Check weighing in table grape punnet packing: Opportunities in the development of operational effectiveness

Smit, Rudi (2013-12)

Thesis (MScEng)-- Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: South Africa is ranked as one of the largest table grape exporting countries in the world. The biggest markets for table grape exports have always been the EU and the UK, with emerging markets in Eastern Europe and Asia. The growing demand for pre-packaged fruit and vegetables in these markets are driven by factors like consumer comfort, hygiene and quality. These consumer needs have given rise to stringent quality control standards, putting more pressure on the producers to produce higher quality products. This thesis investigates the use of check weighing as a tool to enhance the operational effectiveness of table grape punnet packing. It looks at the current state of table grape punnet packing in South Africa, then determines the operational effectiveness of current packing practices and finally evaluates the merits of using automated check weighing as an operational management tool to improve current systems. Producers primarily make use of unskilled labour for the pre-packaging of table grapes, making it difficult to consistently produce good quality products. Some packing systems guide the operators towards filling punnets to the specified mass; some packing systems also feature internal check weighing in some form. Although these features improve mass accuracy and hence product quality, the packing processes are still prone to human and machine errors. Producers employ internal quality controllers who try to identify and rectify any human or machine errors as soon as possible. The PPECB, a local statutory body, enforces the minimum quality standards for South African exports by means of inspectors checking random product samples during production. If products of sub-standard quality are found (including under mass), the whole batch needs to be checked and repackaged where necessary, at great cost to the producer. Pre-packaged products may be produced according to the minimum mass system or the average mass system. The average mass system reduces the amount of raw product giveaway and increases revenue, but it requires that all products are check weighed and the masses recorded with a specified level of accuracy. The addition of automated final product check weighing saw a significant reduction in the occurrence of under as well as over mass punnets. It also managed to improve the productivity of some packing systems. Subsequent experiments with the check weigher using different setup parameters yielded much better measurement accuracy and would reduce under and over mass punnets even more. Considering the potential costs of having to repack batches due to the discovery of under mass products, it would be viable to implement automated final product check weighing even for small producers, with a payback period of less than 5 packing seasons depending on the producer’s specific pack house layout. The implementation of check weighing could not only reduce the risk of sub-quality products being produced, but also open up entirely new market opportunities in a very competitive market for products produced to the average mass system.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Suid-Afrika is een van die grootste tafeldruiwe-uitvoerders ter wêreld. Die hoofmarkte vir tafeldruiwe-uitvoere was nog altyd die Europese Unie en Verenigde Koninkryk, met opkomende markte in Oos-Europa en Asië. Die groeiende behoefte vir voorafverpakte vrugte en groente in hierdie markte word gedryf deur verbruikersfaktore soos gemaksugtigheid, higiëne en kwaliteit. Hierdie behoeftes het tot gevolg gehad dat strenger reëls en regulasies vir kwaliteitsbeheer ontstaan het. Dit plaas ekstra druk op produsente om hoër gehalte produkte te produseer. Hierdie tesis ondersoek die gebruik van weging van die finale produk as ʼn hulpmiddel om die operasionele effektiwiteit van die verpakking van tafeldruiwe te verbeter. Daar word gekyk na die huidige toestand van die verpakking van tafeldruiwe in Suid-Afrika. Die operasionele effektiwiteit van bestaande verpakkingstelsels word bepaal. Die meriete van ʼn “weging van die finale produk stelsel” as bestuurshulpmiddel is nagevors. Daar word ook bespreek of die stelsel as bestuurshulpmiddel aangewend kan word om die effektiwiteit van huidige verpakkingstelsels te verbeter. Produsente maak primêr gebruik van ongeskoolde arbeid om tafeldruiwe te verpak. Dit maak dit moeilik om konstante goeie kwaliteit te lewer. Sommige verpakkingstelsels begelei die operateur om bakkies van ʼn spesifieke massa te produseer. Sommige verpakkingstelsels bevat ʼn interne toetsweeg funksie van een of ander aard. Alhoewel die funksies die akkuraatheid, produkmassa en dus produkkwaliteit verbeter, kan menslike- en masjienfoute steeds ʼn impak hê op die verpakkingsprosesse. Produsente maak gebruik van interne kwaliteitsbeheerstelsels wat poog om menslike- en masjienfoute so gou moontlik op te spoor en te herstel. Die PPECB, ʼn staatsliggaam, dwing die minimum Suid-Afrikaanse uitvoerstandaarde af deur middel van inspekteurs wat lukraak produkte tydens produksie ondersoek. Indien die produkte nie aan die kwaliteitstandaarde (insluitend massa) voldoen nie, moet die hele pallet nagegaan word en die bakkies moet reggemaak word waar nodig, teen ʼn groot onkoste vir die produsent. Voorafverpakte produkte kan volgens die minimum- of gemiddelde-massa sisteme geproduseer word. Die gemiddelde-massa sisteem verminder die hoeveelheid druiwe wat weggegee word en verhoog dus inkomste, maar dit vereis dat elke bakkie met ʼn bepaalde akkuraatheid geweeg moet word. Daar moet ook rekord gehou word van die massas. Die byvoeging van geoutomatiseerde finale produk toetsweging het ʼn aansienlike verbetering in die hoeveelheid oor- en ondermassa bakkies tot gevolg gehad. Dit het ook die produktiwiteit van party verpakkingsstelsels verbeter. Daaropvolgende weër eksperimente met ander opstellingsparameters het baie beter akkuraatheid getoon en dus kon die hoeveelheid oor- en ondermassa bakkies selfs verder beperk word. Met inagneming van die kostes daaraan verbonde om ʼn pallet oor te pak as gevolg van ondergewig bakkies, sou dit selfs vir klein produsente die moeite werd wees om finale produk toetsweging te implementeer. Dit het ʼn terugbetalingsperiode van minder as vyf pakseisoene, afhangend van die produsent se spesifieke pakstooruitleg. Nie alleen kan die implementering van finale produk toetsweging die risiko van ondergewig produkte verlaag nie, maar dit kan ook nuwe markgeleenthede oopmaak vir gemiddeldemassa produkte in ʼn baie kompeterende mark.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/85683
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