Construction Underway for New BluePrint Automation Plant
Secondary packaging machine specialist BluePrint Automation (BPA) has grown by leaps and bounds during the past 36 years, but the company has not outgrown its home base of Woerden in central Holland. Early in 2017 it will make a fifth move to much-needed larger premises, this time to the former Den Oudsten site at Carrosserieweg, approximately five kilometres or nine minutes by car from its present location. A state-of-the-art production facility is being built there to fully integrate Culemborg-based Racupack, which was acquired in 2013, into the fold.
Placing Racupack under one roof with BPA will enhance synergies of both companies and is expected to result in further innovations in modular build case packing solutions with integrated carton handling.
The first phase of the new building will feature 13,000 square meters of space, of which 2,200 will house offices and 11,000 will be dedicated to production and assembly line activities. The maximum build-out capacity of the 42,870-square-meter plot will be 27,000 square meters.
“We need this additional space to keep up with steadily rising demand from customers,” Jos van Oeker, sales director, told editors of FrozenFoodsBiz.com who recently visited facilities at Oostzee 26, where BPA has been operating since 2000. “Growth was up by 25% in 2015, and over the last five years sales volume has doubled. Business is booming in the frozen food field – especially in the potato, vegetable and ice cream sectors of Europe and beyond.”
BluePrint Automation was founded innovative engineer and entrepreneur Bob Prakken in 1980. Since the chairman’s death in 2012, the company’s leadership has been in the capable hands of his son, Martin Prakken. The chief executive officer is based at BPA’s United States subsidiary headquarters and production site in Colonial Heights, Virginia, which was established in 1987. Initially planning to spend five years or so there, he has remained on the scene building and expanding business in North America and beyond for approximately 25 years.
CEO Prakken was present for recent ground breaking ceremonies at the site of the new facility in Woerden. The first pile driving for the plant was ceremoniously made by Dick van Weenen and his wife Jacqueline. Dick has worked at BPA for more than a quarter century, and supervised construction of the current business premises. Joining them and other employees of the company at the event was Mayor V.J.H. Molkenboer and Councilor M.J. Schreurs.
BluePrint Automation designs, manufactures and installs complete lines for packing flexible bagged products into boxes, cartons and crates. With the acquisition of Racupack three years ago its know-how in carton erecting and closing technology has substantially increased, as well as its expertise in carton wrap-around case-packers.
The combined company has approximately 400 employees at production sites in the Netherlands and the USA, in addition to sales and service offices in Germany, France, England, Australia, China and South America. Hundreds of BPA and Racupack case packing systems are installed around the world each year at factories that manufacture frozen potato and vegetable products, as well as ice cream, other dairy items, snacks, confectionery, baked goods and a wide range of non-food items.
The company’s Rotary Gate Packer (RGP) has been a reliable workhorse in the frozen food sector for many years. Operating at a rate of throughput of up to 120 bags per minute, it gravity case packs a wide variety of rugged products directly into secondary containers. The RGP is ideal for bags of frozen vegetables, IQF chicken, beef and a wide variety of other products in flexible packages.
BPA is also very much engaged in the primary packaging automation with sophisticated vision guided robotics systems that pick individually packaged and non-packaged items for loading into containers, wrappers or horizontal form/fill/seal machines. In-line cameras and sensors recognize fast moving products on conveyor belts and define exact position and orientation coordinates which are sent to a Delta Robot. Its gripper picks and places the product into a thermoformed tray, carton or a flow-wrapper chain.