Splicers Revolutionize Productivity for Food Processing Plant

By Chip Johns, President and Chief Operating Officer, Butler Automatic Inc.

Cincinnati-based JTM Food Group is still thanking its luck for stumbling upon a zero-speed automatic film splicer by Butler Automatic at PACK EXPO International several years ago. JTM vice president Joe Maas says they are still benefiting from the productivity wave three years later. JTM is a food processing plant with more than 700 food products, about 70 percent meat and 30 percent non-meat, which has grown from a neighborhood meat store in 1960 to today’s sales of $170 million, with 430 employees.

Until it purchased the Butler Automatic splicer, JTM was switching rolls of film manually on its Vertical Form Fill and Seal (VFFS) machines used for its grind and form and kettle cooking packaging operations. The time it takes to change rolls of packaging film is frequently the single greatest cause of downtime in packaging lines; Maas estimates that it was taking about 10 minutes for each packaging roll changeover, which mounts up considerably over the course of the day.

JTM had accepted this downtime as a cost of doing business until a few years ago, when while walking the PACK EXPO floors, Maas spotted a zero-speed automatic splicer exhibited by Butler Automatic. The splicing technology joins a new roll to an expiring one without stopping the production line. When the splice is complete the accumulator is re-filled and the expired roll can be changed while the new roll is running, eliminating roll change downtime in production.

Maas found the Butler splicer to be a straightforward machine that is routine to operate. He shared with Butler that the true cost benefit for a particular process depends upon how many hours one runs a VFFS machine. If lines are busier, the cost benefits became more obvious. Mass says he goes through 50 rolls a week, which translates into about 500 minutes or just over 8 hours of production time gained by adding the Butler splicer.

Maas said, “The bottom line is that the automatic splicers give us more uptime on our VFFS machines and we produce more product. I have made a lot of money as a result of stopping by their booth.”

Read more in the April issue of Packaging World.