Snack maker boosts output with forward-thinking solutions

Shown here is a 6-oz bag of veggie chips, which Keystone can produce on any one of its three new scale/bagger combinations.
Extruded cheese puffs move through the 14-head combination scale to the bagger that sits immediately below.
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VP Editor
Three identical weighing and bagging systems—along with metal detection and bar-code scanning technology—are keys to this turnkey, single-supplier packaging upgrade.

Quality snacks manufacturer and co-packer Keystone Food Products has dramatically expanded production capabilities at its Easton, PA, site by adding three new tna packaging lines. In addition to boosting current profitability, the installation has also helped to consolidate Keystone’s work space, enabling the firm to better respond to increasing consumer demand for the company’s quality products and services. tna supported the family-owned business throughout the entire installation process, creating complete start-to-finish packaging solutions and facilitating Keystone’s transition to a new building with total peace of mind.

As a producer and co-packer of a wide variety of natural and healthy unique corn-based snacks, from tortilla chips to snacks mixes, popcorns, and extruded snacks, Keystone depends on flexible, high performance packaging solutions that can easily be integrated into its existing production line. In addition, the growing market requirement for smaller bag sizes meant Keystone needed to expand the plant’s manufacturing capabilities to address this customer demand while still maintaining profitability.

Keystone knew that the tna robag® FX 3ci was the right choice for its facility as this turnkey packaging system could be easily integrated with existing equipment thanks to tna’s comprehensive project management services. With performance improvements of up to 30% in both output and the reduction of rejects, this state-of-the art weighing and bagging system also significantly increased the speed and precision of the entire production, helping Keystone to optimize performance while catering to the demand for smaller bags.

Allowing for any jaw configuration (single, flat, double or triple) or size, the tna robag FX 3ci offered Keystone the exact flexibility it needed for its range of packaging services, including its quattropack operations. Plus, the tna robag FX 3ci does not require any mechanical adjustments when changing product or film. This was a particularly important benefit for Keystone, which required a simple, yet efficiently designed machine to facilitate the switch between different bag formats and products. Even more performance increases can be realized by upgrading the jaw set up, leaving Keystone fully prepared for the future.

Accuracy is important
Keystone is responsible for the packaging of both its own and other brands’ premium snacks. As such, the company needed a highly accurate weighing system above its new baggers that would ensure that only the exact amount of product would be included in the bag. This would avoid raw material waste and allow Keystone to produce an increased number of units from the same quantity of material, also enabling it to deliver the best Return on Investment to their customers.

The tna intelli-weigh® omega 314 proved to be the most effective solution to Keystone’s challenges. By combining strain gauge load cells with digital filtering to virtually eliminate the influence of external vibration, the tna intelli-weigh® omega 314 is a combination scale that allows for high-speed weighing with superior precision. As a result, discrepancies between bags are negligible, enabling Keystone to deliver the quality standards and profit margins its customers expect. The modular design of the tna intellli-weigh omega 314 also enables quick and easy troubleshooting and maintenance and enhances product flow, ensuring that an efficient and reliable weighing process is maintained.

Keystone’s commitment to product excellence and innovation is industry renowned. The company required a more automated verification system to enable it to stay at the forefront of innovation and maintain these premium quality standards.

With these needs in mind, tna quickly identified the solution and installed its intelli-read® 3, a revolutionary bar-code scanner that enabled Keystone to maintain rapid packaging speeds while ensuring that its products are checked to the highest standards. The solution automatically scans the bar code on the packaging film and cross checks it to verify that the correct product is being processed. Mounted directly onto the film system of the tna robag, the tna intelli-read 3 scans the entire product’s width, making it virtually impossible to bypass, as every bar code—regardless of where on the film it is printed—will be read. With a new fully automated bar-code scanning system in place, Keystone was not only able to speed up the bagging process, but can now also be fully assured that only products at the right weight and with the correct packaging leave the plant.

Maximizing plant footprint
Keystone wanted a system that would increase its production capacity in the limited space that was available. Because the previous production set up was fragmented, an important part of the installation process was to analyze the arrangement and provide more continuity in the way Keystone’s equipment was laid out.

Throughout the entire process, tna applied an intelligent and flexible approach, listening closely to Keystone’s challenges and specific requirements to devise a fully engineered solution to maximize the use of space. Previously, each of Keystone’s machines had its own platform, which used significant amounts of valuable floor space. By providing its complete project management services, in the design and installation of a single new platform that would incorporate the three new packaging machines, tna was able to optimize the plant’s surface area, allowing Keystone to save both time and space.

Another key challenge was to adapt the layout to the plant’s low ceiling height. New machines were specifically tailored to meet space requirements and facilitate product transfer between different packaging stages. The tna hyper-detect metal detector also enabled Keystone to maximize the available ceiling height space. Its patented design allows the metal detector to be positioned much closer to the multi-head combination scale, reducing machine height and dramatically increasing the speed at which the bagger can produce finished bags. The system offers improved metal detection capabilities, while eliminating degradation in product transfer to ultimately deliver safe product throughout and minimize rejects. This provided Keystone with a stable operation for optimum sensitivity and consistent performance when inspecting products.

Also a good design feature is the use of the tna intelli-air distribution system to carry small single-serve bags from the tna baggers to the remote secondary packaging station locations. Conventional conveyor systems would have required valuable floor space. The intelli-air solution was perfect because it occupies so little space yet still gently transports the super-light bags along a tube of air to a station where operators manually load the bags into paperboard cartons that then go through shrink film overwrap.

“Over the years, we have developed a strong relationship with Keystone,” comments Toby Steward, Regional Sales Manager at tna. “For the installation to be successful, we spent a lot of time with Keystone to get a good grasp of both their current and future plans. Once we fully understood their needs, we were able to tailor our systems to their specific requirements, providing them with flexible, high-performance solutions that will meet their long term production needs.”

Forward-thinking solutions
From the start of the project to its completion, Keystone expressed its desire to think ahead together with tna and introduce lasting and sustainable production solutions. With plans to move its entire production to a new, bigger site, Keystone challenged tna to deliver forward-thinking options that could be easily moved to meet future requirements.

“Right from the beginning, it became clear that tna were the right partner for us. Over the years, they really understood what our business objectives were and how we could innovate and maintain a competitive edge. We’re extremely satisfied with the equipment that tna has provided us and are confident that these systems will play a critical role in driving our business forward,” says Bill Corriere, Chief Executive Officer at Keystone Food Products.

“Increasing our production capacity was a priority for us, but we were also looking for innovative and efficient solutions that would be flexible enough to fit our limited space,” adds Corriere. “We saw the answer in tna. The company’s high performance solutions enhanced our manufacturing capabilities, while its expertise enabled us to make the most of our production and ensured a seamless integration with our existing lines.”

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