The reusable secondary packaging approach is said to complement the company’s sustainability efforts launched a year ago under the global ULMAweCare initiative


Harpak-ULMA announces the commercial availability of an automated tote management system for food producers. Credit: Harpak-ULMA.

Harpak-ULMA, a US-based distributor of packaging equipment and systems and the North American subsidiary of ULMA, has launched an automated tote management system for food producers.

The reusable secondary packaging approach is said to complement the company’s innovative sustainability efforts launched under the global ULMAweCare initiative.

Details of Harpak-ULMA’s automated tote management system

The Tote systems make use of plastic or cardboard manufactured reusable containers to transfer products, in order to accommodate a broad range of products and primary packaging types.

Reusable plastic totes help offset carbon emissions, waste, and natural resource consumption. They also provide enhanced product protection in comparison to cardboard alternatives.

Durable plastic totes are claimed to be easier to clean, hygienic, can resist water and chemicals, and are consistently sized.

Plastic totes also minimise product damage by up to 96% while reducing costs by 27% through more efficient, reusable distribution processes.

The company’s automated tote management system uses a closed-loop process to make it economical.

In a statement, Harpak-ULMA stated: “In the initial automated operation, stacked foldable totes are de-palletised, de-stacked, opened using a multiformat opener (or rejected as unopened), distributed, and delivered to the packaging process. In the return phase, totes are collected, prepared/cleaned, and conveyed for set up again.

“While tote systems can leverage traditional material handling equipment, stacking and de-stacking often requires manual intervention. The company’s automated system increases reliability and throughput, reduces long-term costs, and provides ergonomic improvements that enhance workplace safety.

“Since totes are available in a variety of types and open/stackable configurations, Harpak-ULMA advocates tote loading robotics with flexible, customisable end-of-arm tooling that can be tailored to handle unique tote requirements.”

Harpak-ULMA added that the solution utilises a 4 Axis tote-packing robot that operates at up to 80 trays per minute.

The palletising system used for secondary packaging will be directed by a combination of product versatility and production volume requirements.

The company had developed an associated buffer system to optimise palletising equipment performance for either robotic or mechanical palletisers.

Harpak-ULMA CEO Kevin Roach said: “We always strive to provide our customers with the lowest possible Total Cost of Ownership for their packaging solutions. Increasing our customers’ options through innovation-driven sustainability efforts has become a very important part of that equation.”

In January this year, Harpak-ULMA developed new flow wrapper, ULMA FS-400, for packaging raw food products such as fresh poultry and meat.

The FS-400 flow wrapper has been designed to produce cost-effective, leak-proof trayed packaging for raw food products that vary in size and shape.