Increasing Efficiency With Cheese Production

Monday, August 26th, 2019

What began 120 years ago at Jermi Käsewerk GmbH with the production of cheese and butter for the local population has developed over four generations into an internationally active company with 370 employees. Still based in Laupheim-Baustetten near Ulm, Germany, Jermi produces its own processed and fresh cheese specialities and supplies sales, gastronomy and food manufacturers in the sector.

An important part of the production is packing the plastic blisters containing the sliced cheese into cartons, which Jermi then delivers to supermarkets. Well-known varieties such as Gouda, Tilsiter, butter cheese or Edam, which are already available in blisters weighing 250 grams or 400 grams, are packed into display cartons with folding tabs on the front. Most frequently, discounters make use of these convenient package sizes. The handy cartons can be quickly placed on the store shelves so that customers can easily remove the individual blisters. In order to better meet the great demand, Jermi planned to increase production to double the output. For this purpose, an investment was to be made in a packaging system that could pack the plastic blisters fully automatically and efficiently into the secondary packaging.


Variable Product Height As A Challenge

However, sliced cheese types which have plenty of holes also share an unusual feature: the number of cheese slices per blister must be adjusted to ensure that the weight of goods is identical in every pack. Slices with plenty of holes require more volume at the same weight. Kanellos Tzinieris, the responsible Area Sales Manager at Schubert, explains the repercussions: “For this reason, the deep-drawn plastic packaging varies in height. Blisters also bulge where cheese slices have plenty of holes. This means that more protective gas enters the packaging and can expand further.” The result of this phenomenon at Jermi was that different quantities of packs could fit into the carton using the current system.

The specifications for a new plant were therefore clearly defined: the same number of blisters should always be packed in one carton. At the same time, the packaging output had to be increased significantly and the entire process needed to run fully automatically. Due to the technological challenges, Jermi Managing Director Gerhard Jerg decided to work with Schubert for the first time.


Special Pre-Grouping Increases Efficiency

As a solution for the variable product heights, the Schubert experts developed a special pre-grouping system in which pick & place robots stack the blisters in matching cassettes on a Transmodul. The plastic blisters are then placed in stacks into the trays provided and compressed during this process. A robot also pushes the blisters together again when the carton lid is inserted. This allows the space in the secondary packaging to be fully utilised. Moreover, this ensures that each carton contains the identical number of blisters. For Jermi, the newly developed process with the special pre-grouping provides a decisive advantage: around ten per cent more products can now be transported on the same space and displayed for sale. “We could put an extra layer of plastic blisters in the display carton,” says Kanellos Tzinieris.

Schubert equipped the packaging line with a further special feature: the TLM machine also inserts blisters into plastic crates instead of unmixed carton trays. They are later packed manually as mixed packages and temporarily stored in the crates in the cold storage. This system also offers the flexibility Schubert machines are known for – if required, up to 13 formats can be processed.


Compact Machine, Fully Automated Technology

The compact TLM packaging system developed by Schubert for Jermi consists of five sub-machines. Two Transmodul sections are integrated into the system. The products are pre-grouped on one of them, and the other one transports the display cartons. While the cheese packages are being fed into the system, the cartons are removed from the magazine and erected. F4 robots pick up the cheese blisters from the infeed belt and place them into the cassettes provided on the Transmodul. From there, F2 robots remove the pre-grouped cheese packages and place them in stacks in the tilted display cartons. In order to finally be able to insert the lids from above into the display cartons, a robot pushes the plastic blisters inwards from the rear wall of the cartons through two specially integrated carton cut-outs.

Gerhard Jerg is impressed with the result. The new TLM line from Schubert, which has found its place in a specially built hall, now enables Jermi to produce in a manner that is very efficient, high-performance and flexible.


Further reading:
One Way That Supermarkets Of The Future Can Tackle The Scandal Of Food Waste
The Value Of Blockchain Technology For The F&B Industry In Asia
Packaging Has A Key Role In Reducing Our Food Waste: An Australian Perspective