It is easy to open, can be reclosed and keeps the cheese slices fresh for a long time. There is an almost 60 metre long packaging line between the large cheese blocks and the packed slices and the most important components of the line are the MULTIVAC R 535 thermoforming packag-
ing machine and the MR337 TQ conveyor belt labeller.
From its idyllic situation in the rural region of Mazovia, one would never guess that the Okręgowa Spółdzielnia Mleczarska SIERPC (OSM SIERPC) processes annually more than 200 million litres of milk from around 1,500 suppliers. For almost 90 years the “Regional Dairy Cooperative of Sierpc”, which is the literal translation of the company name, has been producing dairy products such as matured cheese, Italian cheese and quark in the Polish town of Sierpc. The 90 years of tradition and experience, which constantly flow into the work of the dairy, are combined with state-of-the-art technology to ensure that the products have a consistently high quality. The ISO quality management system, which was implemented in 2001, combined with the HACCP concept since 2003 and the BRC system, which was introduced in 2009, guarantee that production meets the high level of EU requirements.
Matured hard cheese has long been one of the specialities of OSM SIERPC. Prior to 2010 the company only supplied the cheese in block form to business partners. “The demand was consistently high, so we never needed to have any thoughts about producing consumer packs”, explains Grzegorz Gańko, Chairman of the Management Board at OSM SIERPC. In the few cases, where customers requested portioned cheese, the Polish dairy worked with subcontractors, who sliced and packed the product.
In recent years however, the number of supermarket chains has increased dramatically, and with it, the range of ready-to-eat products. Packaging plays a large role in the sale of these products: before the manufacturer can convince consumers of the quality of his food, he must first arouse the attention of his potential customers with attractive presentation of the product. OSM SIERPC launched a mature hard cheese onto the market under the brand name of Ser Królewski. The new premium product was offered as ready-to-serve slices in the three varieties of Ser Królewski Emmental, Ser Królewski Smoked and Ser Królewski Light. The dairy had the portioning and packaging carried out by a service provider, located some 200 km away. „The increase of sales volumes rendered the initial solution economically unsuited“, recalls Grzegorz Gańko.
In order to meet customer expectations and to optimise costs, the dairy decided to purchase its own packaging line. With the decision quickly made, the company built a new production area and began the search, which needed to be decidedly short, for a suitable project partner. “We had been packing cheese and quark since 1993 on MULTIVAC chamber machines. In the last 20 years there have been six additional semi-automatic packaging solutions and two automated lines”, says Grzegorz Gańko. “We therefore had plenty of opportunity to appreciate the good service in terms of advice, installation and machine maintenance.”
When the packaging solution for the strong cheese was being planned, the first requirement was for expert advice. OSM SIERPC wanted to positively differentiate its premium product from the competition in three ways with an innovative pack: visually with an attractive design for the shape and colour appearance; in terms of shelf life with a long use-by date; and in its handling with the possibility of reclosing the opened pack. MULTIVAC Poland reacted to the challenging requirements with the development of reclosable pockets made of flexible film and also of thermoformed rigid packs, and it recommended that the hard cheese be packed in modified atmosphere.
The concept was met with immediate approval and was implemented with an almost 60 metre long packaging line, which can pack 700 kg of cheese per hour. At the beginning of the line there is a slicer, which cuts the cheese blocks into slices, and the line ends with a semi-automatic boxing machine. In between, there is the R 535 thermoforming packaging machine with two forming dies and two sealing dies for producing vacuum and MAP packs, as well as an inspection system for monitoring the seal seams, a MR337 TQ conveyor belt labeller and a checkweigher with integrated metal detector. The packs, between 100 g and 750 g, can be produced in both rigid film and flexible film. The entire line is controlled via one central control terminal.
The conveyor belt labeller is suitable for both top and bottom labelling, and is equipped for both functions with a second redundant label dispenser, allowing for virtually uninterrupted labelling. The flexibility and accuracy of the selected model were equally important decision criteria. “We had placed great emphasis on an attractive and modern design which is clearly differentiated from the competition. We did not want to lose this advantage through visual flaws, such as labels being applied at a slant”, says Grzegorz Gańko, explaining the decision to purchase the high-performance conveyor belt labeller.
The flexible packaging has a shape of an envelope sealed with a label allowing re-opening and closing of the pouch and protecting its content from drying out.The bottom side of the soft film packaging is covered with cardboard supporting the slices and preventing them from fracturing and from any deformations. A clear marking on the rigid packs indicates the corner with the opening aid. The cheese slices are removed from the long side of the flexible packs, which can be reclosed by means of a self-adhesive sealing label on the reclosure flap so the cheese does not dry out in the opened pack.
The hard Ser Królewski in its attractive pack has not only won several design prizes and awards, it has also won the hearts of consumers. “We have been packing Ser Królewski since 2012 with this packaging solution and have had great sales success from the beginning”, summarizes Grzegorz Gańko. Since then the demand has become so great, that the company has decided to invest in a second packaging line. Because OSM SIERPC has seen the previous good experience with MULTIVAC reconfirmed with the thermoforming line, MULTIVAC is now due to plan and install the second packaging line in the Polish dairy. “The fact that the many components of our packaging line all operate together flawlessly is primarily due to the know-how of the service team”, praises Grzegorz Gańko and adds: “I had never seen such a complex packaging solution before, and I am still fascinated today by its efficiency and high quality.”