Processor automates interleaving, maintaining safety, sanitary standards
Land O’Frost, one of the nation’s best-selling brands of pre-sliced deli meats and a producer of specialty sausage products, sought to start a new line of premium sliced meat sub kits for retail sale. The company aimed to add family value by conveniently grouping a variety of meats in sandwich-size portions, interleaved with sanitary wax paper.
“We required a higher-volume, more sanitary solution than manual interleaving could provide,” says Steve Jones, maintenance engineering manager at Land O’Frost’s Searcy, Ark., plant. Jones was involved with the production aspects of the new product line.
While meat and poultry plants are commonly cleaned and sanitized during the night shift after two work shifts each day, Land O’Frost places a particular emphasis on proper cleaning and sanitation to produce safe products. This typically involves multiple phases of cleaning and sanitizing for eight hours a day to ensure its plants are not only visibly clean, but microbiologically clean.
It usually includes equipment disassembly, pre-rinsing, soaping and scrubbing, foaming walls and floors, a flood rinse with hot water as well as visual inspection and microbiological sample collection to ensure the elimination of any potential debris, contaminants or bacteria. Before the company starts production, USDA inspectors verify its plants are truly sanitary. Because of the deli meats and specialty sausage producer’s commitment to food safety, this was a top consideration in selecting interleaving equipment from Packaging Progressions (PacPro), a company that specializes in the design and manufacture of automatic, high-speed interleavers, stackers and card dispensers.
“PacPro worked closely with us on the sanitary equipment design and machine guarding,” says Jones. “As our production grew and we acquired additional equipment, each interleaver and stacker/counter we purchased improved on the previous version.”
In the production system, he notes the slices of meat interleaved with sanitary paper go by conveyor to a stacker, get counted and are then packaged. Jones says the interleaver designs exceeded traditional standards. Standoff-mounted components helped to prevent trapping product scrap. Ground, polished, welded construction also eliminated recessed bolt heads and other bacteria harborage points.
Jones says some important sanitary design and production improvements involved enhancements to the stacker as well.
“PacPro even changed the design of the stacker so it is quicker to disassemble. Now we can clean it thoroughly without having to completely disassemble it,” says Jones. “They also designed its fully wash-down resistant servo motor to eliminate the need for a large separate enclosure and changed its guarding to make it impossible to inadvertently get a hand into the point of operation.”
The redesign also increased a productivity speed feature. “They re-designed it so it doesn’t have to turn 90 degrees before stacking, which translates into about 10 to 15 percent faster stacking speed,” Jones explains.
Jones says sales are good for the retail sub kits and the company’s hygienic and efficient, high-volume production system plays an essential role in this success. NP