Due to a number of economic and social factors, such as rising fuel prices and high labor costs, today’s food and beverage manufacturers are placing more emphasis on the evaluation of manufacturing efficiencies as a solution to improve overall profitability.
While packaging processes have always played an integral role in corporate decision making, food and beverage manufacturers are finding themselves under heightened pressure to capture market share in an increasingly cutthroat retail industry.
One company that has realized the direct bottom line benefits of efficient packaging equipment is AriZona Beverage Co., a major producer and distributor of beverages and snacks based in Lake Success, N.Y.
Launched in 1992, AriZona Beverage has built its success on marketing uniquely flavored drinks—including black or green teas, fruit juices, and coffees—in artfully designed bottles and cans. For five years running, AriZona beverage packaging has received Gold Awards in the London International Design Award competition. The company’s products also have been honored with Beverage Packaging Global Design Awards and Clear Choice Awards, presented by the Glass Packaging Institute.
Thanks to a great brand and innovative packaging, Arizona has expanded rapidly over the last decade, with an unprecedented 40 percent growth rate over the last two years. This exceptionally high growth can be attributed, in part, to the company’s innovative use of packaging equipment.
At a recent PACK EXPO tradeshow, Vincent M. Lotito, vice president at AriZona, purchased a new tray packer machine that has helped the company to significantly increase packaging speeds while simultaneously reducing downtime.
Prior to purchasing the Standard-Knapp tray packer, AriZona relied on co-packers to keep up with increasing demand, but in August 2003, the company purchased its own 200,000-square-foot production facility in Maplewood, N.J. In operation round-the-clock, the plant produces many different types of beverages, routinely running four or five flavors—often requiring package changes—in the same day.
Lotito and his director of operations, Mike Putnam, visited PACK EXPO Las Vegas to find a tray packer for their Maplewood plant. They were looking for equipment that would help them increase production speed and provide reliable, flexible performance. Topping their criteria list was a system offering efficient changeover capability. Changeover processes on the company’s existing tray packer were cumbersome, creating too much downtime in the production process.
While walking the show, Lotito researched a variety of different tray packers on the market, interviewing technical experts about their capabilities, and benchmarking their performance. After observing the different machinery and speaking to company representatives, Lotito selected Standard-Knapp’s Continuum 296T Tray Packer.
The Standard-Knapp solution has enabled AriZona to significantly increase case packing speeds. For 12-packs of both the 16-ounce and 20-ounce glass bottles, packaging speed has increased by 20 percent with the new equipment (from 57 cases per minute). Packaging for the 12-pack of 16-ounce cans also has increased by 20 percent from 57 cpm.
Though AriZona wanted to streamline production, the company also needed to protect its graphics-heavy labels during the packaging process. The Continuum Tray Packer stood out from its competitors because it can accommodate trays with high walls—up to 4.5 inches—while most other machines use trays with only 2 or 2.75 inch walls. The higher tray walls provide a shield for AriZona's distinctive bottles and cans.
In addition, the tray packer's infeed and lane division technology ensure that AriZona’s products move in even lanes without jamming. Its "Zero-Gap" infeed design smoothly divides products from mass flow into individual lanes utilizing geometry and frictionless rollers. This eliminates the need to break up bottlenecks with oscillators, which could damage sensitive beverage labels. After products are fed into the packer, a servo-driven grouper precisely meters them into the desired amount. With smoother production, plant operators can spend less time tending to jams and can be more attentive to overall efficiency.
Change Is Easy
Since AriZona's Maplewood plant produces beverages in many different sizes and packaging configurations, they need to make frequent changeovers to their equipment. Before using the Standard-Knapp Tray Packer, production slowed considerably whenever adjustments needed to be made, particularly to the tray packer.
"With the older equipment, it was typical to have a half-hour or one-hour period where you’re tweaking things to maximize efficiency," Lotito explains. "Plants in general are trying to get away from that tweaking, because you just can’t afford that."
With the help of the 296T, AriZona has reduced changeover time by 50 percent. Color-coded parts, numbered change points, and a user-friendly process mean that changeovers for packs of 12, 14, 18 and 24 bottles or cans take only about half an hour. Since they do not require tools, the changeovers can be done by operators, rather than mechanics—an efficient and cost-effective use of manpower. To make a changeover, operators follow a step-by-step process to ensure that changes are made correctly the first time.
The Freedom to Grow
The Maplewood site is gaining a reputation within AriZona as a high-performance test plant; when the company decides to come out with a new product, the Maplewood production line will be flexible enough to run it.
"At AriZona, we strive to create products that look as good as they taste. To do that, we have to keep trying new things," Lotito says. "We need equipment that can keep up with our ideas, and Standard-Knapp is helping us to do that."