Breaking The Bottleneck

Production at Chicago Meat Authority gets a dramatic boost with the addition of a new form-fill-seal packaging machine.

As painful as it may be, there are times when a processor just has to turn away work. It may be that a plant simply is running at full capacity, with no way to add any more work. Often though, it indicates that a bottleneck somewhere in the plant is preventing the company from growing. In those instances, the right piece of equipment may be all that is needed to send production rates soaring.
Chicago Meat Authority had that scenario and was able to find a solution that has sent its production abilities soaring. Two years ago, the company had a smaller rollstock machine in its packaging department. It got rid of the machine due to dissatisfaction but kept a smaller skin-pack machine.
“As our business grew, we just weren’t able to keep up,” explains Jordan Dorfman, president. “We had that machine literally running a double shift six days a week, and we just got to the point where we needed to step up into a bigger machine with bigger pumps, better cycle times, and more versatility.”
Chicago Meat Authority had purchased equipment from VC999 Packaging Systems before, so it turned to the company again for a solution. The company ended up with a Model RS420 Form-Fill-Seal machine customized to meet its specific needs.
John Nault, director of operations at Chicago Meat Authority, notes that VC999 was able to configure the machine to fit the available space in the processor’s facility. “We were able to fit it in exactly where we wanted it, and we didn’t have to take an off-the-shelf configuration,” he notes.
One of the things that Chicago Meat Authority requested was a web width slightly larger than normal, in order to maximize material usage on the machine. VC999 built the machine to have a 420mm web width, with a 400mm advance. Larger-than-normal pumps also were added to the machine. Additionally, the processor needed several quick-change forming inserts made, as the machine would need to change quickly from one product and one packaging configuration to the next.
Chicago Meat Authority uses the machine to package steak products, ground products and diced products, as well as bone-in frozen products, and the custom molds allow the machine to package all those items with minimal effort. “We’ve gotten changeover times to less than 10 minutes,” Dorfman comments.
The machine was ordered in early February 2006 and installed in March. Dorfman praised VC999’s after-sales support. “The VC999 Service Team spent a week in the plant working with our maintenance staff, showing them all of the inner workings of the machine, so that we could do all of the things that we needed to do with it, which was terrific,” he comments.
Nault, who has been in the industry for about 30 years, says that it was one of the smoothest startups he’s seen. “We were running packages by mid-afternoon of the first day they started the install,” he explains. “The shake-down was done in their facility instead of mine, so by the time it hit the door, it was simply ready to go.”
As a result of the new Form-Fill-Seal machine, Dorfman estimates that Chicago Meat Authority is doing about six times the production on a per-hour basis. “We find that we now have capacity, and we’re looking for business again, as opposed to running from business because we did not have capacity before,” he says. NP
For more information about VC999 Packaging Systems Inc., phone (816) 472-8999 or visit