Brian Georgeson, a 2007 graduate of Hopkins High School, has a new appreciation for how much work it takes to get a simple bag of potato chips from the fryer in the factory to the store shelf.
The Minnetonka native, who is majoring in packaging at University of Wisconsin-Stout, was one of four students who took second place in a recent Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute national contest, which challenged them to design a packaging line for a hypothetical potato chip company. They had one month to plan their concept before presenting it at the Pack Expo conference in Chicago.
A team from the University of Florida took first place. UW-Stout team members received $2,000 in scholarships for their second place prize. The panel of judges was made up of industry experts, including one from snack company Old Dutch.
"It was definitely rewarding. All the work and research we put into it really paid off," said team member Sydney Gale. "After we presented it (to the judges), we felt confident."
The team first had to research and choose machines that, step by step, weighed, bagged and packed the chips in cases. "There are hundreds of machine options," Gale said, noting that machine cost, production timing and floor space had to be considered.
The machines also were chosen with production constraints in mind. The team had to factor in three sizes of chip bags and four flavors of chips. "We had to come up with a production schedule and have it down to a T," Gale said.
They ended up with two packaging lines, one for a 2-ounce bag and another line that switched between 6.5- and 14-ounce bags of chips. "If we had three lines it would have produced bags faster than the chip fryer could keep up with while still utilizing the machinery at efficient speeds," Gale said.
The contest was sponsored by B&R Industrial Automation. "The judges had their job cut out for them. The students' proposals were excellent, and choosing between them took most of the day," said Marc Ostertag, B&R CEO.