Frozen pizza is one of the most popular fast foods – it is delicious, convenient and easy to prepare. On the other hand, processing and packaging frozen pizzas with their delicate ingredients is not an easy task. To overcome this challenge, a major frozen food manufacturer in the United States relied on the competitiveness of Syntegon systems. With the participation of four international centers, Syntegon provided an integrated and highly automated production line for the processing of frozen pizzas, from the distribution of the product to the final packaging of the boxes.
Frozen pizza sales amounted to about $5.47 billion 1 in the US in 2020, a profitable business for manufacturers, although in a competitive environment. High product quality and production efficiency are vital for economic survival in this difficult market. In this context, a large frozen food manufacturer based in the USA commissioned Syntegon to plan and install a highly efficient distribution and packaging line, which included several automated processes necessary to reduce costs and improve productivity. “With the expert support of four international Syntegon centers, we designed a line that perfectly fits the current and future needs of our client,” says Tobias Bruetsch, senior account manager. “Our combined experience helped the client make a leap towards greater efficiency.”
Syntegon’s product distribution system features individually controlled lanes and a sensor-based control system that detects missing products or erroneous orders in the lanes.
In November 2020, Syntegon started with the design of a 4-arm distribution and packaging system with capacity for more than 400,000 pizzas a day. After the frozen pizzas come out of a spiral freezer, they are transported to the Syntegon product distribution system (PDS). On their way, the pizzas pass through the so-called “unloading gate”: in case it is necessary to stop the subsequent processes, cinta retractil automatically retracts the conveyor belt and deposits the products on an evacuation belt. This discharge door can also be opened manually if a problem is detected upstream, such as contaminated ingredients or other quality problems in the freezer.
The products arrive at the product distribution system in random order, where they are arranged in regular lines and rows before being packed on one of the four legs packing arms. The PDS of the Syntegon plant in Beringen (Switzerland) has individually controlled lanes and a sensor-based control system that detects missing products or erroneous requests in the lanes. “The automated offset unit stops the individual lanes when a product is missing so that a complete row can be created. In this way, the other distribution lanes can be filled in to ensure that the products are perfectly aligned and that the rows are filled evenly without empty spaces,” explains Hans-Peter Kientz, technical sales director at Syntegon in Beringen.
Once the pizzas have been aligned, the entire rows of products are deposited on a transverse feeding belt and then fed into one of the shrink wrapping arms. The pizza maker wanted to integrate a reservation system to minimize downtime and production losses. The solution: a distribution system that automatically distributes frozen products into three packaging arms and detects any problems in the production process. As soon as an error occurs in one of the three arms, the system redirects the products to a fourth arm that is always on standby to avoid any downtime in production. In the event that two arms do not work, the system has a feedback conveyor at the end to temporarily store the products and automatically return them to the fourth arm once it is available.
In the next step, the frozen pizzas are wrapped in shrink wrap with a Flow Pack 301 SK wrapper from the Syntegon plant in New Richmond, WI, USA. Shrink wrapping is not only important for product safety and to avoid contamination. It is also necessary to keep the pizza toppings in place. In addition, the machine has an integrated metal detector to make sure that the pizzas do not contain any foreign objects. Before leaving the 301 SK Pack, a control scale performs an accurate weight and integrity check to ensure that the consumer receives the guaranteed amount. Since pizzas contain sensitive foods such as cheese and meat, the machine meets the washing requirements for optimal hygienic conditions.
The shrink-wrapped pizzas enter the back-end packaging area of the extensive line, where Syntegon installed not only the final load packing but also the box packaging equipment. First of all, the individual pizzas are loaded into the cardboard boxes the classic cardboard cases for frozen pizzas in the Kliklok Enterprise final loading cartoner of the Syntegon plant in Decatur, GA, USA. The Kliklok Enterprise has one of the fastest rotary cardboard feeders in the industry and can pack at speeds of up to 340 boxes per minute.
The last step of the packaging consists of packing 14 or 16 boxed boxed pizzas in a large transport box using the Elematic 3001 from the Syntegon plant in Remshalden, Germany. The wrap-around cracker offers a great flexibility of packaging style: pizzas can be wrapped in trays, trays with inner lid or complete wrappers. Taking into account the high hygienic standards of the manufacturer, both packaging machines meet the cleaning requirements and guarantee hygienic production conditions.
With this highly automated packaging line, the frozen food manufacturer was able to take its pizza production to the next level of efficiency. With a production of 340 pizzas per minute, the new Syntegon line will far exceed the existing packaging line. To make this possible, Syntegon brought together experts and machines from four of its international centers. “We coordinated technologies and team members from three different countries and each expert contributed their individual expertise”” notes Brad Baker, Senior Sales Director, North America. “Together, we demonstrate the competence of our system and provide the customer with a complete integrated line.”
Thanks to the joint efforts of the team, Syntegon was able to offer the project as a single source solution. The team appointed a contact person to channel the communication of the four Syntegon centers with the client. This turned out to be an important advantage for the client: Syntegon not only supplied a turnkey system, from the distribution of the product to the finished boxes, with great efficiency, but also maintained close contact throughout the project and comprehensive advice on its execution.
Syntegon Technology is a leading global supplier of process and packaging technology. A former packaging division of the Bosch Group, the company, based in Waiblingen (Germany), has been offering complete solutions for the pharmaceutical and food industries for more than 50 years. Some 6,000 employees at 30 locations in more than 15 countries generated total revenues of 1.3 billion euros in 2020. The portfolio of smart and sustainable technologies includes autonomous machines as well as complete systems and services. The fields of application in the pharmaceutical industry are the production, processing, filling, inspection and packaging of liquid and solid pharmaceutical products (e.g. syringes and capsules). In the food industry, the portfolio includes process technology for confectionery, as well as packaging solutions for dry food (e.g. bars, bakery products and coffee), frozen food and dairy products.