MPERIA Delivers the Juice Needed by a Mandarin Packager

Porterville Citrus, a premier packager of multiple citrus fruits, including Mandarin oranges, leans into the MPERIA platform to automate data flow, incorporate vision validation, and vastly improve their productivity.


For plant managers and production line operators, the mission is simple: Improve their facility’s Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). And anyone that has pursued this goal knows that every advantage counts. Even a seemingly small change can make a big difference to the company’s bottom line and its reputation.

Porterville Citrus, Inc. (PCI) needed to automate the flow of data from their backend database while simultaneously improving the marks on cases of their Mandarins and ensuring those cases were routed to the correct palletizing station.

This is exactly what they got with their Matthews’ solution.

The Challenge

With 8 packing houses located throughout Tulare County in California, PCI packs approximately 14 million cartons of citrus each season. Since 1992, this employee-owned, Sunkist-affiliated company has been committed to the legacy of the family farm. That commitment has helped them grow year after year. Today, their Mandarin processing production line alone handles approximately 5 million boxes of Sunkist Mandarins — processing, packaging, and shipping — each year.

Prior to working with Matthews, PCI did not have the means to connect to their product database and dealt with inefficient labeling of their cartons traveling along their conveyors.

As PCI and Matthews began to work on a custom solution, they kept several key objectives in mind:

  • Optimize product-line efficiency
  • Improve product traceability
  • Reduce Costs

“When we met with the Matthews team, we felt really good, and very comfortable moving forward. We had finally found the
kind of partner we were looking for. And today, we’re very happy we made that decision.”

– Ken Wileman, General Manager

The Solution

Matthews designed a solution based on PCI’s overall objectives. The solution includes several core elements:

MPERIA® Platform Controller

At the heart of the solution is the MPERIA automated marking platform and controller. PCI was keenly interested in centralizing control of their marking operations. Creating this level of control involved the following:

  • Linking their backend database to all their different production lines
  • Enabling a barcode scanner from MPERIA for line-operator usage
  • Using a single MPERIA controller to route printable data to different production lines
  • Integrating a vision system to automate printed data
  • Installing a conveyor diverter to automate Mandarin case routing

MPERIA® provides remote monitoring and management capability natively.

Vision System and Diverter

The Matthews solution integrated seamlessly with PCI’s existing line components and workflow while also improving speed, accuracy, and ease of operation. The vision system and diverter were both important elements of the new solution.

The vision system delivered critical automation:

  • The process initiates when a production employee scans the relevant Mandarin orange variety into MPERIA.
  • MPERIA takes the barcode scans, and creates a data matrix code, which it then routes to one of the three L-Series thermal inkjet printers installed on each production line.
  • From there, the data-matrix-marked cartons travel along the conveyor, passing by the vision system, which is linked to the MPERIA controller.
  • Within milliseconds of receiving the scanned input from the vision system, MPERIA sends the correct data to the T-Series piezo inkjet printer. This data includes product information, pack date, lot code, and barcodes for shipping traceability.

Matthews also integrated a conveyor diverter, which is linked to MPERIA via a plug-in. Incorporating this enhancement helps PCI avoid costly mistakes. For example, prior to the new system being in place, an errant carton of Mandarins was incorrectly routed to the pallet-loading station and wound up in the wrong shipment. Because of this, the retailer rejected the entire pallet, and levied a substantial fine against PCI. Integrating MPERIA system-wide control and the conveyor diverter eliminated the possibility of this type of error.

“The equipment is installed in the carton conveying system right before it’s loaded onto the pallet—a very difficult, high-volume area of the whole process. That’s where a lot of the cartons come out very quickly, and are transitioning from a carton to a hand to a pallet. The equipment needs to be very quick, and it needs to be accurate so that the gentleman can read the box appropriately.”
– Ken Wileman, General Manager

Three MPERIA L-Series L12 Thermal Inkjet Printers

The L-Series L12 printers print a data matrix (2D) code after the cartons are loaded. That data matrix code contains all the information needed to ensure accurate product marking by the T-Series, which in turn ensures that PCI’s different cartons of Mandarins are correctly marked and traceable.

One MPERIA T-Series T-100 Piezo Inkjet Printer

The T-Series marks PCI’s cartons of Mandarins reliably every single time. It prints all relevant product traceability information on each carton, including clearly legible barcodes with pack dates and additional product data.

Conveyor with citrus fruits getting marked on.

Vision system reads data matrix code, sends data to MPERIA which then sends print data to T-Series.

The Results

The Matthews Marking solution delivered on all Porterville’s original objectives:

  • Automated the flow of marking data from PCI’s backend database
  • Centralized control of marking operations
  • Boosted productivity
  • Improved the quality of marking which elevates the PCI brand
  • Reduced consumable expenses by approximately 80%
  • Reduced the risk of costly errors

PCI is incredibly pleased with the outcome of partnering with Matthews. Centralizing control of marking operations combined with data automation delivered significant cost savings as well as a substantial leap in productivity.

“We really enjoy this equipment. It’s clean, easy to maintain, easy to read, and very quick. I highly recommend Matthews to other suppliers. They have a great product, and they have also provided great service.”
– Ken Wileman

The Video

See how Porterville Citrus improved efficiency while reducing costs by switching from labels to an MMS direct case printing solution in this 1 1/2 minute video.

About Porterville Citrus, Inc.

Established in 1992, Porterville Citrus, Inc. (PCI) is proudly affiliated with Sunkist Growers, Inc. and their 120-year history committed to family-owned farms. Today, PCI is 100% owned by its employees. The company owns and operates 8 packing houses located throughout Tulare County and packs approximately 14 million cartons of citrus each season. PCI remains dedicated to being a world class provider of citrus to the world while maintaining the “small company” approach that growers and fruit buyers have trusted through the years.