M.H. – Material Handling

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about product handling

Those who work with baked goods on a daily basis know all too well the critical importance of the packaging step.

Mistakes are not an option, and can lead to problems on the packaging line, compromising the integrity of the products and jeopardising the hard work done in preparing them.

All of these can lead to unplanned production downtime which, as you will know, potentially creates delays, problems and significant financial consequences.

Let’s begin by accepting the premise that often, especially in our country,food producers have two vital needs:

  • maximising space, as the available surface area reserved for production — and especially packaging — is limited and precious;
  • streamlining the packaging process as much as possible.

Taking these considerations into account, it is clear that conveyor belts have a vital role to play in packaging. The right conveyor belt can make all the difference.

So, let’s take a look at the different types of conveyor belts and when we might use them, taking into account that with baked goods it is worth distinguishing between different categories of products.

Regarding the cooling method, it can either be natural, in water (immersion or spray) or in a controlled environment (with dozens of different technological solutions available). The conveyor belts that make up the cooling system can be either spiral belts (adapted to reduce the necessary space for the cooling system), large conveyor belts or conveyors for baking trays.

Bread and dough products

When we talk about bread and dough products, they can take countless different forms: it goes without saying that each form has its own “rules” for conveying and packaging.

A recurring process requires a cooling system with a spiral conveyor followed by chicane aligners downstream that feed into the primary packaging machine.

The aligner consists of a series of wide belts with increasing speed, equipped with bulkheads and motorised diverters that channel the items through a series of chicanes that carry them through one or more neat lines.

The packaging machines could be either horizontal flowpacks, or vertical in the case of mini bread rolls, for example.

With Pullman sandwich loaves, the loaves pass through slicing machines that slice the bread before it’s packaged.

Bread in its various different forms very rarely comes in secondary packaging. It would far more commonly be placed directly in cardboard boxes or crates (depending on whether it is destined for large-scale retail or HoReCa). Here, merges and item layering systems may be useful, as they can naturally be buffered “with pressure”.

Crackers, rusks and biscuits

These goods require particular care and are always packaged in a stack, one on top of the other.

They therefore require special conveyor systems.

To meet this need, in the phase after cooling that usually takes place on wide conveyor belts, M.H. Material Handling has developed a dedicated line of FDA-certified conveyors with a modular plastic chain system for use in the food industry.

This solution offers significant benefits in terms of ease of use and maintenance compared to traditional belt systems. Thanks to its modular design, this type of belt guarantees extensive flexibility in designing the layout of the conveyor belts.

After this step, the goods are ready to be loaded as “packs” into the horizontal flowpack or wrapping machine.


As above, here too the cooling takes place on broad conveyor belts, but downstream the system that funnels the goods into the packaging machines varies greatly depending on the type of packaging required.

If the shortbread is individually packaged, they will have to be stacked one on top of the other; here too conveyor belts with a modular plastic chain offer the ideal solution.

However, if the shortbread is packaged in bags, the packaging machines funnel them in from above. Here we would recommend special conveyor belts that place the shortbread one on top of the other; there are then lift conveyor belts that load the shortbread onto weighing machines above the packaging machines.

Lift conveyor systems with modular chains are highly reliable and far easier to use and maintain than traditional bucket lift systems. They are ideal for continuous feeding of overhead lines[p1] , vertical packaging machines and multi-head weighing machines.

Cakes and pastries

Typical patisserie products, of the kind you might have for breakfast, are more durable than you might think.
They are cooled on spiral conveyors and packaged in horizontal flowpacks (as with bread, except with mini goods that are packaged vertically) and loaded using aligners.

These categories of goods are by far the most common within this sector; with certain exceptions, such as breadsticks, that have their own dedicated packaging lines.

Another scenario is that of frozen baked goods, as the presence of a constant level of humidity in the packaging line requires stainless steel conveyor belts that are resistant to corrosion and can be washed down.

As this brief overview has hopefully demonstrated, there are many factors to take into consideration and each category of baked goods has its own requirements. To complicate matters further, the precise specifications of the packaging machine impact the type of conveyors that work with them.

To optimise the packaging process of baked goods, you must be confident that the conveyor belts in use offer technologically advanced solutions that are also compatible with the packaging machines in the line.

M.H. is an Italian brand with thirty years of experience with handling movement and logistics within production facilities in every sector of industry, providing conveyor belts, merge and sort buffer systems, item rotators and flippers, lifts, destackers and other accessories necessary in the packaging and product manufacturing process.
Thanks to their modular design, M.H.’s products are interchangeable and easy to integrate into existing lines.

To find out more about how to improve the efficiency of the entire packaging process of your products, GET IN TOUCH TO DISCUSS.

Those whose business involves chocolate (in all its many forms) know all too well the importance of the stage in which the “moulded” products are transferred to the primary packaging machine.

This is the moment in which a series of variables enter the picture, tied to the form of the product and the feeding system of the packaging machine. Added to this is a problem of available space: production facilities are not always overly generous with space to dedicate to packaging.

Bearing this in mind, it is not hard to see how important it is to have an ad hoc conveyor system that takes into account:

  • the type of product to be transported;
  • the feeding system of the primary packaging machine;
  • available space;
  • any devices that may be able to increase the efficiency of the line.

That is why, in this blog post I would like to provide an overview of the main feeding systems for primary packaging of chocolate.

All products, from the classic chocolate bars, through “hollow” forms (such as Easter eggs and bunnies, for example), all the way to the most carefully crafted pralines share a fundamentally similar production process, known as moulding. This is the most fascinating moment in the process, the one in which the chocolate takes shape.

Moulding generally involves the products travelling through special moulds and trays, so there are no particular differences between one product and the next in terms of the conveyor technology required.

When the chocolate is removed from the moulds (known in jargon as “demoulding”) the differences begin to be felt between the different types of products and packaging.

There are essentially three types of feeding system.

Hollow eggs and delicate/intricate pralines

In these cases, the product remains in trays known as counterplates until the moment they are loaded into the packaging machine, usually using a so-called “pick and place” system.

This process generally involves the following equipment:

  • Conveyor belts

These can be of different types and they carry the plates either along the short or long sides, facing forwards.

  • Expulsion system

Placed after the metal detector and activated by pneumatic cylinders or brushless motors, this is responsible for ejecting plates with contaminated products. The plates must then be cleaned and reinserted manually (in the majority of cases).
Only lines that handle products with high margins can justify a fully automated recovery system.

  • Elevators

Bucket or ledge elevators are the ideal solutions for lines with relatively long work cycles. The ideal solution incorporates a motorised brushless axis to control the positioning and acceleration, offering a solution that ensures fluid and risk-free motion even when the plates are full.

  • Buffer

For these types of products, the natural choice is LIFO buffer systems (Last In — First Out) such as Pater Noster

  • Plate rotator

This device is usually the last one in the return line. The plate is presumed empty, but the packaging loader may have missed a few pieces that are still in the mould; therefore, before returning it to the demoulding position, it must be turned upside down and shaken to ensure any residual pieces fall out.
Once the plate has been definitively emptied, it can return to the start of the line and restart the cycle.

Small flat-bottomed chocolates

These usually use chicane conveyor belts that align the product and divert it towards the different wrappers.

Chocolate bars

This uses the classic rank feeding system that can load both wrapping paper and flowpack. In these cases, the products must be arranged in single file at one or more exits before they enter the machine.

To meet this need, merge and align groups for unpackaged products are used.

The standard merge group consists of three belt or modular chain conveyors that operate at different speeds, to separate the arriving products. Above the belts there are a few pairs of fixed guides or motorised belt diverters with adjustable inclines, that slow some products down and allow those they do not touch to pass, thereby breaking up the threading process.

To buffer large volumes of the unpackaged product by rank, we need a multiple cleave belt that follows the FIFO principle (First In — First Out); the cleaves can either be fixed, fed by a tilting conveyor or organised in a single rack that can be raised and lowered. This second solution is critical in production facilities where available space is at a premium.

The packaging machines are fed by exit lines that are perpendicular to the primary transportation line. The exit lanes receive the product from the primary transportation line through oscillating devices.

Before they can reach the primary packaging, the products must often be rotated and separated to ensure the efficiency of the line. The task is carried out using a series of conveyor belts that carry out successive jumps in speed, to ensure adequate spacing between the products.

M.H. produces all of the solutions described above, focusing first and foremost on the specific needs of each client, to tailor and optimise the entire packaging process for them.

M.H. is an Italian brand with thirty years of experience with handling movement and logistics within production facilities in every sector of industry, providing conveyor belts, merge and sort accumulation systems, item rotators and flippers, lifts, destackers and other accessories necessary in the packaging and product manufacturing process.
Thanks to their modular design, M.H.’s products are interchangeable and easy to integrate into existing lines.

To find out more about how to improve the efficiency of the entire packaging process of your products


Throughout my career, I have often come across companies who make the mistake of underestimating the importance of the packaging line of their products dei loro prodotti.

The resultReduced efficiency and the risk that machines may not work at maximum capacity, or worse still, grind to a halt.

These situations happen because someone erroneously thinks that product packaging requires buying the primary and, if necessary, secondary packaging machines and nothing more, failing to take into account the systems necessary to connect them.

There is an image that often comes to mind when I have to tackle this kind of problem: I think of the conveyor belts like the circulatory system that carries blood around the body and allows the different organs to function. Different packaging machines have to be connected to each other by an efficient “circulatory system” that is able to iron out any discrepancies that may exist between them.

Underestimating the importance of this “circulatory system” can result in production problems and delays.

When would we need a storage system?

There are two situations in which storage systems are critical:

  • when we need to compensate for operating differences between two machines that are connected in series;
  • when we need to regain productivity during micro-stops of downstream machines.

The first condition typically occurs when an intermittent machine is connected to a continuous one; for example, when an upstream machine produces product groups at regular intervals, while the downstream machine requires an ongoing flow of products equidistant from each other.

In the second case, on the other hand, we have start-ups and shut-downs of two machines that are incompatible with each other.

In these cases a buffer is a simple solution that requires a few metres of conveyor belt to regulate the flow and avoid regular stoppages in the production process.

As you can imagine, the efficiency gains are significant.

Which buffer to choose?

The choice of system depends on various considerations (including financial ones) but there are three variables that must be kept in mind:

  • the operating method of the storage system;
  • the available storage space;
  • the recovery capacity.

It is only by carefully considering these factors that we can move to a rapid consideration of the investment in the purchase of a buffer.

How the buffer works

The buffer can either be LIFO(Last In First Out), in which, as the name suggests, the first product to enter the buffer is the last one to leave it, or FIFO (First In First Out), in which the first product into the buffer is the first one out.

Among FIFO systems, there is a choice of:

  • machines that are external to the production line;
  • machinery that keeps the product within the production line, gradually increasing the available transportation space. In the latter case, the product is fully traceable, and it is considered more of an advanced storage system rather than a buffer.

LIFO buffers are the cheaper and simpler models. They are particularly suited to non-perishable, with long expiry dates, that can wait a long time for final packaging.

FIFO systems, on the other hand, are recommended for fresh products that must pass through the packaging line within a limited time frame in order to retain their freshness. These machines are usually more complex and their price is often not far off that of the packaging machines themselves.

Storage space

The decision regarding the dimensions of the storage space is linked to the efficiency of the upstream and downstream packaging machines and the time it takes to bring them back online in cases of micro-stops. In cases of a longer stop caused by mechanical failure, it is unlikely that a system within the packaging line will be sufficient to avoid any interruption at all.

In most cases, the storage space can correspond to a production time of 2-5 minutes; obviously there may be situations in which the demand for storage is notably higher and in this case it is worth considering the cost-benefit analysis and the impact that the buffer’s presence might have on the time it takes to bring the packaging line back online.

Often, the long time to recover from a micro-stop is because the operator is unable to focus exclusively on fixing the problem, because the upstream products continue to arrive, with the potential for pressure and chaos along the line.
Real-world conditions have shown that the presence of a buffer can help to contain machine downtimes.

Another example might be whereproducts travel a long distance along the packaging line and the client wants the ability to fully empty them. In this case, the necessary space can rise to 20 minutes or more. Such situations are rare but can happen.

Recovery capacity

A properly sized packaging line requires a buffer that is able to recover the product during regular production. The downstream machine must also be able to work at a rate greater than its nominal one, usually 10%-20% faster.

The time for emptying the buffer depends on this recovery capacity.

For more information on this subject, I have published a video dedicated to choosing the right storage system.

M.H. is an Italian brand with thirty years of experience with handling movement and logistics within production facilities in every sector of industry. We offer dedicated solutions for LIFO and FIFO storage systems, tailored to the client’s needs.

Our wealth of experience and our innovative and technologically advanced solutions mean that M.H. is also able to support companies in optimizing and streamlining their packaging lines.

For more information about our products and to book a consultation,

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