African confectioner sweetens its wrapping capabilities

New wrapping machines at Kenyan confectioner Kenafric Industries produce up to 1,980 chewy sweets/min and 1,100 pieces/min of bubble gum, and bring its number of wrapping systems to 30.

Kenafric uses eight machines to package its increasingly popular Bazooka-style bubble gum in a side-fold wrap with a comic-strip insert.
Kenafric uses eight machines to package its increasingly popular Bazooka-style bubble gum in a side-fold wrap with a comic-strip insert.

Kenafric Industries Ltd., Nairobi, Kenya, has been producing confectionery and other products for the African market for nearly 40 years. The company’s Confectionery Division produces a range of products, including chewing gum, bubble gum, soft caramels, preformed, hard-boiled candies, and lollipops. Among its most well-known brands are Lotta Toffees and Fruit Drops. Kenafric’s confectionery products have an estimated market share of 60% in East African countries. The company says its success is based on product innovation, market reach, a high-profile presence in key markets, and investment in state-of-the-art equipment.

In the 1990s, Kenafric began packaging its products using wrapping machines from Theegarten-Pactec. Since then, as Kenafric experienced increasing market demand for its candies and gum, and steady growth in terms of output, they invested in additional high-speed machines and systems. Over the years, Theegarten-Pactec has provided Kenafric with wrapping systems for cut-and-wrap products, such as chewing gum, bubble gum, and soft caramels, and packaging systems for preformed and hard-boiled candies.

Kenafric currently operates more than 30 machines from Theegarten-Pactec. These include EW5 and EW8 forming, cutting, and wrapping systems for bubble gum products; EK2 and EK3 units for hard candies in double-twist wrappers; the WHD2 forming, cutting, and wrapping machine for products in double-twist packaging; and the U1-EFC forming, cutting, and wrapping machine for bubble gum products in side-fold packaging. Since the first machines were purchased in the early 1990s, Kenafric’s output has more than tripled.

Most recently, in 2013, Kenafric purchased five new machines: one WHD with an output of 1,980 chewy sweets/min in double-twist packaging, and four U1-EFCs, each capable of packaging 1,100 chewing gum pieces/min in a side-fold wrap with a comic strip insert (“Bazooka wrapping style”). These five additional machines were purchased to meet increased product demand.

Continuous motion enables gentle product handling

According to Stefan Liebscher-Weingarten, Theegarten-Pactec Sales Manager Europe, Africa & Middle East, when packagers—including Kenafric—evaluate wrapping machinery, their requirements are fairly universal. “Our customers are looking for efficient and reliable machines that will operate for the next 30 years, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he says.

Differentiating the WHD from some competitive equipment, says Liebscher-Weingarten, is its use of continuous-motion wrapping, whereby the products are handled in a flow within the machine without any stoppages or stress on the product. Special wrapping heads enable the 1,980-piece/min output at a mechanical speed of 247 turns/min only. “The specially designed wrapping heads are equipped with eight wrapping stations each,” he says. “Such a machine is perfectly suitable to run special soft masses at high speeds.”

Kenafric purchased the WHD wrapper to package its Lotta Toffee soft caramels in a range of flavors. The sweet is produced via a batch roller and rope sizer, and is fed by an endless mass rope to the wrapping machine. The WHD cuts single products from the mass rope, and wraps them into a double-twist wrapping style from material cut from a wrapping-material reel. The machine is capable of handling packaging materials that include polypropylene, wax paper, and laminated foil. The resulting product is a caramel of approximately 25 x 15 x 10 mm.

Machine optimization increases OEE

The U1-EFC machines, purchased by Kenafric to wrap bubble gum in side-fold packaging along with a comic strip insert, operate under a completely different working principle from the WHD, says Liebscher-Weingarten. The system uses intermittent motion, basing all operations on only one station. “Nevertheless, it is able to achieve an output of up to 1,100 pieces per minute maximum speed with a 100-percent perfect wrapping result, which is absolutely unique within this field,” he says. “Such a machine is designed to run preformed gum-based products, which usually are equipped with very special deep groves to save on weight, but to keep the size.”

In the gum-wrapping process, the gum is cut from an endless mass rope fed by an extruder and is wrapped in a side-fold wrapping style, along with a comic strip supplement. The outer wax-paper wrapper and insert are fed from one reel are separated on the machine by a knife. The typical size of the final bubble gum product is 30 x 20 x 5 mm.

Kenafric currently operates eight U1-EFC machines, which Theegarten-Pactec has fine-tuned over time to optimize efficiencies, while reducing downtime due to interruptions of the wrapping process. For instance, optimizations have included equipping the U1-EFC machines with four wrapping-material draw-off devices—two for the outer wrapper and two for the comic strip—enabling automatic changing of the wrapping material, with the comic strip and outer wrappers coming from separate wheels. With these adjustments, Kenafric’s Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) has risen to 95%.

Says Kirtan Shah, Group Managing Director, Kenafric Industries, “Theegarten-Pactec has proven again and again that they are the right partner for our wrapping operations. They have made a decisive contribution to improving efficiencies and reducing wastage.

“Theegarten-Pactec is supporting us in achieving our objectives with high-quality packaging solutions that meet our standards and expectations, with service that consistently goes above and beyond.”

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