Two new packaging lines for Harkebrügge

The Harkebrügge plant is geared for top performance when it comes to packaging. Two new lines for packaging ham and other specialities in folding packaging and oval trays were installed at Bell Germany’s logistics and slicing centre in the summer of 2018. The innovative equipment created by replacing or converting existing lines allows the plant to achieve production volumes twice as high as with the preceding models.

German customers love Abraham brand ham that comes in practical folding packaging. Likewise, the oval trays in which Bell Germany packages the new Iberico specialities, for instance, are also very popular.

The slicing centre in Harkebrügge found itself pushed to the limits time and again as sales of the two packaging types increased continuously in recent years. New equipment was needed, but there was not enough room. The solution: the existing line for folding packaging was replaced and the line for oval trays was expanded in readiness for the future.

«We developed a line concept for folding packaging that is a world first in this form», reports Stefan Potgeter, responsible for, among other areas, process automation at Bell Germany «Like the standard lines it consists of a slicer, a packaging machine and a folding system, but we have added some innovative components.»

The high-performance slicer, for instance, has an innovative «interleaver module» that automatically lays separating films between the ham slices. Together with special grippers that work with the «interleaver module» independently of each other, it makes the slicer in operation at Harkebrügge the first of its kind in the world.

The system also has a modern robotic gripper that lays the portions on the packaging films. Elaborate control systems for portion quantities and detecting foreign particles guarantee consistent product quality and safety.

Bell made use of the options offered by current automation processes when converting the line for oval trays. A robotic gripper developed specifically for this project places the sliced portions into the packaging trays. A buffer guarantees it can work continuously, even when the slicer is being loaded with a new ham or chorizo.

«We can use every hand that becomes available here at Harkebrügge», says Stefan Potgeter. «It is therefore a great bonus for us that the personnel needed to operate the new line has been cut by more than half.» The capacity of the new equipment is also very impressive: both of the new machines are twice as efficient as their predecessors.