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  Manufacturing Insights   |   August, 2010
Plastic Liners Represent Leaner Automation
by Thomas R. Cutler

Any process that generates labor savings, food savings, operational savings, lower maintenance costs, and improves quality, defines the value, rationale, and denotation of automation. The two phrases, automation and plastic bags, may seem incongruous, or even a non-sequitor. It certainly is true that the typical definition of automation usually includes the control of equipment with advanced technology….involving electronic hardware. Others characterize automation as replacing human workers with machines. The rationale for automation, regardless of the implementation, is to increase productivity. Robotic solutions do not define automation.

Machinery is usually included in the definition of automation, so the idea that plastic bags and automation are related may seem far-fetched. This is untrue. Plasport Dry Bulk Packaging (Barrier & Non Barrier) is used in a wide variety of industries including Food Processing, Chemical Processing (such as resins and pigments), and Pharmaceutical applications.

Bob Robke, a Manager with Plasport, noted that the form-fitting plastic liners are custom-engineered to fit specific application and process requirements, reduce waste, promote longevity of outer containers, prevent cross-contamination; these liners are also eco-friendly, eliminating corrugated packaging and create a barrier to oxygen, moisture, aroma, and UV damage. These benefits define a lean manufacturing automated solution.

Plasport plastic liners are designed for flexible packaging used in dry and liquid bulk transportation. During domestic and international shipping and storage, the form fit polyliners protect dry and liquid products in bulk bags, FIBC’s and Totes. The newest liner material, Gennex barrier film, is a high durability replacement for more expensive foil liners that are prone to cracking. The company also manufactures custom single-use bioprocessing bags for the pharmaceutical industry that save time and reduce costs during manufacturing and development.

While lean and increasingly efficient, some may still not define this application of plastic liners as automation. Plascon Packaging manager Del Bourassa, recently discussed how the newest product line, PanGuard, a high temperature pan liners, roasting bags and slow cook liners directly impacts the automation process when baking, warming, transporting, and serving food products.

Bourassa, said, “The PanGuard Liners generate a direct reduction in labor costs. Food preparation firms can cook, baste and roast up to 400º F without soaking or scrubbing. These bags and liners are oven, microwave, cooker and steam pan safe; they are also safe in the refrigerator and freezer.”

Labor savings are achieved because food soaking and scrubbing is eliminated with the plastic liners, overtime labor hours are reduced, and employee moral improved (triggering lower employee loss and hiring expenses. Food saving is achieved because food never comes in contact with hot metal, eliminating scorching or burning; the ability to save and serve leftovers increases profitability. Operational savings are achieved through reduction of water and utility consumption, a reduction in the use of cleaning agents, and pans lasting longer due to less wear and tear. Many food processing plant managers report lower maintenance costs for equipment and plumbing as a result of plastic liner usage. Quality assurance food managers note these use of these plastic bags and liners improve HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) compliance requirements because food is able to better retain moisture and flavor as well as enhancing appearance.

The industry sectors that most benefit from the automated use of these High Temperature Liners include:
  • Restaurants
  • Casino/Resorts
  • Food Processors
  • Institutional Foodservice (such as schools, hospitals and correctional institutions)
  • Catering
  • Gourmet Deli/Grocery Store Ready to Eat Meals
  • Bag-in-Box packaging for retail distribution
“These organizations need to produce large quantities of consistent 'just made fresh' foods with an extended shelf life while also achieving a reduction in food and labor costs and practicing safe food handling,” noted Bourassa.

Some may still argue this does not constitute the connotative meaning of automation. Perhaps it is a semantic discussion, however these plastic bags and liners are a major advance in prepared foods technology that ensures consistent quality in every batch, at every location, while reducing labor required for preparation and serving. No other technology or machine solution available today provides such a high degree of quality and fresh cooked taste. Perhaps it is not automation; the use of these products should be automatic.

Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc, ( Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium of three thousand five hundred journalists and editors writing about trends in manufacturing. Cutler is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association, American Society of Business Publication Editors, Committee of Concerned Journalists, as well as author of more than 300 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler is also the developer of lean technology C.E.O (Continuous Experiential Optimization). Cutler can be contacted at See More Details.

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