Raise the bar
Selecting the ideal bar line to ensure quality and efficiency, Bosch Packaging Technology’s Daniel Bossel, product manager primary packaging, and Frank Jansen, product manager confectionery.
From energy bars to candy bars and from granola bars to fruit bars, consumers are seeing more and more bar products appear on store shelves. Increasingly popular due to health trends and on the go lifestyles, bars are a part of the diet of global consumers and are here to stay.
Processing and packaging lines that produce bars are often high speed, high volume operations where every second counts. Manufacturers must meet this need for speed to stay competitive, while ensuring conformance to hygiene regulations and maintaining efficiency. Given these intricacies, the right equipment is essential to capitalise on market opportunities and continue to grow the bottom line.
Line harmony and standardisation
A fully integrated bar line with a single design philosophy from processing to packaging ensures maximum efficiency. Easy, seamless integration of machines that work harmoniously allows for smooth product flow, minimising bottlenecks and downtime. If just one machine in the overall system is not integrated properly, the performance of the entire line can suffer.
Standardised equipment with the same look and feel offers several other important advantages, including ease of use and reduction in operator error. Employing the same operating interfaces and software across a line enables more intuitive operation. Operators have to learn fewer processes and train on less machines, which makes them feel more confident and in control. This leads to fewer errors, greater operating speed and faster troubleshooting.
Standardised equipment also requires fewer parts in a line, simplifies stock and maintenance and improves overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Downtime can be minimised since operators are more comfortable making changes, which reduces costs due to increased throughput and production capacity.
Meeting the demand for variety
Another driver in the growth of bar packaging is consumer demand for product variation. Products are sold as special editions, in dietetic versions and boasting new and different flavours to stand out on store shelves. They are packaged in sizes from bite size to king size, with a seemingly infinite number of options for secondary packaging – ranging from multipacks to cartons in counts of all sizes. This level of diversity has made processing and packaging increasingly complex.
Whether improving a recipe, launching a new product or changing packaging formats, it’s important to choose bar processing and packaging technology that offers quick changeovers and easy cleaning. This will allow manufacturers to keep pace and avoid unnecessary downtime. Lines designed with one operating philosophy in mind can help manufacturers achieve these objectives. With standardised tools, easy operating technology and accessibility, format changes can be completed quickly, with minimal interference in the production process.
Given the need to safeguard against cross-contamination, particularly across product batches containing allergens such as nuts, rapid quality cleaning between runs is absolutely essential. Surfaces should be easily accessible through an open design and equipment should have no hidden spots that could harbour contaminants. Good accessibility enables quick cleaning and easy inspection. Depending on the design, disassembly of belt systems for cleaning can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Easily removable belts and panels, tool-less belt changes and a line that is customised for bar product requirements minimises downtime.
Designed with bars in mind
Employing line technology designed specifically for bars can lead to benefits in uptime, hygiene and ease of operation. In the processing phase, several unique features can have significant impact on overall productivity, from mass preparation through to cutting and coating.
The quality and taste of bars depend on the accuracy and consistency of the original ingredients. Proper production starts with automated technologies that verify dosing accuracy. Homogeneity must also be ensured via thorough mixing. Gentle handling is also important in order to prevent product damage, especially for bar products that have flaky ingredients. Technology that produces consistent mixing quality even when handling a range of throughputs is essential.
Another key consideration for manufacturers is whether they are opting for batch wise or continuous mass preparation. Manufacturers seeking the flexibility to produce a wide variety of different masses and a variety of ingredients typically choose batch processing. Conversely, manufacturers focusing on one product or few variations choose continuous production to achieve the highest accuracy, precision, efficiency and product consistency.
In the forming stage, elimination of waste can significantly improve return on investment (ROI), and manufacturers should utilise every bit of mass possible in the finished bar products. New technology allows for the elimination of trim when processing bar masses for maximum product usage.
Bottlenecks and inefficiencies are also often found in the cutting process, especially for sticky and layered bar products. Many companies are turning to ultrasonic technology to cut product into individual bars as it arrives in mass ropes. This applies minimum stress and pressure during cutting and preserves product quality. It also delivers cleaner cuts with sharper edges and smooth surfaces for quality and aesthetic benefits. Additionally, the ultrasonic powered knife facilitates cleaning by not letting the product stick to the blade surfaces, saving time and minimising product waste.
Product breakage and waste
Driven by increasing production volumes, bar lines must process vast product quantities with highly varied consistencies. Product breakage and waste can clog the system, leading to jammed parts, accumulations of dirt and compromised hygiene standards. A line that fosters gentle product handling and smoother transfers overcomes these issues.
Advanced product distribution technology that prevents product clogging and damage is also important. Conveyors with smooth interfaces and perfectly matching side guides place minimal mechanical load on the products, avoiding product breakage and the accumulation of particles. Angled surfaces and crumb trays where crumbs and product pieces will roll off can improve the cleanliness of the line as well. Finally, rounded corners and smooth transfers between steps, minimal gaps and connected belts all preserve product quality.
Flexibility is most important for end of line packaging, as manufacturers keep up with changing retailer and consumer demands for pack styles. Technology that can handle a variety of formats, such as trays, classic full wraparound and two part, shelf ready packaging, gives manufacturers an edge, especially those with a variety of brands and products in their portfolio.
Wrapping it up
In the fast paced, competitive world of bar production and packaging, choosing the right technology is imperative for increasing line profitability. A seamless bar processing and packaging system with a standardised end to end design pays bar manufacturers significant dividends. That is why it is important to work with a supplier who can act as a consultant in determining the best solution for each manufacturer’s unique needs.