In November 2014, Bayer CropScience hosted the re-opening of its agricultural filling and packaging facility located on 11.
6 acres in an industrial area of northeast Regina. The event marked the completion of a $6.5 million dollar plant upgrade that turned the existing facility into Bayer’s largest emulsifiable concentrate packaging plant in the world.
The old plant’s two packing lines were replaced by five new automated lines. This allows each line to be dedicated to a specific product or function, thus reducing the risk of cross-contamination between products, and increasing plant efficiency.
Roughly two-thirds of the money spent on the upgrade went into new, specialized filling and packing equipment, sourced from around the world — France, Germany, Korea, Canada and the U.S. — and connected by 4,000 ft. of new stainless steel pipe.
Filling and packaging is now fully automated. Touch screen displays along the line allow as few as five workers per line to control all aspects of formulation, filling, labelling, packing, wrapping and container movement with incredible accuracy. For example, the weight of filled jugs is accurate within five grams, and never less than the labelled volume.
Five hundred and forty feet of new pallet conveyors now move filled containers from packaging lines to the warehouse.
Before the upgrade, it took 96 trips per hour by forklift to move filled containers, creating potentially dangerous congestion in the facility.
In fact, worker safety was a major consideration in the upgrade and all hazardous equipment is now behind safety fencing.
A dual shutdown system allows workers to use the standard emergency shutdown buttons common to industrial workplaces to instantly stop everything.
In addition, Bayer installed a wire-line system in workstation areas. This allows workers to easily and quickly shut down just their area, if necessary. Sensors constantly monitor everything on the line. If they detect anything abnormal, the line automatically shuts down.
Robotics now play an increased role in the plant; applying labels, picking up jugs and filling boxes. As well, labelling has been enhanced. Every container is labelled with a batch code and date for tracking, and every package is automatically bar coded.
Bayer even made upgrades to the way it handles pallets of product. Instead of shrink wrapping pallets, the plant uses stretched hooding — the first Bayer facility to do so. This is an automatic system that covers a pallet of product completely, on all four sides and top, with a single, form fitting, sealed plastic sheath, or hood, which is firmly fastened to the pallet. The result is more secure packaging as well as better weatherproofing.
Perhaps the most important feature of this facility upgrade is the speed at which it can deliver product. Greater capacity and efficiency means Bayer can get the right crop protection products in growers’ hands much faster, and this can be critical in the case of an unexpected disease outbreak or insect infestation.
The upgrade allows Bayer to import active ingredients, formulate needed products, fill, pack, ship, and get those products into farmers’ hands in as little as seven to 10 days. If the necessary active ingredients are in-house in Regina, that time frame can be significantly reduced.
With the upgrades now in place, the 161,000 sq.ft. facility can formulate, package and distribute about 30 million litres of crop protection products and 8.1 million kilograms of treated seed, annually.