By Ronnie P. Cons
Buying the right or wrong meat packaging equipment can spell the difference between an efficient and profitable meat packaging firm and a non-efficient one that has varied production, and efficiency issues.
The right equipment for a given firm will be determined by many varied elements, including: the size of the food processing and packaging company, its needs, its budget, the performance output needed, future growth expectations, and type of product to be packaged. All these factors and more must be taken into consideration in order to make the right decision. A wrong decision can be very costly, thus an informed decision is essential. I should add that the number and variety of equipment on the market makes the decision making process a complex one, thus guidance is very important.
For example, a meat packaging firm must decide whether to purchase FFS or Tray sealing packaging equipment.
The difference between FFS and tray seal packaging
FFS stands for form, fill, seal packaging and uses rolls of film that are formed with the use of heat into pouches or containers. The pouch is then filled with the food item and heat is then used to cover and seal film to the top of the pouch. Tray sealing instead uses already bought trays that are filled with the food item. Film with the use of heat is then used to cover and seal the container.
Which packaging system is better?
As mentioned above, the right equipment for any firm depends on the company and its requirements. Thus FFS may be the right choice for one company but the wrong choice for another firm with different requirements. In short, we need to make a match between the firm’s needs and the specifications of the packaging equipment. To make that proper match one must first understand the differences between the two types of equipment. Once that is clear, one will then be able to decide which equipment best satisfies the firm’s needs. Let me clarify the issue by mentioning the relative advantages of each type of system. Thank you to Reiser packaging for their input. FFS, or form, fill and seal packaging provides the following advantages over tray seal packaging:
- More flexibility in package size and package shape.
- FFS allows for the rapid programming of various package shapes, including packaging for bulky products.
- Higher packaging output due to the fact that the production process includes the package production in the same line.
- Lower package costs partly due the reason explained above.
Tray seal packaging has the advantage of usually offering higher product protection due to the sturdier seal, and some will argue that they are also more leak proof. Both allow for MAP (modified atmosphere packaging), gas flushing and many other features that are shared by both systems.
To add to the complexity of the decision making process, there are different manufacturers of varied brands of these packaging machines. For instance, one firm may produce a FFS machine that offers higher leak proof abilities over its competitors, but less efficient MAP abilities.
Thus it is recommended that the person in charge of buying the packaging equipment follow the below complex decision making process:
- S/he must analyze and quantify the firms objectives as to: desired product output; types of products to be produced; required transition speed from one product type and packaging to another; equipment budget; type of product and its added related leak risks (i.e. meats with gravy); wash down abilities related to staff and time on hand for such a task; security of equipment; maintenance difficulty related to maintenance budget; flexibility for increased output in relation to expected future growth, and other factors.
- S/he must then give a weighted value to each of the criterion above according to the importance of each criterion. For example, for the firm in question, production speed may be more important than maintenance difficulty. This is important to do as buying the equipment will inevitably result in a trade-off between features, as one machine does not usually fulfill 100 per cent of all the buyer’s requirements.
- S/he should then invite the chosen vendors to present and explain their products, asking their opinion as to which product is best fitted for their needs, according to required features. The buyer should then try to quantify each feature of the vendors’ products that are on the buyer’s list of required features. For instance production output may be rated 100 per cent but maintenance difficulty might be rated lower at 80 per cent.
- S/he will then be able to choose the product that is best suited for them by seeing which product has the highest overall ranking, without any criterion being rated below a minimum accepted level.
In summary, a well thought out complex decision making protocol as described above will result in the purchase of the meat packaging equipment that is best suited for the firm, resulting in enhanced performance and profits.
Ronnie P. Cons is executive vice-president of C&C Packing Inc., a leading Canadian meat and poultry distributor. Ronnie can be reached at [email protected]