M.H. – Material Handling

Efficiency improvement of the lines

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Numerous companies I have worked with were not even aware that with a few small changes and minimal investment they too could optimise their processes in a big way.

Today, I want to share with you a few tricks to optimise efficiency on your packaging lines.

So, the three primary tricks to improve efficiency on your packaging lines are:

  • optimizing space, maybe even developing upwards;
  • analyzing the the line as a whole, underestimating the importance of the systems that connect your machinery;
  • investing in technological innovation.

Discover how the MH Solution Scan can transform your production process and enhance your operations today.

As I mentioned in a previous video, the need for space is widespread and extremely common. In the last post, I spoke about the benefits of spiral conveyors over traditional conveyors. Today, I’d like to focus on a few alternative solutions.

The bucket elevator belts, intermittent or continuous cleated belts and BAT-Vertical are relevant only in specific situations, and their maintenance costs are higher than those of spiral conveyors; that is why we recommend installing spiral conveyors whenever possible.

If you also have this type of need, do not hesitate to contact us; we are able to create any type of buffer system between packaging machines, paying particular attention to specific production needs, such as optimizing packaging space in a production facility.

I’ve been involved in product conveyor systems for years now, and one of the most frequent recurring challenges is space. Companies often contact me because they need to “find” space so they can optimise their production.

It is critical to start by accurately surveying the site to understand the state of play and evaluating all necessary factors. Only after that can we evaluate where in the production line it is possible and beneficial to install a device that will help to optimise the space, as well as determine the type of device to use.

If you also have this type of need, do not hesitate to contact us; we are able to create any type of buffer system between packaging machines, paying particular attention to specific production needs, such as optimizing packaging space in a production facility.

On this blog, I often discuss packaging process optimization and the machinery that can be installed to achieve this goal. Designing a line from scratch, perhaps even with ample space available, is one thing; intervening on an existing line with its mechanisms already in motion is another.

Is it still possible to optimize the process in these cases? Good question! The answer is yes, but there are multiple paths to take.

Today, I want to outline some solutions to this issue because more and more companies already have a packaging line but need to make it more efficient, both in terms of performance and ergonomics.

Recently, we’ve encountered many with this problem… just think of the contacts we made during Cibus Tec at the end of 2023.

What do these production realities need?

  1. To gain space in facilities where square meters are limited and often fully utilized.
  2. To increase packaging speed.
  3. To free up floor space and develop the process vertically (returning to point 1).
  4. To make the phase from primary to secondary packaging more efficient.
  5. To adapt to changes related to seeking greater sustainability in processes.

What are the solutions in these cases?

T o create overpasses and free up floor space, some technologically advanced solutions can be introduced, such as:

  • Operator passages with gate-opening belts;
  • Retractable systems;
  • Spiral conveyors.

I want to focus on spiral conveyors because, in these cases, I consider them a valid solution.

It’s no coincidence that at Cibus Tec 2023, we presented the SVn-Bare lightweight spiral in collaboration with Ambaflex, specifically designed for agile aerial connections between primary and secondary packaging with significant economic advantage without compromising on quality and achievable peak speeds.

Another “powerful weapon” to improve the efficiency of packaging lines is represented by buffer systems; at MH, we can’t talk about them enough because they can really make a difference.

Buffer systems, for example, allow for:

  • Compensating for operational differences between two machines connected in series;
  • Regularizing the flow and preventing the processing line from constantly stopping;
  • Recovering productivity in the event of micro-stops on downstream machines.

However, integrating a buffer system at a later stage into an existing line is not straightforward; this operation requires significant attention and a series of specific evaluations regarding the performance outcomes to be achieved.

Adaptations to environmentally friendly packaging.

Another highly topical issue leading companies to plan a series of investments to modify their packaging lines is the need to adapt to the use of low-environmental-impact packaging.

When I talk about “low-environmental-impact packaging,” numerous possibilities open up that include solutions aimed at reducing packaging material or actually replacing plastic with paper, cardboard, or compostable material.

In these cases, the packaging process must keep up with progress. And keep in mind that companies will increasingly have to deal with changes imposed by a search for sustainability in processes.

To this end, at M.H., we are continuously investing in research and development of products capable of offering customers innovative and sustainable solutions in line with new market needs and regulatory requirements.

For example, the Sani-Flex hygienic design transport system, our standard for the transport of naked products, is specifically designed to meet stricter regulations; Saniflex takes into account the sanitization needs of some products to help reduce bacterial load during the process.

Another example is our partnership with Intralox for the construction or development of special products such as spiral elevators, ThermoDrive belts, and passive ARB conveyors.

These mentioned are just some of the solutions designed by M.H. to support companies in the process of modernizing their packaging lines.

If you also need to make your lines more functional and efficient, do not hesitate to contact us; we will guide you on a path to optimizing productivity specifically tailored to your needs.

Crackers, rusks and biscuits are goods that require particular care and are always packaged in a stack, one on top of the other.
Because of their form and the method of primary packaging, they require special conveyor systems.

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

Compared to traditional belt systems, this solution offers significant benefits in terms of ease of use and maintenance.

Our decade of experience has taught us how much demand there is for systems that can be easily adapted to align with companies’ packaging process and to optimise their productivity.

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.

Shortbread

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.

Improve the efficiency of your packaging line with our MH Scan Solution

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.

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about product handling

In industrial production, buffering systems play a crucial role in ensuring optimal space management and uninterrupted production.

When handling cylindrical items such as bottles, aerosol cans, and vials, it becomes essential to adopt systems specifically designed to manage disparities in production flow across different processing stages. These systems must balance upstream production with downstream demands and adapt agilely to the varying speeds of packaging machines.

The primary goal of these systems is to ensure that every operational phase integrates seamlessly, even in the presence of fluctuating rhythms. This synchronization is fundamental to maintaining the quality and integrity of items throughout the entire production cycle.

Such consistency and balance in the flow minimize the risk of clogs or unexpected delays, ensuring efficiency and resilience that are essential for the success of any packaging line.

Let’s now take a closer look at the features and advantages of the three buffering systems suitable for cylindrical products: serpentine, recirculating, and reservoir.

  • Serpentine Buffer Systems

Serpentine buffer systems represent the most straightforward and cost-effective solution for managing short stoppages

The adjacent arrangement of conveyor belts, moving in opposite directions, facilitates the transfer of products between different tracks, ensuring sufficient space for accumulation. The speed of the belts is adjusted according to the desired spacing between products, guaranteeing an efficient and safe process.

These systems are particularly useful for “emptying” upstream machines, allowing continuous production without interruptions.

  • Recirculating Tables

For greater accumulation capacity and optimal use of available space, recirculation tables offer an advanced solution.

With a central transit belt flanked by wider belts moving in the opposite direction, these systems efficiently manage product accumulation, effectively handling longer production interruptions.

  • Reservoir Tables

When production needs require product accumulation for extended periods or in the presence of frequent format changes, reservoir tables are the ideal solution.

These systems, with their wide and bidirectional configuration, can accommodate a significant quantity of products, effectively functioning as a buffer.

Solutions for Cylindrical Products with Special Requirements

In addition to standard buffering systems, there are products that, due to their unique shapes, require extra care.

Truncated conical products or those with non-standard circular sections often require ingenious solutions to ensure their integrity during accumulation.

For these special items, we implement proactive measures such as polycarbonate containment covers, which effectively prevent the risk of overlapping or part separation. These precautions are essential for maintaining the excellence and precision of the product up to the final stage of the process.

Successful strategy: Choosing the right buffering system for your production line

Buffering systems for cylindrical products are a key component in optimizing production processes. By implementing specific technologies—such as serpentine systems, recirculatiing tables, and reservoir tables—you can not only maximize production capacity but also preserve the integrity of each individual item.

Attention to the specific needs of various product types ensures tailored solutions that effectively address the challenges of modern industry.

In this scenario, making a well-informed and judicious choice of accumulation systems is crucial not only for solving operational problems but also for optimizing your production line, ensuring a rapid and tangible return on investment.

Refining production requires not only the right tools but also the insights necessary to utilize them effectively. This is where our MH Solution Scan comes into play: an in-depth diagnosis to analyze and optimize your packaging line. This advanced technology examines current processes, identifies areas for improvement, and suggests the most suitable solutions to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

The MH Solution Scan is your ally in production management, designed to provide a tailored analysis of your needs and propose a clear action plan. It answers the question: “How can I improve my packaging line?”

Discover how the MH Solution Scan can transform your production process and enhance your operations today.

Serpentine buffer systems are among the most traditional methodologies utilized for managing the accumulation of cylindrical products, distinguished by their ability to facilitate an agile and uninterrupted production flow of vials, cans and bottles.

These systems, comprised of a choreography of conveyor belts arranged side by side and oriented in opposite directions, maximize available space and ensure a smooth transport of products.

Precise management of the conveyor speeds allows for maintaining an appropriate interval between moving items, preventing unwanted accumulations and ensuring a balanced work pace.

These systems are designed to ensure that, in the event of slowdowns, products start to accumulate on the last conveyor belt until a control photocell detects the critical point, triggering a stop. This prevents the risk of congestion and damage, preserving the fluidity of production with a controlled and manageable pause.

Once downstream operations are restored, the conveyor belts restart with renewed energy, accelerating movement to quickly clear any accumulated buildup and swiftly reestablish the usual pace of the line. Thanks to this strategy, production can resume its rhythm with the assurance of a system that minimizes downtime and protects every item in the production chain.

Beyond Savings: Discover the multiple benefits of serpentine buffer systems

The benefits of spiral accumulation systems are numerous and have a direct impact on the packaging line and operational costs. These systems are notable for their disarming simplicity and innate ability to maximize efficiency without excessively burdening the budget.

  • Operational costs optimization

The structural simplicity of serpentine buffer systems translates into a significant economic advantage. Their installation requires a moderate initial investment and, thanks to straightforward maintenance, operational costs remain low over time. Additionally, their durability and reliability ensure a rapid return on investment, making them a cost-effective solution in the long term.

  • Smart management of interruptions

In the event of unexpected shutdowns, serpentine buffer systems demonstrate their strength: their ability to agilely manage these moments reduces the risk of prolonged and costly stoppages. There is no need for drastic measures such as completely halting the line; instead, the situation can be resolved with minimal impact on overall productivity.

  • Operational Agility

One of the most valued features is the ability of serpentine buffer systems to “empty” upstream machines. This allows the machines to keep operating even when part of the line is inactive, preventing delays from accumulating and turning into additional costs for the company. Production can thus continue more smoothly, handling interruptions with great flexibility.

  • Impact on production continuity

The implementation of serpentine buffer systems ensures superior production continuity. These solutions, while simple, support a consistently operational assembly line, maintaining high quality standards for the finished product.

Now that you have explored the strategic advantages of serpentine buffer systems, you may be wondering how to effectively implement them in your production environment. Choosing and optimizing an accumulation system requires a thorough and personalized analysis of your operations, a task that goes beyond simply selecting a technological solution.

At MH, we offer not only our extensive range of serpentine buffer systems but also exclusive access to the “MH Solution Scan.” Our advanced diagnostic tool evaluates your specific production needs, identifying areas for improvement and recommending the most effective implementation for your packaging line.

To discover how the MH Solution Scan can transform your production process, click below.