Labelling deep-frozen food
Weber applicators label at -24° Celsius at Apetito logistics centre in Germany
Us Europeans will get the shivers even at slightly below zero. Yet, this is nothing. For some real freezing, try the Apetito logistics centre at its headquarters in Germany, where the provider of deep frozen products and catering keeps its products at minus 24°C (-11°F). Not only the staff must operate under the extreme conditions here, but also the equipment, such as the labelling systems. This is where the producer of deep frozen products and catering relies on Alpha Compact label dispensers because they will continue labelling packages reliably despite the cold.
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An automated carton warehouse with its connected packaging area lies at the core of the logistics and dispatch centre which opened in 2013. In excess of 2 000 different products, sorted into 60 different carton formats, are packaged here just for the system market sector. To assist the packers and delivery drivers and to avoid confusion or errors, all the products for a particular customer will be marked exclusively red, blue or yellow.
Two stations, each with an installed labelling system comprising 3 Alpha Compact dispensers, are to this end provided for proper labelling of the cartons. Of the order of 8 million of the approximately 12 million cartons are now leaving the Rheine logistics centre properly labelled using this colour code.
“We are used to suppliers first of all needing to overcome our extremely low temperatures. Although many will assure us that their systems will function in our deep-freeze temperatures, they unfortunately often fail to provide the proof”, says Klaus Schmalbrock, Head of department for dispatch, loading and deep freeze systems at Apetito. “Minor differences in the material used will sometimes determine whether it can survive the cold or not.” Schmalbrock has been working for the company for 31 years and has many a tale to tell in this regard.
Even Weber, provider of marking systems, had to learn that temperatures of minus 24°C pose serious technological challenges. Weber accepted the challenge after a number of providers of marking technology had already replied with a thank you, but no thanks, to the Apetito enquiry.
Labelling was planned to take place in the deep freeze area and little space was made available for the applicators, on a raised platform. No provision was made for relocation of the applicators to an area with temperatures above zero or for an enclosure.
But the Weber engineers refused to give up and found a solution. Various label materials and adhesives were tried before finding a suitable material for the labels, amenable to automatic processing and gluing even at the extreme temperatures.
"The investment in the labelling system has paid off in all respects. Not only are we saving time and have we considerably reduced the claims rate since the introduction of the labelling system, we also succeeded in reducing costs through the introduction of the new labelling technology."
Klaus Schmalbrock (Head of department at Apetito)