Marco TRAC-IT MES helps make airline food | Automation.com

Marco TRAC-IT MES helps make airline food

Marco TRAC-IT MES helps make airline food
April 8, 2009 - The Yield Control Module (YCM) within Marco’s versatile TRAC-IT MES factory floor efficiency system has brought significant improvements and rapid cost savings to part of Uniq Prepared Foods’ state of the art production facility at Moulton Park, Northampton.

Uniq Prepared Foods, a division of Uniq plc, is a supplier of high quality sandwiches, wraps and deli products to Marks & Spencer and European airline businesses. Producing more than a million sandwiches and wraps every week, the business is one of the UK’s largest sandwich manufacturers.

With well over 100 different products in Uniq’s portfolio, flexibility, speed and precision are key ingredients of the manufacturing process to ensure the consistent quality and ‘aesthetic eatability’ of the finished products. Although certain long run products are manufactured on their fully automated line, given the rapidly varying customer requirements and need for quick line changes, high speed manual assembly still plays a major role in the production area.

At the heart of the Marco system are 12 semi-mobile stainless steel LineMaster portion control workstations operating in take-away mode. As the partly built sandwiches progress down the line, operators remove the required amount of individual sandwich components from trays placed on the weighing platform, guided by a simple red-amber-green traffic light system. The Line Masters are linked via a robust wireless network to the central Datamaster terminal, pre-programmed with information relating to all Uniq’s products. When line changes occur, the new ingredient target weights and tolerances are transferred directly from the DataMaster to the scales.

Maintaining the correct blend of sandwich fillings, whilst minimising giveaway, requires the optimum in line control, especially as sandwich fillings become more complex and adventurous. To minimise giveaway, Marco have pioneered the development of their dynamic Automatic Optimisation (AO) software. The unique AO software package continually fine tunes target weights at individual workstations, based on real time factory floor data relating to individual operator performance. The operators are unaware of this subtle fine tuning as they continue to work to the ‘green light’ on the LineMaster scales.

Uniq’s project manager Lee Harris is delighted with the way the system is operating and as he concludes: “The recently installed Marco System has proved itself to be a very cost effective way of controlling our ingredient weighing and has dramatically reduced our giveaway without compromising line speed. The new system has greatly improved our material usage and given us a greater understanding of our material losses. We have already seen a substantial reduction in prawn losses alone. It has improved our line efficiency through real time data logging of usage, runtime, batch count and downtime. The system is also very operator friendly, with operators producing consistent and accurate weighings within one minute of using the system. It has dramatically reduced set-up and change over times, thereby increasing efficiency and eliminating the chance of target weight errors. With our old system, line changes required each scale to be updated manually, which was not only time consuming, but also prone to data entry error. We are now looking to install Marco equipment on other production lines.”

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