English lettuce grower PDM Produce relies on weighing technology from MULTIPOND

Founded in 1990, PDM Produce (UK) Ltd. is a company that specializes in the growing and selling of spinach and lettuce. It is now one of the largest lettuce growers in England. Family-owned Philip Maddocks Farm is responsible for cultivation, while PDM Produce is responsible for the area of marketing and sales. The company has around 29 permanent employees as well as another approximately 300 seasonal workers. Customers include numerous retailers, lettuce processors as well as wholesalers and various food services, whereby no customer accounts for more than 20% of the total result, which minimizes risk.

The packaging process was first automated at the beginning of 2007, when the first multihead weigher - from MULTIPOND - was purchased for the factory in Great Chatwell, Newport, Shropshire.

After four years of continuous growth, the second multihead weigher, an MP 14-9600/2500-H, from MULTIPOND, was then installed in combination with a vertical form fill seal machine (VFFS). Due to the good experience with the first Multipond weigher, the decision was made for another system from Multipond. "The products that have to be weighed here are not easy to handle. For this reason, we did not want to take a risk and purchase another manufacturer of multihead weighers. This investment decision has definitely proven to be worthwhile," says Sion Edwards, Operations & Technical Manager. In this way, very different products, from spinach to rocket and small-leaved leaf lettuce types are weighed with simultaneous maximum reliability and maximum precision and are packed seven days a week.

In total, around 15 to 16 tons of product are packed per week. The company works with maximum flexibility, which is controlled according to the weather and the orders. After the washing and drying process, the different types of lettuce or spinach are conveyed to the weighing system on an inclined belt conveyor. Once product has arrived at the top of the weigher, it is first conveyed to the prefeed hoppers by the radially positioned feed trays and then to the weigh hoppers underneath. The system operates based on the principle of combining partial portions. On the basis of the individual partial portions, a computer determines the combination which corresponds to the target weight to be achieved or is closest to it. Then, the finished portions are delivered to the timing hopper, which discharges it into the forming tube in the VFFS.

All product contact parts can be removed quickly and without tools and have been precisely adapted to the requirements of the difficult-to-handle products. The milled surface profile on feed trays and hopper flaps specially patented by MULITPOND is used here as well. The system is controlled by a user-friendly touch screen monitor. "One of the most important criteria for us was a fast and easy to operate weighing system. The menu navigation has a simple, image-supported design. This allows our employees to become quickly familiar with the handling and operation of the machines," explains Sion Edwards. The line runs constantly with a target weight of 225 g and around 55 packs per minute, although the speed is determined by the laws of physics, in other words the dump time of the individual products. The weighing system is nowhere near its limits here.

"One of the reasons we decided on a weighing system from MULTIPOND is the fact that no other manufacturer can handle our products so well. In addition, we simply feel that we are in good hands with MULTIPOND. We have hardly any maintenance issues with the weighers, but if a problem does occur, we receive support from the specialists at MULTIPOND within a very short time," relates Sion Edwards. "The company is very future-oriented – growth is also an important point from the perspective of management. For further projects, we will definitely contact the team from MULTIPOND again."

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