Blaschak Coal Corporation, Mahanoy City, PA, is an Anthracite (hard coal) mining and preparation facility which ships anthracite worldwide for both residentialand commercial uses. Anthracite is one of the cleanest burning solid fossil fuels and carbon sources known to man. Born in 1937 this Corporation is currently operated by the second generation of Blaschaks. Throughout the company’s history their Anthracite product has been supplied to steel producers and other industrial markets. Twenty years ago,they entered the home heating market, supplying 40 lb. bags of Anthracite for use in small coal stoves. They pioneered the stove and fire place industry and their sales network now consists of over 400 dealers throughout the United States and Canada.
Due to the recent increase in demand for low cost alternative energy to replace or supplement high priced energy sources Blaschak Coal was experiencing difficulty satisfying customer demand for their bagged products. “With the significant market expansion of Blaschak Coal in the past years due to the increase in Anthracite demand, we couldn’t keep up with the orders and were experiencing serious delays in shipping. We needed to improve production rates and the accuracy of the weight of our small bags without expanding our facilities”, says Jack Stauffenberg, Operation Manager at Blaschak Coal.
An investigation to determine the root cause of the production problems resulted in the decision to seek replacements for both their existing scale system and their existing low-level Columbia palletizing system. The Blaschak Coal team decided to seek the best packaging company with the ability to provide them with a complete solution that would fit their specific needs – a solution tailored to overcome the challenges associated with the demands of their production environment and productivity goals. One of the possible suppliers was Premier Tech Systems, Quebec, Canada. Premier Tech Systems is a leading manufacturer of packaging equipment. Their integrated systems often include bulk product infeed and storage, weighing, bag filling, palletizing, and load stabilization equipment.
In February 2007, they purchased from Premier Tech Systems a duplex vibratory fed scale unit, a robotic palletizing cell, a stretch wrapper, and an upgrade kit for the sealing unit on their existing form, fill and seal bagging system. This bagging equipment, still in operation today in their facility, was to remain an integral part of the new fully integrated packaging line. Blaschak Coal didn’t feel it was necessary to replace their bagging system as it continues to perform very well.
The biggest challenge for the project teams at Blaschak Coal and Premier Tech Systems was to overcome the constraints imposed by the existing building structure and process equipment. The major issue was the limited headroom. The scale hopper had to be custom engineered to fit under and integrate with the existing product infeed conveyor. An additional challenge that had to be overcome was the limited floor space available for the equipment. A compact layout was required to maximize the product storage capacity of the facility. Working together, the two companies developed several equipment configurations until they arrived at a solution that required a minimum amount of floor space without compromising efficiency of the system. The final challenge was time. The existing equipment had to be removed and the new equipment had to be installed and brought online as quickly as possible. “We had serious time constraint to deal with during the installation and start up and it had to be done quickly. Thanks to the synergy between our staff and Premier Techs Systems’ staff, we did it in 3 weeks!’’, says Stauffenberg.
The installation has been a complete success. Since the completion of the equipment commissioning, Blaschak Coal is experiencing greatly improved bag weight accuracy and production efficiency. “Now, we can produce over 10, 000 bags per shift. The production has doubled! Another significant improvement is that our down time has been tremendously reduced by 95 %”, says Stauffenberg. The new packaging line has also helped Blaschak Coal boost their image with their dealer network; “customers appreciate our nicer and solid pallets.”, says Stauffenberg.
The next step in the company’s expansion will be to add a second production shift, which will start around October 2007. The reliability of the equipment supplied by Premier Tech Systems is the major motivating factor for the decision makers at Blaschak Coal. “The results are excellent. We strongly believe that we will be able to smoothly run a second shift without any problems with the equipment. We are convinced that we have made the right decision when we modernize our plant and appreciate our long time relationship with Premier Tech Systems as our partner, as well as PROBEC, their sales agent in Pennsylvania. They did a good job guiding us through the transition and we definitely recommend Premier Tech Systems to anyone else”, says Jack Stauffenberg, Operations Manager.