Since its inception in 1946, Herr Foods Inc. has continually introduced innovative snack food products and packaging. Now with more than 340 products including its staple potato chips, pretzels, popcorn, and onion rings, the company stays on the cutting edge by offering high quality snack foods with an environmental conscience. Naturally, then, Herr Foods looks for partners that share in its principles and foresight.
“The company started using automated cooking techniques as far back as 1952, and in the next decade began to revolutionize its packaging design and materials,” said David Sexton, Herr Foods’ electrical engineer for automation design, installation and control. So it was a natural progression for Herr Foods to search for a retrofit solution for its TNA Robag 3 form, fill, and seal machinery. Equipped with noisy mechanical vacuum pumps, the machinery generated a great deal of heat, and the vacuum pumps required frequent maintenance. TNA, along with Herr Foods, decided to partner with PIAB, Hingham, Mass., a provider of industrial vacuum technology, to tackle the challenge.
“Reducing the noise and heat levels was very important to us,” remarked Sexton. “Not only did we want to improve the working environment in our facility, we wanted to reduce our maintenance and repair costs. We also hoped to lengthen pump life so we could reduce the waste of replacement pumps.”
Herr Foods had already established waste management and recycling initiatives that benefit the surrounding community and global environment at large. Exhaust filters in compressed air systems remove oil residues that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere; and water lines pass through a heat exchanger to recover energy in the form of hot water, which is used to heat the plant air.
Herr’s 15 TNA machines are retrofitted with P6010 vacuum pumps from PIAB. Based upon the company’s COAX technology, the P6010 provides powerful, whisperquiet and non-heat generating suction from lowpressure compressed air. Additionally, the pump’s compact size makes it possible to mount them close to the point of suction, thus further conserving compressed-air consumption.
With the new system in place, noise has been dramatically decreased, while heat generation has been eliminated completely. Sexton explains: “Not only are the pumps not generating heat, but we are finding new ways to take advantage of the technology. For example, the exhaust from the P6010s may be used to cool the cabinets housing the packaging machines’ electrical components.”
The PIAB solution has also assisted Herr Foods in some of its other environmental endeavors. “The most important environmental issue challenging Herr’s and other snack food manufacturers is with packaging materials,” states Sexton. “Herr’s has addressed this issue in many ways by recycling our corrugated containers used for shipping and using thin materials for our plastic bags so they compress and take up very little space in terms of waste.”
With thin, flexible packaging materials and recycled corrugated board for packaging, it is important that Herr utilizes vacuum technology that offers a secure grip on difficult- to-handle materials. The P6010 pumps are equipped with a COAX cartridge, offering a decentralized handling solution. Vacuum power can be placed close to the point of suction, increasing both speed and reliability of grip by reducing line losses and inefficiencies.
“Another major benefit of the PIAB solution has been the elimination of maintenance costs,” said Sexton. Prior to the installation, Herr Foods was replacing or repairing up to three pumps each year, resulting in thousands of lost dollars. “With no moving parts and less wear-andtear due to optimized vacuum levels, the need for spare parts and repair is removed. In fact, we haven’t had to replace or rebuild a PIAB pump since installation.”
As a leader in the snack food industry with the philosophy of “health through growth,” Herr Foods has met numerous challenges over its long and storied past. By creating fruitful and forward-thinking partnerships, this manufacturer and producer of tasty treats is sure to bring insight to the entire industry.
“PIAB shares our vision for product and production that meets consumer needs in the most efficient way,” concludes Sexton. “We know that we will continue meeting and exceeding these needs by combining the latest technology with our passion for providing the best quality snack foods.”