Ramón Ventulà, a family business in the north-east of Spain, famed internationally for the quality of its extensive range of meat products, has installed a new holistic slicing and packaging line from Gea. The new line, which brings together scanning, slicing, and thermoforming technology from a single source, achieves improved yields, greater efficiency, less downtime, reduced use of packing materials and greater product flexibility and consistency.
The company has been in business since the 1950s and now has four plants producing 5,000 tons of food every year with 90 separate products, including bacon, Catalan cured fuet, and chorizo sausage 750 packaging formats. It was the first exporter of Serrano ham to Germany in the 1970s and now exports its range of products to around 70 countries worldwide. Ramón Ventulà’s excellent reputation has been built on its commitment to quality and innovation, the principles of food safety, respect for the environment, and health and safety at work.
The Gea factor
Ramón Ventulà knew Gea. In 2019 the company had bought three Gea PowerPak thermoformer machines that had been performing well. The service provided by Gea made the company an obvious choice when upgrading older equipment. Pilar Ventulà, managing director at Ramón Ventulà, said that making the traditional Catalonian and Spanish sausages start with selecting the best quality raw materials and putting them together in a meticulous process. “This requires us to employ precise and reliable process technology,” she said. Which is where Gea comes in.
The company has a long experience designing automatic slicing, loading and packaging systems and offers a modular approach to designing production lines specifically to meet individual customer needs. According to Norbert Brunnquell, senior product manager Slicing and Loading for Gea, it is this modularity and compatibility of all the Gea equipment that allows the company to create unique holistic production systems for a wide range of customers.
“Each part of the line is perfectly matched and synchronized with each other to create a seamless process that is efficient, safe and environmentally sustainable in today’s market,” Brunnquell said.
From Ramón Ventulà, the requirements were formulated – they required the finest quality slicing, easy handling, low give-away and high output. To achieve this level of productivity and control, Gea advised using its Gea DualSlicer II 1200 slicer, working with the new Gea PowerPak PLUS thermoformer, with supporting control equipment. These had been designed to work together and would provide the flexibility, control, and productivity the company required to allow it to expand its range of products and enter new markets. The whole contract was valued at over Euro 1 million (approximately Rs 8 crore).
The Gea line
The complete line uses the Gea OptiScan to scan two logs at a time for density and shape before slicing. This helps ensure accurate weight control of each package and provides high yield with the minimum give-away.
Optimal slicing quality and consumer-friendly handling are achieved with the Gea DualSlicer with interleaver. As the name suggests, the DualSlicer can slice two calibrated product logs, such as a round sausage or an uncured ham at the same time. The system synchronizes all components to produce perfect slices with the minimum give-away, maximum yield and a high percentage of on-weight packs.
The interleaver is designed for high-speed operation, operator safety, and easy handling. With two separate film drives to slicer can process each log independently, even if the products are different. The interleaver film is positioned between every single slice in the slicing process of the product and makes it very convenient to separate the portions. Operators can fix the overall paper length for each portion, which allows the tare weight to be set into the calibrated checkweigher Gea Check 4000. This prevents unnecessarily rejected packs. Paper jams can be cleared without stopping the machine.
The Gea ShingleLoader 600 automatic loading system provides a continuous flow of product to the thermoformer. The press release also allows the products to be overlapped within the package to create a more attractive shelf appeal and reduce the size of the overall packs to minimize the use of plastic materials and make the best use of available retail space.
Gea’s new PowerPak PLUS thermoformer
Thermoforming is performed by Gea’s new PowerPak PLUS thermoformer. The new machine includes a host of new features that combine to improve packaging quality, reduce film consumption, make handling simpler for operators, and improve overall reliability. According to press release, these advancements include transparent sliding doors that are hygienic, easy access for maintenance, and a perfect view of the machine to help operators judge when films need changing. The film rollers have been standardized for easy maintenance and reduced inventory.
The company mentioned that Gea engineers have also supported the top and bottom webs on both sides, rather than just one so that the process can be more accurately controlled. Both films are adjusted automatically, so the pack seals are always in a position that there is no need for a skilled engineer to watch over the machine. These advancements have allowed Gea to reduce the top web forces by around 75%, allowing the use of thinner films (and even mono films) without losing structural integrity or pulling the labels out of shape.
The line at Ramón Ventulà is completed with the Gea PowerGuide Speed that funnels multiple pack lanes into one for final packaging. The integration of the Gea equipment throughout the line enables it to produce slices of the highest quality, with consistent thickness and an output of 1.600 kg/h.
Achieving the objectives
David Gracia, technical manager at Ramón Ventulà, said that it was always clear that the new line would be built by Gea, because the company has demonstrated a high degree of commitment to the client, with excellent project work, contract negotiation, manufacture, and highly efficient technical service.
“We’ve listened to our customers’ needs and engineered our machines accordingly, simplifying product flows as much as possible. Our focus is to achieve a high level of process reliability, ease of handling and manageability.”, Volker Sassmannshausen, senior product manager Thermoforming at Gea.