New coding saves leading herb producers 5 hours a day

Posted by Ian Grinblat on 21st September 2016

An expanding value-added fresh produce business wanted to increase productivity by removing manual coding.

They’re now saving five hours a day with a solution from Matthews Australasia, which has the ability to scale up with further automation when the company needs it in the future.

Here’s how they did it.

The Torrisi family established FNQfresh at Mareeba in Far North Queensland in 1991. Their on-farm processing facility allows the leading Australian herb growers to process produce within two hours of harvest, maintaining top quality and freshness.

FNQfresh supplies the food service and manufacturing industries across Australia and New Zealand with purees, pestos, and pizza toppings of basil, baby leaf spinach, rocket, coriander and parsley, as well as fresh mangoes.

In 2012, second generation in the business Sebastian Torrisi and his wife Cyrene, decided to use the family’s expertise in value adding and expand into the consumer retail market with cubes of frozen herbs. After a couple of years of testing both the product and the market, Adfresh Farms launched its first commercial products last year. Their painstaking R&D paid off, with Coles in Mareeba and Cairns region — among others — picking up the line.

Sebastian says, “To satisfy retailer and food industry requirements, we needed to place barcodes on our shelf-ready outer cartons. At the same time, we thought we’d take the opportunity to upgrade our completely manual labelling process for the FNQfresh bulk packs, by automating it. For all that, we needed equipment that could be flexible and suited each of our products.”

After researching options, they chose to work with Matthews Australasia, who recommended a Linx CJ400 continuous inkjet printer and Intermec desktop printer.

Versatile with back-up support

“We compared equipment from other suppliers, but decided that this equipment would suit us best —especially with the extra back-up support Matthews offers.

“We wanted equipment that was versatile, so could quickly and easily adapt to any part of our business — whether it was our Adfresh retail lines or FNQfresh bulk product lines. Adfresh is in early days, so we needed to meet the retailers’ coding requirements now, but not overstretch ourselves, yet still give us capacity to expand down the track. These printers do all that.

“It was very important that the equipment was reliable, but probably just as important that we have back-up service, training and support. Matthews ticks each of these boxes. It’s really good to know assistance is a phone call away, reducing any downtime during peak production times.”

The two coders are used across both businesses.

“For the Adfresh Farms business, we use the Linx printer to code product name, batch numbers and best before dates onto 110-gram packs. We’re printing up to 1,800 units per hour, eight hours a day, which is around 14,400 units a day. Because this is a new business starting out, at the moment we’re working the printer one to two days a week.”

For the FNQfresh range, the Linx CJ400 codes the product name, an ingredients list, storage requirements, FNQfresh’s name and address and “Product of Australia” onto the regular 15-kilogram and 20kg tubs, and occasional 1kg tub as per client needs. In the future it will also code the batch and best before dates. Depending upon customer orders, FNQfresh codes up to 1,000 items a day over eight hours.

Efficiency drives vast savings

Sebastian says, “Previously, we manually applied sticker labels with all this information, so automating it has vastly improved productivity. We used to have two people setup just doing that for a couple of days. Now we don’t need to do that, so we’re saving four to five hours a day; at $21 a staff member, that’s $210 a day for two staff. It is a very big difference.”

The Torrisis use the Intermec desktop printer for barcodes; information is entered on a PC through the Labelview software, with the required barcode stickers then printed for that day’s pack out.

The Linx CJ400 printer sits inline after the packaging has been filled with product, and before final lidding and heat sealing, while the Intermec printer sits close by, ready to print when needed. Sebastian says the operators find both simple to use and quick to switch over to different formats when required.

“I like how easy it is that to adjust and change information, just on a laptop or PC, for whatever we’re producing on that day. That’s also really useful for product development.

“Currently, we’re only selling domestically, but we’ve had some interest from the Middle East, and are negotiating with a company there. In Australia, we put a batch code and best before date, but most export markets require extra information, such as ‘date of manufacture’. So that’s very easy to add with the coders we’ve got.”

Sebastian says the Adfresh and FNQfresh coding solutions are flexible, so can integrate with further automation as the new company grows.

“Once the products are proven, we’ll mechanise further to improve our productivity even more — that’s the great thing about what we have.

“Because our state-of-the-art processing equipment enables to process herbs so quickly, we needed coders that were just quick and easy to use so they didn’t hold back that process in any way. These coders are efficient, effective, reliable and quick, which means we can keep achieving our production targets.

“Both coding solutions have helped in different ways to improve the businesses, and since installing them, they’ve helped us in growing our markets while improving production efficiencies.”

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