In 2002, YoFarm, Naugatuck, CT, the makers of YoCrunch, a combination yogurt/crunchy snack, decided that its packaging process needed to be upgraded, both to keep up with growing production demands and to improve efficiency at the plant. YoFarm decided that it needed to automate the transfer of the crunchy ingredients in its YoCrunch snack with a new vacuum conveyor system from Hingham, MA-based PIAB Inc.
The company created a whole new yogurt category in 1991 with the introduction of the first yogurt/granola topping combo pack. Known as YoCrunch, it combined the company's mild yogurt in a low-fat form with an accompanying packet of granola as a single-serve offering.
To improve operations and productivity, the company decided it wanted to specifically automate the process of transferring the dry YoCrunch ingredients from 2000-lb. totes into the "domes," or the plastic containers that sit atop the yogurt cup.
For years, this had been a manual operation, both time consuming and labor intensive. Operators would literally scoop the granola, cookies or dry ingredient out of the enormous tote using a stainless steel bucket and carry the food over to a filler machine. The operator would then be responsible for monitoring the right quantities using the cup as a guide.
In its quest to find a less laborious, safer and more efficient transfer system, YoFarm turned to PIAB, a world leader in industrial vacuum conveying technology, to purchase a state-of-the-art, USDA and FDA-approved vacuum conveyor system. "Our production capacity has increased by more than 40% over the last few years," stated YoFarm plant engineer, Peter Riebe. "We needed a transfer system that could keep up with increased productivity and make us more competitive and profitable, while reducing the physical strain on our employees. PIAB's C-33 conveyors had everything we were looking for in terms of functionality, hygienic safety and quality."
PIAB's C-series of conveyors are designed to safely and quietly transport up to 15 tons/hour of powders, granules and food in virtually any manufacturing environment. Made of stainless steel, these conveyors meet all the standards for hygienic safety and are corrosion-resistant and easy to clean.
"Another benefit we received by choosing to work with PIAB was the ability to test the flow of the products under real conditions at PIAB's testing lab," said Riebe.
PIAB offers the use of its test facility in Hingham, MA to all of its potential customers, running a variety of materials to determine their conveying characteristics as well as identifying any possible issues.
Riebe adds, "Testing PIAB's product was instrumental to us because we knew that the vacuum conveyor would work with our products before actually purchasing the system."
With two PIAB C-33 vacuum conveyors in place, the YoCrunch dry ingredients are now transferred in a safer, completely automated system. The packaging process is now entirely hands-free, as measured amounts of dry food are pneumatically transferred to the filler machine, dropped in the "domes", thermally sealed and then mated with a container of yogurt. The machines run 24/7 with no risk of human error and the quantities are always accurate.
"The PIAB conveyors have taken the manual labor out of the process," Riebe said. "There is now no risk of employee back strain, as the operators just have to run the machines and monitor the process. They are much happier in their work."
Modular in design, the C-33 vacuum conveyor facilitates fast installation and requires one simple connection to compressed air. It has minimal components, small dimensions and is lightweight.
Riebe concluded, "The C-33 is a very reliable, well-designed and extremely clean system. Our employees appreciate the fact that it is simple to operate and requires almost no maintenance. And our inspectors like the fact that it eliminates almost all risk of contamination. Removing the potential for injury from the packaging process makes for a very stress-free, happy and productive work environment."
PIAB USA Inc.
65 Sharp St.
Hingham, MA 02043