S&A Group: ICE Printers Hand Picked To help Business Flourish

22nd July, 2020
Thermal Transfer | Thermal Inkjet | Toiletries | Flexible Packaging

About S&A Group

S&A Group is the largest independent berry and asparagus grower in the UK, providing the highest quality produce all year round. They grow their own produce or source it globally to ensure consumer buying needs are met.

A family owned business, S&A has over 40 years fresh produce experience. They differentiate themselves by offering carefully selected varieties and through their innovation.

With the ever increasing popularity in blueberries in the market, S&A is the only company of its kind in the UK so far to invest in a high tech laser sorting machine to improve defect detection and maximise output. This is set up on a dedicated blueberry packaging line to ensure they can fulfil the high demand and maintain their large share of the market.

The Need

As the business grew, S&A Group identified that the packing and coding system they had in place was not fit for purpose and wouldn’t be able to cope with the volume of produce they would be supplying to the market. Inkjet coders were used to print variable information on to pre-printed labelled lids and most of their import produce came pre-lidded.

Changing this process to print the information directly on to film and heat seal the tray has made it more efficient, cost effective and able to handle the increase in production.

“As a growing business, we needed a faster and more efficient operation that could cope with increased throughput at busy periods,” explains Fred Williams, Packhouse Manager of S&A Group.” It’s also much more cost effective to print on to film and it reduces the waste on pre-printed materials”.

The Solution

Two ICE Zodiac thermal transfer overprinters integrated with the Proseal GT2 Twin X tray sealer were selected to ensure the success of this change and in 2009, the first system was installed at their Herefordshire site. Since then, they have purchased and installed a further ten coders for the Hereford site and six for their Kent site.

"We quickly realised the benefit of switching our coding system after the first two Zodiacs were installed. They are easy to operate and when we need to switch the product lines over, it’s a simple process using the touchscreen interface. We were happy with the performance so it made sense to roll them out further across the lines to increase capacity" states Fred Williams.

The Benefit

Using the CLARiTY™ touchscreen operating interface, used across all ICE coders, S&A Group has benefited from fewer coding errors by using the functionality to control the way the operator can edit the variable print fields available. The sell by date, best before date, fruit variety and grower code can be inputted using pre-defined fields which the operator selects on the screen, using a calendar system for the date fields, and a list system for the variety and grower codes.

Dates may only be adjusted as allowed by a concessions system; the other fields are chosen from a pre-defined list. These features collectively act to simplify the operator’s task, and drastically reduce the risk of coding errors.

They also installed barcode verification scanners to check the information is correct before the produce is transported. This allows them to avoid mistakes for low quality coding. Fred explains. “We consistently achieve high quality prints – proof that the ICE coders are doing a good job”.

The Future

As capacity has grown and with the majority of packaging moving to printed film over time, S&A Group is keen to maintain the strong relationship they have with Clearmark (ICE) for their coding needs.

Fred explains “we’ll always go for ICE coders as they are good machines. We have less downtime and errors and the print quality has always been consistent. With our service contract we also benefit from regular maintenance visits from their engineers to keep the kit in excellent working order.”