Shipments of U.S. packaging machinery increased by 6 percent in 2013, reaching a total of $7.9 billion, according to the 2014 State of the Industry Report from PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. Food companies, including meat producers, account for about a third of that figure (34 percent).
Meat manufacturers seeking to improve their operations by investing in new technologies and machinery were able to find the latest solutions at PACK EXPO International 2014 in November in Chicago. Three major trends in meat manufacturing stood out during the show: shrinking machinery footprints, sustainability-enhancing advancements and new measures to advance food-safety efforts.
A smaller footprint saves valuable floor space and reduces costs typically associated with larger machinery. If a machine’s footprint is small enough to fit into a facility’s existing layout, the potential need to expand that facility is eliminated — along with the costs associated with building and maintaining new construction.
Today’s machinery manufacturers are building solutions that specifically address customers’ space limitations and cost considerations. This trend was well represented at PACK EXPO International, where several high-performing, space-saving solutions were on display. For instance, Branson Ultrasonics showcased its lineup of new DCX compact ultrasonic welding power supplies used in the packaging of meat products. With its high degree of operational control and high-speed efficiency, the DCX lineup is optimal for tight spaces on the floor.
Consumer demand for greater environmental accountability and the cost-savings potential of sustainability initiatives continues to drive the meat industry to go green. As more companies implement operation-wide sustainability plans, improvements in equipment efficiency, reductions in material usage and cuts in energy consumption are all important factors.
Solutions for improving sustainability measurements could be found throughout the show. These include Nordson’s new ProBlue Liberty for applications in tray forming and case erecting. This integrated tankless melter and fill system is designed to improve productivity while delivering energy and adhesive savings across multiple meat packaging lines. A proprietary sensor monitors molten adhesive levels in the hopper and alerts the system when adhesive is needed. By melting only what is needed when it is needed, the ProBlue Liberty melter virtually eliminates char buildup and reduces material waste.
Focus on food safety
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service reports more than 13 million pounds of beef, pork, poultry and mixed-meat products were recalled in 2013. Recalls can hurt a brand’s reputation and are generally very costly to implement. To help producers, exhibitors like Bimba have developed sanitary actuators specifically designed for food packaging applications. The company’s new Stainless Steel Flat-1 actuators, on display at PACK EXPO last month, are highly resistant to corrosive foams and spray used during washdown activities. The components comply with current USDA and 3-A requirements for corrosion-resistant non-product contact areas, and the unitized body design of the actuators eliminates the need for tie rods, which can trap food product and create areas for bacterial growth.
Keeping up with tomorrow’s trends
Meat product manufacturers seeking the newest packaging solutions can look to the debut of PACK EXPO East 2015 (Feb. 16-18; Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia) to discover game-changing innovations that maximize their sustainability and food safety efforts with a minimal footprint. To learn more and register for PACK EXPO East, visit Packexpoeast.com ($30 through Jan. 21, 2015; then $60).
Tom Egan is vice president, Industry Services, for PMMI — The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. PMMI represents more than 650 packaging and processing supply-chain companies that provide a full range of packaging and processing machinery, materials, components and containers. To learn more about PMMI and the PACK EXPO trade shows, visit PMMI.org and Packexpo.com.