Best Mates Petfood located in Waihi New Zealand, manufacture and package premier pet treats and meals. They’ve recently upgraded their packaging processes and are thrilled with the results.
When they made the decision to automate their packaging line Best Mates reached out to long-term scale supplier Wedderburn New Zealand Ltd. The result was an automated weighing packaging system that also facilitates manual packaging and it’s proven to be a game-changer for them.
With the ability to now reliably pack 8-10 bags of pet treats per minute compared to the 1-2 bags per minute they had been processing manually, Best Mates General Manager Sam Leatham had this to say…
“The process has been great. It’s been a real eye opener because [the weigh packaging system] was a significant investment. There was some skepticism about whether it would be worthwhile because only a certain number of our products can go through the machine. But it has 100% been the right thing to do. It’s been really satisfying watching the staff knocking that product out.”
It wasn’t simply a matter of installing off-the-shelf shiny new machinery though. It took time, expertise and collaboration to create a turnkey solution - something Wedderburn proudly believe creates a point of difference critical to long term satisfaction.
When Best Mates approached Wedderburn regarding packaging of their new air-dried cat and dog treats Tu Meke Friend, our first priority was to truly understand the customer’s operation and goals. Once that understanding was obtained, the correct type of packaging could be determined, and appropriate machinery specified for a complete turn-key solution. Communication and collaboration is key to designing effective systems.
“That’s where working with the customer, going from a business requirement and no packaging machinery to a complete turn-key solution, is paramount,” National Sales Manager, Stewart Gibbs says.
As with many small to medium New Zealand food manufacturers, Best Mates at first envisioned a machine that could process their entire range of products. Due to the large variation in size, shape and weight of the dried pet food range, it was decided that focusing on the main products, and doing them well, would be the most efficient solution.
This decision turned out to be the right one says Best Mates general manager Sam Leathem.
For additional peace of mind, Wedderburn also arranged pre-purchase testing at our testing facility in Christchurch.
Dedicated to providing solutions that deliver on productivity, Wedderburn have a testing facility at the Christchurch branch where fine tuning packaging solutions takes place. Customers’ can see their actual product running through the proposed system prior to purchasing it. “This allows the customers to see the machinery and feel confident about it,” says Stewart.
The Wedderburn team also ensured the installation process went as smoothly as possible by introducing it slowly.
Rather than installing the whole solution all at once, which would have put stress on Best Mates’ staff, management and production, it was installed in stages. Installing entire systems can take several days which, if done in one go, can cause significant disruption to production and be very detrimental for any small to medium sized business. Wedderburn plan installations with our customers to ensure minimum disruption and to protect productivity.
“We have a really good bunch of technicians around New Zealand that we train, and they offer that interaction with the customer. It’s all about cooperation, support and providing on-site maintenance as required.” explains Stewart.
Not only was the installation process smooth but having an automated weigh packaging system means the product can be packed with more accuracy compared to manual packing, which saves money from the onset.
The Tu Meke Friend cat and dog snacks are packaged in 120 gram re-sealable pouches. The accuracy of Wedderburn’s weigh packaging system reduces the giveaway and ensures each bag weighs in-line with the customer’s target weights.
“If you’re packing it manually, 124 grams soon becomes 126 grams, which can soon become 130 grams. By the time you do that at 400 bags an hour and you give away 10 grams per unit, your loss rate on this product becomes very high. ROI is definitely there [with the automated system],” says Stewart.
Managing expectations from the onset of a project is vital for project success. Some businesses start out looking for a solution that simply isn’t possible. Trying to have one system process too many variations of products can complicate things in the long run and result in poorer performance and overall disappointment.
Wedderburn reps understand the limitations and will communicate those clearly to their clients from the beginning says Stewart.
“We don’t like doing a deal based on promising everything. We want to show you when things are going to be difficult or explain why something won’t work, so we don’t have customers expecting more than we can deliver”. This is clear from the great relationship between Best Mates and Wedderburn.
“We need to manage the customer’s expectations. Many companies really struggle with that as a business. Customers come to Wedderburn wanting solutions and we don’t want to tell them it’s too hard or not possible, but we are realistic with what we can provide. We have many solutions, but because New Zealand is based around small to medium businesses not everyone can afford a half a million-dollar machine. We provide affordable solutions that move production from hand packing to an automated solution that grows productivity and profitability.”
For Sam, the after-sale service has been “absolutely fantastic.” “It’s brilliant. They are really nice guys and easy to deal with. If there’s a problem they just figure it out.