Whatever the application, RNA Automation can deliver the optimal flexible feeding system
that provides easy and speedy changeovers for multiple products. The perfect example is VariFeed®
– a highly flexible feeding system for high-speed food or confectionery packaging applications. This system provides easy and speedy changeovers for multiple products, essential when handling an assortment of confectionery such as chocolate bars, protein bars and cereal bars, to name just a few.
Wrapped chocolate in particular requires an innovative system that can sort and present many different bars from bulk to a packaging process through the same feeding mechanism, and it’s critical that presentation is faultless for perfect Point of Sale (PoS) presentation which the high-resolution vision system will provide.
A typical installation involved the VariFeed® delivering six different variants of wrapped chocolate bars that were all being packaged into boxes destined for POS shelves of the major supermarkets. It was vital that all the bars faced in the same direction – and of course they did. You can have complete confidence that VariFeed® will deliver every time without the need for costly rectification downtime.
Speed and simplicity
Complimenting flexibility, and just as important, are speed and simplicity of operation. Going back to the example we just mentioned, the feed rate was around 400 parts per minute and the changeover time – part to part – was estimated at less than a minute. This was a huge degree of throughput – but vital where volumes are measured in hundreds of millions, not thousands. Did you know that 350 million bars of Dairy Milk alone are sold every year?1 Not that we have a favourite!
Its simple, modular design makes VariFeed® suitable for processes across all industries, not just confectionery, and it can be easily configured to meet a customer’s specific requirements. Although designed initially for the food packaging industry, our system came to the rescue of another customer: the ability to quickly mass produce in a flexible way helped a customer deliver a range of face masks with different filtration valves during the covid pandemic.
Robust and reliable
VariFeed® features a robust frame of stainless steel and FDA approved materials, designed and built to meet the highest food safety standards. There’s a choice of hopper sizes and centrifugal feeders, high performance vision systems are built in, and it aligns seamlessly with downstream conveyor systems and connected packaging operations.
It is certainly robust, but thanks to our decades of machinery design experience it also boasts a very smooth operation to avoid any product damage through the process. Not to mention it’s very quiet – very important in any factory environment.
In a further show of commitment to our customers, before committing to delivery of an end solution RNA carries out a proof of principle to develop and validate a working concept of the solution. This de-risks the project for both the machine builder and the customer and ensures they get exactly what they need to the very highest standards.
Automation can be another key to significantly increased output, optimising both production and the allocation of skills within the business. RNA’s flexible feeders are renowned for requiring minimum human intervention, but it’s not necessarily about saving labour – more that staff can be deployed on more complex and productive tasks.
Flexible feeders offer quick payback on capital outlay: it’s possible to automate with lower capital costs but make the most of that investment as we’ve explored here. Despite the current cost of living crisis, the UK confectionery market is predicted to continue growing annually by 2.48% (CAGR 2022-2027)2.
It’s clear that innovation in flavour combinations and dietary needs are driving the sheer volume of confectionery now on offer – which in turn emphasises the overriding need for a feeding system offering flexibility, speed and simplicity, reliability and efficiency – and ultimately a rapid ROI and future proof technology. In other words, the VariFeed®.