Vale of Mowbray had been experiencing steady growth and winning more business from national supermarkets, resulting in up to 700,000 pork pies being produced per day. Long-standing customer Iceland had been taking on more products and placed a major Christmas order, which prompted the bakery to conduct a review of its packaging capacity. It became clear that the existing set-up would not be sufficient and the famous pie company needed to expand its packaging capacity by 50%.
“Our products have a short shelf-life so the new order meant we had to wrap more than 5 million items in 9 days, in the run-up to the festive season,” explained Piotr Cienkosz, production manager, Vale of Mowbray. “We needed a new flow wrapper to deal with the increased output but also an entire new line, including metal detector, tray de-nester, box machine and label applicator.”
Vale of Mowbray’s existing packaging solution included two flow wrappers from Italian manufacturer GSP (General System Pack), so it was a straightforward decision to choose GSP again, as Piotr continued: “We previously invested in GSP after extensive research into six suppliers, concluding it was the best solution for the business – they make incredibly reliable machines. We knew GSP was talented at working closely with us to create very flexible machines, coupled with their impressive commitment to training and installation.”
As the bakery has around 40 different products the new flow wrapper had to be able to accommodate many different types of tray and film. GSP designed the machine around Vale of Mowbray’s specifications, making small modifications to a standard machine. This process included in-depth testing with multiple products and discussing specific requirements with the GSP engineering team.
Modifications included shortening the in-feed due to space restrictions; a new safety feature which stops the machine being operated while the folding box is being changed over and a new chain cleaning system so grease does not clog the wrapper’s chain when packing without a tray.
The new flow wrapper was up-and-running within 24 hours, increasing capacity by 50 percent and giving Vale of Mowbray the confidence it could fulfill the significant festive order, wrapping over 5 million products in nine days. But the investment is also paying other dividends. The additional capacity is being used throughout the year as other customers increase their orders.
The record-breaking weather of 2018 has also created other peaks in demand, which the new capacity can handle effortlessly. Over the late May bank holiday for example, the company sold over 3 million pies in one week, due to the hot weather and promotions in various supermarkets.
“During the busiest periods, we run the packaging line 24/7 for up to 10 days, so minimal down-time is critical,” said Piotr. “We change each machine’s set-up 10-15 times a day and the GSP wrappers have been designed with this in mind. Changing between different products and tray sizes only takes 5-7 minutes while a film change takes under three.”
Vale of Mowbray also benefits from KernPack’s national engineer network which enables a rapid response to any issues. One example was when a new touch screen was required for a wrapper’s control panel. KernPack arrived with the screen the next day to avoid any unnecessary downtime.