Robotic handling solution for potatoes from Jorgensen

A bespoke robotic handling system was recently installed for the Dutch firm Peka Kroef, a family business operating a 24/7 production site, which specialises in fresh potato products. Peka Kroef was looking for a change in production flow to make them more flexible in a very demanding Benelux market place. They approached Jorgensen Engineering of Odense, Denmark, specialists in container and autoclave handling systems.

At the time, a large part of Peka Kroef’s product range was being sterilised in a Lagarde autoclave at 120 degrees Celsius, running at a rate of up to 9 tonnes of product at any one time. However, using a retort of this capacity also had a serious disadvantage for the business.

Frans Habrakan, Corporate Engineering & Maintenance Manager of Peka Kroef, explained that:

“We supply the seed, help the farmers grow and harvest the potatoes, and then process them with our production in-house, from washing, peeling, blanching and cutting, right through to recipe preparation and packaging. Our customers want more and more different products. These products require different regimes in the autoclave. So, we had to find a solution to enable us to be more flexible and adaptive to the market needs.”

Frans and his team knew that to be more flexible they needed to be able to split the retorting element of their production into smaller batches. This would allow each batch of product to run its own optimum cycle within the autoclave. The decision was made to work with Jorgensen Engineering from an early stage in the development process. Jorgensen were able to demonstrate and show Peka Kroef various reference cases from its vast portfolio of previous work.

The design and specification of the equipment they finally chose was project managed by Jorgensen. A new plant with eight smaller autoclaves was built, each with an integrated robotic loading system. Two robots take products from a conveyor belt and tsack them onto trays. An automated transfer system brings the trays to each autoclave for processing. Afterwards the product is recovered from the trays using more robots and then placed onto another line.

Habraken clarified that: “The plant runs 24 hours a day. That is why we opted [for a solution from] a known manufacturer. We have also made agreements about service and availability of spare parts. If ever there was a failure, we must know that we can be helped quickly.”

The robotic lines work continuously, handling the products to and from the autoclaves. The system has given Peka Kroef the flexibility to further develop a diversified product offering, whilst delivering significant cost savings.

We will be at this year’s PPMA Total show to discuss the latest installations from Jorgensen and the automated applications on offer! Come see us on Stand C30 from 1 – 3 October at the Birmingham NEC.

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