Fish Product Packaging with Central Vacuum Supply

Maulburg - A fish specialties company in Northern Germany has been manufacturing smoked salmon products at its new production facility since early 2012. The quantity of salmon products prepared annually is now 3,500 tons. This figure is expected to rise, as the factory is designed for growth. The salmon products are packed under a modified atmosphere, using a centralised vacuum system supplied by Busch. The project planners chose Busch, as they wished to use only the most reliable vacuum technology. Busch vacuum pumps had also been used successfully for many years in a packaging system at another site.
Centralised vacuum supply system in a separate room
Centralised vacuum supply system in a separate room

The fish products of this company offers a varied range of specialties, mainly smoked fish. Convenience products are also prepared, from salmon, mackerel, herring, halibut and other fish and seafood. All the smoked salmon specialties are produced in the new production facility. The main customers for these products are supermarket chains and discount stores throughout Europe.

The new facility has two production lines, divided into warm and cold smoked salmon products. Product packaging is conducted in three semi-automated lines in which the final product is transported to the packing station automatically, but the packaging in trays or foil wrappers is carried out by hand. A two-shift system is operated, so the centralised vacuum system runs for up to 16 hours a day.

When asked the reason for centralising the vacuum supply system, the technical supervisor immediately replied: "a centralised vacuum system moves the pumps away from the production and packaging areas, reducing the noise and heat levels experienced by employees. In addition, maintenance can be carried out on individual vacuum pumps without shutting down the vacuum supply, and service personnel do not need to enter the production areas – a definite plus for hygiene."

The supervisor has many years of experience with Busch R 5 rotary vane vacuum pumps, and appreciates their robustness and reliability. When the new facility was being planned, it was clear that the first choice of partner for vacuum systems would be market leader Busch. "We have created an extremely modern facility here," he commented, "in which we make top-quality products. We wanted to work with the best suppliers and avoid experiments."
Two years of operation have confirmed this view – the Busch centralised system provides a reliable vacuum supply. It is installed in its own room, and is connected to the three packaging lines by pipes. Two vacuum reservoirs share the same room: the first supplies low vacuum to evacuate the packaging line pipework rapidly, after which high vacuum from the second reservoir is applied. The level of high vacuum determines the pressure within the packaging. This arrangement ensures that the packaging lines always have sufficient vacuum capacity to work at full speed. Centralised vacuum systems have a further advantage: fewer vacuum pumps are required than in decentralised systems. Centralised vacuum pumps are individually controlled, so only those required to meet the current demand will operate.

The size of products entering the packaging stations is not constant, which produces variations in the packing volumes and cycle times. In practice this means the packaging line will demand less than the capacity available from the vacuum system, causing the controller to switch off pumps that are surplus to requirements. The vacuum supply thus runs only the pumps necessary to meet demand, using considerably less energy than a decentralised system. Decentralised vacuum pumps are directly connected to the packing lines and cannot be shut down individually. Consequently they run at full output, even when this is unnecessary.

The new production facility is designed for growth, so the vacuum supply has been dimensioned to allow at least two additional packaging lines to be connected without major modifications. The system comprises four R 5 rotary vane pumps and two Panda Roots booster pumps. One of the R 5 rotary vane pumps is used only as a reserve unit.

All products are packed in an inert atmosphere of 70% carbon dioxide (CO2) and 30% nitrogen (N2). The advantages of vacuum packaging are retained – oxygen is removed, considerably increasing the product shelf life. The inert gas in the packaging protects the product from crushing and subsequently drying out. It also preserves the unmistakable appearance of freshly smoked salmon, whether as stremel strips or slices.


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