to PVC film, which has high tack and tends to stick to itself. This prevents efficient end-of-line packing and unpacking at store level.  

Ezette noted that the high-slip properties have enabled another packhouse to develop a space saving packing solution where consumer cartons are packed tightly together for transport, which allows for easy removal without damaging the product or the wrapping. ‘With this system, they are now saving up to 60% in volume, significantly aiding in reduced logistics costs.’ 

Lidding helps shed the weight

The second trend was a shift in enquiries to top seal lidding, with around 30% of visitors looking at a top seal solution. Some enquiries received were related to switching from clamshell to top seal lidding in an effort to reduce the volume of the packs for export to help offset some of the rising supply chain costs.

Francois pointed out that overseas retailers, who are big buyers of South African produce, are also examining how they can save costs by having their products printed, micro-perforated (MAP) and sealed here rather than in the EU or UK. ‘The fact that this is a tamper-resistant solution, which enables them to use 40% less plastic and benefit from labour cost savings is also quite appealing,’ he revealed. ‘We are currently working with local packhouses to overcome a few challenges.’  

Both divisions believe in partnering with other local manufacturers to provide a full packing solution. ‘Our Proseal equipment range, for instance, represents the perfect solution for higher packing volumes because it runs at maximum production speeds of 200 packs/min, allows for faster changeovers and captures all the generated data into a web-based tool that stores downtime analysis and performance visualisation,’ Francois noted. 
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FP6000CS INOX T452ED 1

Tremfresh showcased the difference between how fruit cartons hand wrapped with recyclable stretch film will display in a retail fridge versus those that are wrapped automatically on a Smipack shrink wrapping machine with a puncture- and tear-resistant recyclable polyolefin shrink film. The Smipack FP6000CS / T452 model pictured here is an L-Sealer that automatically wraps 20 to 40 packs/min. The recyclable film’s anti-fog properties accommodate cold chain temperature fluctuations to ensure a quality display by the time the fruit gets into retail fridges. Additionally, with the correct perforation specifications for controlled breathing of the product, the film has extended the shelf life of bananas by three days through delaying the ripening process and reducing excessive moisture in pack.

One-track focus on mono-material films

The final trend was an increased demand for mono-material films as a result of the demand from retailers to reduce packaging waste and meet their sustainability commitments over the next five years. 

Ezette explained that Tremfresh is working on replacing the laminated doypacks commonly used for cooked soups with a recyclable mono-material film. ‘It’s tricky when you move away from laminates because they easily cater for various requirements such as rigidity and barrier properties, where mono-layer films can be as affective but quite complex to develop a solution with the same attributes. It’s trial and error and you have to keep experimenting, without compromising shelf life, until you get it right and meet the objective of going recyclable,’ she emphasised. 

However, she believes that more exciting and versatile mono-layer films will become more readily available as the global demand on extruders to produce recyclable mono-layer films continues. 

Ezette added that when the team is working on these types of developments, it looks at what’s available in the market, sources raw materials to run in-house trials, where it makes up the pouches with different constructions and hot fills, and drop tests them and makes the necessary adjustments until everyone’s satisfied they have something that could work. Tremfresh then approaches several packing partners to run production trials. 

‘All of these are examples of the Trempak team’s expertise, passion and product array, which allows it to partner with customers to build efficient, effective and sustainable solutions for better business and a better environment,’ Francois concluded.

Click here to read this article in the E-Mag.