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Northern Valley Packers continue to seek ways to refine their operation

When Northern Valley Packers was established in 2017, the facility was built with a commitment to innovation and excellence. This included some of the most advanced sorting software and automation equipment. Three years on, Northern Valley Packers continue to seek ways to refine their operation, maximising their efficiency and competitive offering to West Australian growers.

Working closely with electrical, water and automation solutions specialists, BON, Northern Valley Packers recently implemented a centralised information distribution system streamlining the updating of sizing and grading information displayed at each packing station.

Prior to the implementation of a central distribution portal, each packing station was updated with size and grading information manually. This involved the floor operations manager manually writing on an individual white board at each of the 26 packing stations. Depending on the packing schedule, each station could require multiple updates throughout the course of a day.

Northern Valley Packers, Operations Manager, Michael Kay said the manual updating of information at every drop point was a time-consuming task and allowed room for errors. “Anything that improves efficiency and productivity helps Northern Valley Packers provide a competitive service for all its clients and enables us to compete strongly in the markets we supply our citrus to,” Michael said.

With a clear understanding of the pain point the manual process was creating, BON Technical Director, Ben Bonomi, set about designing a concept that would allow for a centralised automated updating system.

“We have been fortunate to have a long-term relationship with Northern Valley Packers and the Kay family. This has evolved from many years of providing ongoing support,” said Ben. “I could see how the manual updating of the white boards was arduous and thought this could be improved.”

The initial stages of planning required collaboration between Northern Valley Packers and BON to ensure all information was captured for inclusion in the software.

“The first step in our process was to determine exactly what information needed to be conveyed at the packing station. The data on each screen was individualised to fill a specific order, allowing each packing station to work to a different packing order at any given time.”

Working with BON’s software development partners, BON was able to create a user-friendly program that could easily capture and distribute the information from the pack line control box to a screen at a pack station. This included a picture of the required carton/crate, making it easier for the packers to identify what carton or crate they needed to be packing into.

Whilst working through the software development, BON set about installing the screens and associated control cabling at each packing station. The installation was coordinated around Northern Valley Packers schedule as the line could not be halted to allow for installation works to take place. “Our team worked weekends and evening shifts to ensure we did not disrupt the packing schedule. Our installation required multiple cable runs, along with mounting of the screen at each station,” Ben said.

Since completing the project, Michael has reported a significant improvement in productivity as a result of the new screens and software. “With regular product changes throughout the day, the ability to change the information at each screen on every drop point, and from the control station, has been a huge time saving and increased productivity for the day,” said Michael.

“Information on the screens included fruit variety, class, size (in either count or millimetres) and required package type. Accuracy in all these factors was really important for data integrity further along the packing process,” he said. “Working collaboratively with BON during the setup stage made commissioning and introducing the new process trouble free.”

For more information:
BON Electrics
Tel: +61 (08) 9571 1314 

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