EAGAN, MINN. — SOMIC America completed the installation of one of its 424 case packing systems at Hartz Mountain Corporation’s Pleasant Plain, Ohio facility in mid-December, a system that has already shown positive results for the pet care product manufacturer.

“The equipment is exceeding our expectations,” said Jake Wojtkiewicz, engineering manager at Hartz. “We chose the SOMIC machine due to the flexibility of the case format and the design. We worked with three additional companies on the packaging solution before deciding on SOMIC. From the time we uncrated the machine to entering production, it took about seven days until we were able to run full production.”

As the pet care industry proved its resilience by continuing to grow despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Hartz decided to move its production back to the 250,000-square-foot Pleasant Plain facility, located on the eastern edge of Cincinnati.

SOMIC’s 424 case packing system runs seven different bottle formats and two case styles, including standard wraps and shelf-ready packaging (SRP) trays with corrugated covers. One shift processed 65,000 bottles each day of the week and, depending on the product, Hartz can produce either 5,400 12-pack cases or 13,000 SRP cases in bundled 5-pack formats.

“The case packer runs at a rate of 150 bottles (12.5 cases) per minute for the SRP 5-packs,” Wojtkiewicz said. “We do not plan to increase the rate of the machine, but we did build this production line with the expectation of adding future shifts to cover increased demand and distribution.”

So far, SOMIC’s 424 case packing solution has allowed for easy access and maintenance, space savings, performance and flexibility in Hartz’s process. Wojtkiewicz mentioned one of his favorite features of this system is the folding tool.

“The design of the machine is novel,” he said. “I’m used to conventional case packers that use a lug bucket chain for the case transport with rotary tucking and folding tooling. The design eliminates that and replaces it with contrast folding tooling and a simple vacuum belt.

“This makes maintenance of the machine significantly easier. It also reduces the noise level of the equipment while in operation and the overall footprint.”

Wojtkiewicz explained this packing system eliminates the need for “complex timing adjustments” and allows for comprehensive motion and timing control across all functions. The SOMIC 424 system features a mechatronic control platform fitted with its latest automation technology.

“The open design is great and makes it very easy for maintenance, changeovers and cleaning,” Wojtkliewicz concluded. “My operators have a full, unimpeded view of the equipment when it is running. This allows for better troubleshooting and adjustments since we can clearly see what is happening inside the machine.”

Hartz has been manufacturing pet care products since 1926, which include 14 widely known toy, treat, grooming, flea and tick brands.

SOMIC America first debuted its 424 case packing system at PACK Expo Connects, held virtually in November 2020.

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