For small scale food producers automating their systems for the first time Rotech’s RF Lite feeding system offers a good solution
It is easy to assume that labour-intensive artisanal food operations do not benefit from automated or semi-automated solutions in the same way that a technology-heavy manufacturer might. But in fact, as Suffolk chocolate maker Pump Street Chocolate demonstrates, automating the process of manual date-coding by installing a RF Lite feeding system with iJet thermal inkjet (TIJ) coder makes a huge difference on production efficiency, freeing up skilled workers for core duties.
While the team of six full-time workers in Pump Street’s chocolate room does use a certain amount of machinery, it is very much a hands-on operation. As one of the few UK producers going all the way from ‘bean to bar’, it requires maximum workforce availability for a range of processes, from roasting, winnowing, grinding and conching to tempering. That is before the team even starts to mould and pack the chocolate.
So, when at the end of last year the Orford-based company began to produce smaller 20 g bars to complement the existing range of 70 g bars, it soon became clear that automated coding would be a necessity.
The full-size bars use a zipper-resealable sachet printed in-house with a batch code and best-before date, which also acts as a tamper-evident seal. The smaller tear-open sachets for the 20 g bars, typically destined for the coffee-shop and hotel market, required a different solution.
Rotech’s RF Lite feeding system is ideal for small-scale food producers like Pump Street Chocolate
“We were literally writing the sell by date on to the sachet by hand,” said Sally Jones, Customer Manager.
“Every month we make batches of around 4000 bars, and it was taking up hours of our time. Now, in 20 minutes or so, the Rotech machine prints what it would have taken us 3 days to write by hand.”
Rotech’s RF Lite feeding system is ideal for small-scale food producers like Pump Street Chocolate, which are automating for the first time.
It pulls individual packs from a hopper, positions them ready for coding with the iJet TIJ system, before transferring them to a stack of coded sachets. The feeding system has a linear speed of up to 60 m per minute.
TIJ coding is often unjustly overlooked in favour of other coding technologies such as thermal transfer and continuous inkjet (CIJ).
Rotech highlights the lower cost of TIJ, when compared with CIJ on the basis of cost per 1000 codes.
At Pump Street Chocolate, the iJet TIJ coder is programmed to print a best-before date 14 months from production.