Versatility and convenient size changing at the push of a button are among the key benefits of the new automatic collation and shrink wrapping system developed and manufactured by Linkx Systems for the Unilever Foods plant at Trafford Park. The system, which replaces an existing machine that lacked the flexibility needed to meet today’s production requirements, produces shelf-ready tray packs of PG Tips teabags.

After evaluating a number of potential suppliers for the new system, Unilever Foods selected Linkx Systems. This decision was made on the basis of the company’s proven experience in the development and manufacture of highly automated packaging equipment, and because the modern technology used by Linkx Systems not only facilitates efficient and flexible machine operation, but also provides a high degree of future proofing.

The new collating and wrapping system developed by Linkx Systems for Unilever Foods receives the cartons of teabags from the production line, turns them on end, collates them on a tray, glues the tray and then provides an overall shrink wrap, doubling the flexibility compared with their current machine.

In order to make the new system flexible, dependable and easy to operate, Linkx Systems, drawing on experience gained with its well proven and highly successful Matrix range of collator/shrink wrappers, produced a design that uses servo drives for all major functions. This means that all motions can be controlled automatically, eliminating the need for manual settings and adjustments, and also that reliable accurate operation is maintained under all conditions.

Overall control for the new system is provided by a Siemens programmable controller, which is configured to allow size changes to be carried out almost instantly, simply by pressing a button. Machine downtime during product changeovers is therefore almost eliminated, allowing productivity to be maximised.

The new collating and shrink-wrapping system for Unilever Foods was exhaustively tested prior to delivery to site, which meant that installation and commissioning were fast and straightforward, with minimal disruption to production. The system achieved full productivity as soon as it was commissioned, and is meeting all of its design targets for reliability, flexibility and ease of use.