AutoCoding Systems, packaging line solutions systems integrator, has developed a bespoke cheese weighing and labelling system for chilled dairy foods company Dairy Crest – Dairy Crest’s Davidstow site in the UK is said to be the largest Cheddar cheese factory in Europe, producing over 43,000 tonnes of cheddar cheese, 27,000 tonnes of whey powder and 2,000 tonnes of whey butter per year.
When the company needed to replace its obsolete cheese weighing system it approached AutoCoding Systems for assistance.
AutoCoding Systems and Dairy Crest worked together to develop a bespoke cheese weighing and labelling system which could cope with the increased volume and speed of cheese production, whilst maintaining the essential continuity of product flow.
The AutoCoding application consists of a Nova Weigh checkweigher, one Logopak main print and apply labeller, a backup Markem Labeller and a Markem outer case coder. A wall mounted stainless steel control panel housing an industrial PC and PLC controls, incorporates a touch screen interface to enable operators to manage and control all aspects of the system operation. The 20kg blocks of cheese are accurately weighed and a barcode label is automatically printed with all the manufacturing data and applied to the cheese block. If the scanner fails to read the barcode or a label is not applied, the second print and apply printer is activated immediately without stopping the line. If a cheese block is overweight or underweight, the system will not allow the block to move from the checkweigher. A reset panel with warning indicator lights shows if a cheese block is out of tolerance, if a label has not been applied or if the second printer has been activated.
The labelled cheese block is boxed and an outer case coder prints an inkjet barcode before the boxed cheese goes into storage for up to 20 months to mature. All the manufacturing data is stored in a database for retrieval and reporting, eg average weight, total production and standard deviation per batch, per product and per day. By linking this database to their other system, Dairy Crest is able to track and trace individual cheese blocks from supermarket shelves back 20 months to the farm where the milk was first produced.
Neil Flood, system engineer at Dairy Crest, says: “AutoCoding Systems took the time to listen and understand our specific requirements and developed a modular and bespoke system. The system has proved to be virtually 100 per cent reliable resulting in near zero downtime and gives us an accurate reporting and product trace facility.” He went on to explain: “The cheese manufacturing process is not tolerant of any delays to the line. Continuity of product flow is the most vital aspect of the system and with a major emphasis on back-up redundancy, we are able to quickly and simply swap out faulty equipment, thereby allowing continuity of production at all times. A major challenge was that all development, testing and commissioning had to be done on the active packaging line with no delays to the product flow. AutoCoding Systems successfully achieved this with little or no disruption to our production process.”
Dairy Crest has been so impressed with the dedication and work ethic displayed by the AutoCoding team that they are now working together on other projects within the business.