JMP comes to grips with mushroom packing
December 9, 2013
As one of the most delicate varieties of fresh produce, mushrooms have very stringent packing requirements. Roland Tellzen examines how JMP Engineering helped the country’s largest mushroom grower to pack with care.
JMP comes to grips with mushroom packing
AS AUSTRALIA’S LARGEST grower and packer of mushrooms, Costa Mushrooms, based in Mernda, Victoria, has specific packaging needs to ensure its produce reaches its markets across Australia speedily and in top condition.
With farms in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia growing in excess of 500 tonnes of mushrooms per week, Costa works hard to ensure its produce reaches capital cities across the country in a timely manner.
Indeed, Costa says it is proud to be the mushroom pre-packing market leader. Costa pushes for innovative ways to ensure its produce is handled in the most effective manner to ensure customers are receiving the best quality mushrooms.
To help Costa supply such heavy demand for its mushrooms, the company recently decided to install a new palletising system at its Mernda facility.
It had some very stringent requirements for the system. It had to be robust and speedy enough to automatically pack mushroom punnets into cardboard trays and then palletise the trays.
It would also need to be able to work with lines running simultaneously, and handle a range of punnet sizes from 200g to 500g, as well as two interlocked tray sizes, all packed into four possible stack combinations.
Costa also required a packing and palletising rate of up to 90 punnets per minute for each line for small punnets and 80 punnets per minute per line for large punnets, that could operate 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.
All of this was complicated further by the delicate nature of the produce to be packed. Costa specified any system would need to include a special gripper designed so it wouldn’t touch the mushrooms as they bruise easily from handling.
Putting its requirements out for tender, it was offered a choice between a system requiring four robots – two loading punnets into trays and another pair palletising those trays – and a solution proposed by materials handling specialist JMP Engineering that would only require a single robot per line.
The JMP system was based around a solution using a custom-built JMP gripper to handle all the punnet and tray sizes with the one gripper, therefore only needing the single robot per line to load punnets into the trays and then place them on the pallets.
The Australian general manager of Thomastown, Victoria-based JMP, Paul Vassallo, says that with more than 500 installations around the world, the company had the broad expertise to meet Costa’s specific needs.
“It was a great challenge, as well as a great opportunity for JMP, because we saw this not only as a potentially challenging palletising system, but it gave us a chance to showcase our technology and gripper design expertise, with all the equipment designed and manufactured by JMP,” Vassallo says.
“With our main 40,000 square foot workshop, JMP Engineering can take on any size engineering project from a simple parcel conveyor to a multiple lane, multiple pick-and-place robotic palletising systems.”
Vassallo describes the operation as a “triumph” of speedy planning and execution.
On completion, the system is now capable of handling a maximum peak rate of 180 punnets per minute, and a peak palletising rate of 30
trays per minute.
For all the design and complexity of the product, Vassallo says one of the unique aspects of the system is how little human input is needed to keep it working now it’s in place.
“It takes only two operators to look after the total system,” he says.
“JMP handles automation and control in-house. We have a team of specialists who write all of our software.
“While our systems primarily use Allen Bradley PLC and panel technology, we also regularly use Omron and Siemens automation.”
He says the project now joins successful installations of JMP machines around the world in a variety of industries.
JMP’s palletising solution for Costa Mushrooms combines speed with the ability to handle the company’s delicate produce with care.JMP comes to
grips with mushroom packing
See artice and photos on page 12 of Food & Drink Business:
Food&Drink business | November / December 2013