Hartz Mountain opens new production line with SOMIC wraparound case packer system
January 25, 2021 – One of the oldest and most respected companies in the pet industry has completed installation of one of the newest retail ready, secondary packaging machines in North America. The Hartz Mountain Corporation began running a new production line in mid-December to handle pet care products at its production facility in Pleasant Plain, Ohio, with a versatile SOMIC America 424 case packing system.
In only a few weeks, company officials are impressed with the early results of the space-saving machine’s design, performance and flexibility.
“The equipment is exceeding our expectations,” indicated Jake Wojtkiewicz, Hartz’s Engineering Manager who has been with the company for nine years. “We chose the SOMIC machine due to the flexibility of the case format and the design. We worked with three additional companies on the packaging solution before deciding on SOMIC. From the time we uncrated the machine to entering production, it took about seven days until we were able to run full production.”
The decision to bring production back to the 250,000 square-foot facility on the eastern fringe of Cincinnati comes at a time when the pet care industry is experiencing growth in spite of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Hartz has been in the pet care business for 95 years dating back to 1926. They offer 14 well-known product brands for dogs, cats, birds and fish, ranging from toys and treats to grooming aids and flea and tick sprays.
Overall, seven different bottle formats and two case styles – standard wraps and Shelf Ready Package (SRP) trays with corrugated covers – are run on the SOMIC 424. A total of 65,000 bottles are processed in one shift, five days a week. Wojtkiewicz says that depending on the product, they do either 5,400 12-pack cases or 13,000 SRP cases bundled as a 5-pack.
“The case packer runs at a rate of 150 bottles (12.5 cases) per minute for the SRP 5-packs,” he said. “We do not plan to increase the rate of the machine, but we did build this production line with the expectation of adding future shifts to cover increased demand and distribution.”
He indicated his initial impression of the machine was it was well thought out for ease of access and maintenance. It’s clear the SOMIC 424’s design is having a major impact on the production floor.
“The design of the machine is novel. I’m used to conventional case packers that use a lug bucket chain for the case transport with rotary tucking and folding tooling. The design eliminates that and replaces it with contrast folding tooling and a simple vacuum belt,” explained Wojtkliewicz. “This makes maintenance of the machine significantly easier. It also reduces the noise level of the equipment while in operation and the overall footprint.”
The folding tooling is one specific feature Wojtkliewicz especially likes.
“The primary folding of the case takes place at a single station. We’re used to this operation happening while the case is in motion utilizing several servo controlled tucker/folders,” he said, alluding to the machine’s high functioning mechatronic control platform that incudes the latest automation.
“The design eliminated the need for the complex timing adjustments necessary with more conventional case packers. The Human Machine Interface is well thought out and provides full motion and timing control for all machine functions,” summed up Wojtkliewicz.
“The open design is great and makes it very easy for maintenance, changeovers and cleaning. My operators have a full, unimpeded view of the equipment when it is running. This allows for better troubleshooting and adjustments since we can clearly see what is happening inside the machine.”