Engineering a specialised handling system for filling stations is not everyone's cup of tea
The company that owns the famous packaged tea brands, Society Tea and Amar Tea, was established in the year 1933 in Mumbai. With over 40% market share, they are the market leaders in the packaged tea segment in Maharashtra. The company also has considerable presence in other states such as Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chennai, Punjab and Rajasthan. Besides packaged leaf tea, the company has also developed a new range of dairy products – One Minute, Instant Tea and Coffee Premix.
Since its inception, the company has aimed to maintain the highest quality standards. In fact, three members of the family are dedicated, fulltime tea tasters. The company has set up a new plant in Vadodara (Gujarat) to manufacture high quality tea and dairy products. This plant is one of India’s most advanced and completely automated milk and soluble tea processing units, which manufactures these products under strict hygienic standards, to meet the highest levels of quality and excellence.
At its new plant, the company has installed an advanced packaging line consisting of cleaning, mixing, weighing, filling and sealing processes. Usually, processed and blended tea reaches packaging plants from tea gardens in large bags, each weighing about 0.5t. For preparing branded packets of different types of teas and premixes, the blended tea is poured into a large hopper where it is cleaned. It is further pneumatically driven to a machine that carefully weighs, mixes and dispenses the right quantity of tea into each packet, which is then sealed and weighed again as a final check. The entire process is automated and thousands of packets are prepared every hour. A large brand like Amar Tea sells a few million packets every year and hence, requires massive capacity for preparing different types of tea mixes and packaging them.
The new plant of Amar Tea has high-speed mixing and packaging lines. The plant comprise 13 filling stations, where the large bags of blended tea are to be emptied into hoppers. Continuous feeding to these hoppers is very important and hence, adhering to the cycle time of lifting, lowering and emptying bags becomes crucial.
The throughput from the hopper is set in such a way that after every five minutes, a new bag requires to be released into the hopper. To maintain this speed, there are total four bags at each station that are required to be released sequentially, one after the other. When the multiple hoppers are to be fed sequentially, perfect synchronisation between the feeding of bags at each station also becomes extremely important. The client was looking for a completely automated handling system that would meet the exact requirements of the process and complement its operations.
During the process, a lot of fine dust particles get released into the air, which may affect the functioning of the hoist by jamming the moving parts. Hence, a hoist enclosure conforming to special ingress protection standards was essential.
The ElectroMech team thoroughly studied the entire production process and its parameters. In order to meet the desired requirements, our team suggested the installation of two hoists at each hopper station, mounted on an 8m long I-beam, placed atop the hopper. In all, 24 hoists were required to cover all the filling stations/hoppers. For this, we recommended using hoists, each having 2t SWL, 5m height of lift and 8m span. Considering the capacity of the filling stations, each hopper could be fed with 4 bags of blended tea in a cycle time of 5 to 6 minutes, thus meeting the requirement.
Hoists with enclosures conforming to IP 66 are used to ensure protection against fine dust particles entering into the hoist assembly.
These hoists supplied by ElectroMech are known for their smooth operation and high reliability, and require minimal maintenance.
They are ideal for food processing plants and are provided with food grade lubrication to avoid contamination. To meet the desired cycle time, all the hoists are programmed using PLC and are provided with an HMI to allow centralised control of the process. Communication between hoists is achieved through Wi-Fi which avoids complicated wiring, which would otherwise have been required for serial port communication and interfacing.
The hoists (2 nos.) fitted above each hopper are programmed to meet the cycle time demand. Bags containing tea leaves are kept on the floor at four predefined locations. Each hoist serves two bag locations. The hoists are programmed such that continuous feeding to the hopper is ensured without any idling or time lag. As the hoists at all the filling stations continuously communicate with each other through Wi-Fi, the process parameters are strictly adhered to.
The advanced, programmable and comprehensive bag handling solution from ElectroMech is helping Amar Tea to manage its operations most efficiently with strict adherence to the cycle time and process parameters. Completely automated handling of tea bags avoids manual intervention and delicate tea leaves are protected from the damage that might occur during manual handling. The entire process is optimised through continuous feeding to filling stations/hoppers.
With programmable hoists, Wi-Fi communication, and HMI, it is possible to control the process with great ease and simplicity. In case of change in requirements or process parameters in the future, the system also offers the much required flexibility to adapt to new parameters.
Handling of tea bags has become safer and the possible damage or wastage involved in manual handling or while pouring of tea bags into the hopper is avoided. The automated system also helps reduce labour intensity.
The sleek design of these hoists requires lesser space, making the installation compact. This helped avoid the clumsy structure required to mount the hoists and the installation became clutter-free which suited the overall plant environment. These hoists are extremely reliable in performance and hence, require minimum maintenance in the long run. This will save maintenance costs and reduce plant downtime in the longrun. Moreover, the hoists are backed by our benchmark service support through our subsidiary, Cranedge.
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