Tailor-made GEA process line for Spanish producer of serrano ham and sausages

Tailor-made GEA process line…

Ramón Ventulà S.A, a family business in the north-east of Spain, famed internationally for the quality of its extensive range of meat products, has installed a new holistic slicing and packaging line from GEA. The new line, which brings together scanning, slicing and thermoforming technology from a single source, achieves improved yields, greater efficiency, less downtime, reduced use of packing materials and greater product flexibility and consistency.

The company has been in business since the 1950s and now has four plants producing 5,000 tons of food every year with 90 separate products, including bacon, Catalan cured fuet and chorizo sausage, in 750 packaging formats. It was the first exporter of Serrano ham to Germany in the 1970s and now exports its range of products to around 70 countries worldwide. Ramón Ventulà’s excellent reputation has been built on its commitment to quality and innovation, and the principles of food safety, respect for the environment as well as health and safety at work.

The GEA factor

Ramón Ventulà knew GEA. In 2019 the company had bought three GEA PowerPak thermoformer machines that had been performing well, and the excellent service provided by GEA made the company the obvious choice when upgrading older equipment. Pilar Ventulà, Managing Director at Ramón Ventulà, said that making the traditional Catalonian and Spanish sausages starts with selecting the best quality raw materials then putting them together in a meticulous process. “This requires us to employ precise and reliable process technology,” she said.

Which is exactly where GEA comes in. The company has a long experience of designing automatic slicing, loading and packaging systems and offers a modular approach to designing production lines specifically to meet individual customer needs. According to Norbert Brunnquell, Senior Product Manager Slicing & Loading for GEA, it is this modularity and compatibility of all the GEA equipment that allows the company to create unique holistic production systems for a wide range of customers.

“Each part of the line is perfectly matched and synchronized with each other to create a seamless process that is efficient, safe and environmentally sustainable in today’s market." Norbert Brunnquell, Senior Product Manager Slicing & Loading for GEA.

Process requirements

From Ramón Ventulà the requirements were clearly formulated: they required the finest quality slicing, easy handling, low give-away and high output. To achieve this level of productivity and control GEA advised the use of its GEA DualSlicer II 1200 slicer, working with the new GEA PowerPak PLUS thermoformer, with supporting control equipment. These had been designed to work together and would provide the flexibility, control and productivity the company required to allow it to expand its range of products and enter new markets. The whole contract was valued at over €1 million.

The GEA line

The complete line uses the GEA OptiScan to scan two logs at a time for density and shape prior to slicing. This helps ensure accurate weight control of each package and provides high yield with the minimum give-away.

Optimal slicing quality and consumer-friendly handling is achieved with the GEA DualSlicer with interleaver. As the name suggests the DualSlicer can slice two calibrated product logs such as a round sausage or an uncured ham at the same time. The system synchronizes all components to produce perfect slices with the minimum give-away, maximum yield and a high percentage of on-weight packs.

The interleaver is designed for high-speed operation, operator safety and easy handling. With two separate film drives to slicer can process each log independently even if the products are different. The interleaver film is positioned in between every single slice in the slicing process of the product and makes it very convenient to separate the portions. Operators can fix the overall paper length for each portion which allows the tare weight to be set into the calibrated checkweigher GEA Check 4000. This prevents unnecessary rejected packs. Paper jams can be cleared without stopping the machine.

The GEA ShingleLoader 600 automatic loading system provides a continuous flow of product to the thermoformer. It also allows the products to be overlapped within the package to create a more attractive shelf appeal and to reduce the size of the overall packs to minimize the use of plastic materials and make the best use of available retail space.

Thermoforming is performed by GEA’s new PowerPak PLUS thermoformer. The new machine includes a host of new features that combine to improve packaging quality, reduce film consumption, make handling simpler for operators and improve overall reliability. These advancements include transparent sliding doors that are hygienic, provide easy access for maintenance and a perfect view of the machine to help operators judge when films need changing. The film rollers have been standardized for easy maintenance and reduced inventory. GEA engineers have also supported the top and bottom webs on both sides, rather than just one, so that the process can be more accurately controlled. Both films are adjusted automatically, so the pack seals are always perfect, and there is no need for a skilled engineer watching over the machine all the time.

These advancements have allowed GEA to reduce the forces on the top web by around 75% allowing the use of thinner films (and even mono films) without losing structural integrity or pulling the labels out of shape.

The line at Ramón Ventulà is completed with the GEA PowerGuide Speed that funnels multiple pack lanes into one for final packaging. The integration of the GEA equipment throughout the line enables it to produce slices of the highest quality, with consistent thickness and an output of 1.600 kg/h.

Achieving the objectives

David Gracia, Technical Manager at Ramón Ventulà said that it was always clear that the new line would be built by GEA, because the company has demonstrated a high degree of commitment to the client, with excellent project work, contract negotiation, manufacture and highly efficient technical service.

“We’ve listened to the needs our customers and engineered our machines accordingly, simplifying product flows as much as possible. Our focus is to achieve a high level of process reliability, ease of handling and manageability.”,