“The demand for consumer packaging has exploded,” says Theo Hanenburg, director of PIM Machinery. This Dutch company designs and builds weighing and packaging machines for the food industry. As restaurants were closed during the pandemic, less bulk packaging was ordered and supermarkets began to order more consumer packaging. “We have machines for this and are developing more and more of them,” says Theo.
The onion packing line that PIM recently delivered to Shurpak, an onion packer in the United States, is an example of such a machine geared towards consumer packing. The company chose a 16-bin weigher, specifically suited to small consumer packaging. Theo explains that the machine can produce consumer packs weighing up to three kg at a speed of 80 packs/minute. But, it is less convenient to carry small bags separately, so the machine has a counting vacuum line. This counts 12 bags and transports them to another machine which packs them into a binder bag.
Weigh and count
Theo explains that you can use the consumer scale to weigh and count products in small quantities. “You can, for example, make four 1kg onion packs.” However, the machine can also pack more than 20 onion packs of ten to 20 kg per minute. This packaging speed – among the fastest in the world – is important, says Theo. But so does the fact that this machine is self-learning. “During the packaging process, the machine’s software teaches which is the best weighing capacity and distribution across 16 weigh bins at once.”
Great attention has also been paid to weighing accuracy. “The machine has a weight deviation of 0.5g; this is unique in the market. The constant and controlled scale adjustments make the use of check scales unnecessary. More importantly, if you give, say, 400 or 500 grams each time and in large quantities will cost you dearly, which is why it is essential that the machines are precise and can weigh at enormous speeds,” continues Hanenburg.
Focus on the United States
The United States is a major sales market for the PIM. Currently, the machinery company has local service provider partners. When a new line is installed, PIM Machinery sends two of its employees to supervise the work. Installed machines are also linked online to digitally perform start-up procedure and remote monitoring. Theo says there is a huge shortage of technological know-how in the agribusiness industry in the United States. This is why PIM is more oriented towards this market. “We are busy setting up a joint venture or branch to add substance to our business there.”
Increased delivery times
The company is also active in other regions, such as Western Europe, Africa, Australia and, to a lesser extent, Russia. “We have contacts there and have pending demand where we see if there are any opportunities there. We haven’t had to cancel any orders yet.” But rising electricity costs and rising steel prices as a result of the war have far greater consequences than canceled Russian orders. PIM also faces all the other rising costs of things like transportation, electronics, motors, hardware chips, and shipping.
This not only leads to higher prices, but also longer delivery times. “The long waiting and delivery times – sometimes more than a year – have a massive effect on the market”, says Theo. By responding early to the chip shortage, PIM is now taking advantage of the accumulated stock.
They also develop hardware and software in-house, so they don’t depend on third-party production. “It saves a lot of time. If you need to order parts now, delivery times are longer. Our own production allows us to reasonably limit delivery times. four months,” he concludes.