New crate washing lines at vegetable processor ready for automation

As of March this year, two new crate washing lines at Hessing Supervers in Zwaagdijk have been processing 40,000 crates every day. These are serious numbers for the vegetable processor, which has grown rapidly over the past five years.

That is why next year, Hessing Supervers will open a new location, Hessing Greenport Venlo, with far-reaching automation of the fresh vegetable processing process. This new location will offer sufficient opportunities to expand the capacity and to further automate, mechanise and robotise the production processes.

The location in Zwaagdijk will remain for a few mono lines. That is why Hessing Supervers, together with Unifortes, one of its suppliers, looked into improvements to the washing process in Zwaagdijk in North Holland.

"Working by the pallet would be great, but here we work by the crate", says Cees Benard, project leader of the Operational Excellence department, immediately pointing out the complexity. Together with his team, he takes care of the machinery involved in washing, cutting, drying and packaging some fifteen types of vegetable. "In doing so, we use about ten different crates, which have to be cleaned every day."

Cees Benard and Jeroen Spruit of Hessing Supervers with in the middle Roy Kranendonk of Unifortes, which supplied and installed the new washing lines in Zwaagdijk.

Cleaning process
For the processing of all kinds of vegetables, the machines mainly run at night and during the day. Cleaning is always done at the end of the afternoon and in the evening. From Monday to Sunday, Hessing Supervers runs production in this way, preparing all possible mixes of vegetables in consumer packs of 100 grams to catering bulk packs of 2.5 kilos.

Washing installations were already operating in the process. These have now been replaced by two new ones. Cees sought out a new installation in consultation with Operational Excellence project manager Jeroen Spruit, who is responsible for the machine park at all the vegetable processor's locations. The choice fell on Unifortes. During the decision-making process, Cees had a lot of contact with Roy Kranendonk, regional sales manager for the machine builder.

Hessing Supervers works with internal and external containers. Even more so than in Zwaagdijk, Hessing Supervers will soon be able to separate both container flows in Venlo.

High capacity
Unifortes came to install the machines in March. A big job for which there was not much time, because it was important for Hessing Supervers to keep the production process going in order to continue supplying their customers. Cees: "The plugs were pulled out of the existing installation on Friday and we put the plugs of the new machines back in on Monday. That went quickly and well."

Since then, the two lines run together with a capacity of 2,800 crates per hour, worth for 40,000 crates per day. Even faster is also possible, Roy estimates. "1600-1700 crates per hour per washing line is feasible." Cees nods in agreement. "Yes, without having to change between types of crates, 3000 crates per hour on these two lines is certainly feasible."

Without having to change. The latter is, however, the order of the day and it is done manually in Zwaagdijk. Automating is possible, the Unifortes machines are designed for it. In Venlo that comes in handy. Possibly, one of the two new lines will also go there next year to be automated.

The factory in Venlo will be about four times as big as the one in Zwaagdijk (see a preview here). Jeroen says that the pre-engineering for the factory is in progress. Meanwhile, on 1 April the construction started. How exactly the factory will be equipped with washing machines, of which three to four are planned, is not yet known. Choices regarding suppliers have also not yet been made.

What is certain is that the washing process in Venlo will be more streamlined due to extensive automation. Where in Zwaagdijk many people still help to 'feed' the machines with crates, this will be done automatically in Venlo.

Roy indicates that for those kind of applications, crates are already being worked with 'by code'. In this way, it is possible to use software to keep a good overview of all the crates and to remotely control when which crates have to be where and to which machine.

Hessing Supervers processes and packs vegetables in various types of packaging. One of the newest products in the range is fresh packs.

Another development in the area of washing machines is that Unifortes is increasingly being asked to deliver crates as dry and, of course, clean as possible after washing. Roy: "With the developments in the area of packaging, there is an increasing demand for the use of paper and cardboard packaging instead of plastic. You can imagine that when a crate is too wet, it is not pleasant for companies. It's up to us to respond to that with our washing lines."

In the near future, Hessing Supervers itself will be packing unsliced vegetables in addition to sliced product. It is the result of taking over The Greenery's fresh produce packages earlier this year. Jeroen calls it an example of how dynamic and constantly changing the sector is.

"For a while it seemed that this trend was over, but recently it has resurfaced. In COVID times, an unprecedented amount of unprocessed vegetables has been sold in the fresh produce departments of the supermarkets. There has been a lot more time for cooking and, as a result of the virus, even more attention for healthy eating." Hessing also expects to deliver fresh food packages from week 40.

For more information:
Roy Kranendonk

Jeroen Spruit
Hessing Supervers 

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