Innovative Packaging Machinery Reflects on 50 years of Developments

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Innovative Packaging Machinery Reflects on 50 years of Developments

May 19
09:41 2013

Packaging Automation celebrated reaching its 50 year milestone on Friday 17 May 2013.

The anniversary was a chance for Anthony Penn, the Chairman and the founder’s son to reflect on the development of food packaging and the advancements in tray sealing technology during the past 50 years.  “We are proud to be a UK manufacturer employing so many talented people and it is due to them and the company’s constant innovation and development of new products that we are here today to celebrate such a significant milestone.”

Arthur Penn, the company’s founder, started the business from a workshop at his home in 1963 following a request from a friend to invent a machine to seal a plastic film lid onto a plastic food tray. The machine was christened the PA101 and proudly exhibited at the Food Packaging Show at Alexandra Palace in October 1963.  Recently discovered hand written documents describe in precise detail the machine’s operation. They are accompanied by the first outline sketches which show the ‘finger mechanism’ for transferring the trays into the sealing area of the machine. This technology is still used not just in PA’s machines but in virtually all automatic tray sealers worldwide.

Arthur went on to invent a myriad of special purpose machines for household names in the 1960s and 1970s including Birds Eye, Cadburys, OP Chocolates, T Walls, Warburtons and Richmond Sausages.  The company was instrumental in many of the key food packaging developments including the supply of machines to Marks and Spencer to seal the first pre-packed sandwiches and Golden Wonder to pack Pot Noodles. The partnership with Marks and Spencer continued beyond sandwiches into the packaging of many other products, eventually leading to the development of ovenable ready meals with assistance from BXL Plastics (a tray thermoformer) and FFP (a film manufacturer).

Innovation by PA has continued apace during the half century since Arthur’s first invention.  Recent new developments include the first fully automatic, fully electric tray sealer which offers massive savings through the elimination of the need for compressed air.  Research and development is a way of life for PA evidenced by a recently agreed exclusive partnership with a British university to collaborate on science led innovation.

Today the company employs 90 people including a large number of specialist engineering staff many of whom have been trained from recruitment as apprentices by the business. Packaging Automation is well known within the food industry for its specialist tray sealing and pot filling machines which are used to pack a vast range of convenience foods like ready meals, sandwiches, salads as well as raw meat and fish. Today the products are sold worldwide to Europe, Russia, America, South America, Australia and the Middle East.


Packaging Automation Ltd was established in 1963 and is a leading UK manufacturer of tray sealing and pot filling machinery.

Operating from ‘state of the art’ premises located in Knutsford, the business employs 90 people and produces a wide range of equipment from simple manual units and semi-automatics through to in-line fully automated systems. The company also manufactures volumetric, filling and sealing machines, conveyors and other ancillary equipment.

Its facilities, products and high level of professionalism has made Packaging Automation one of the market leaders in the supply of tray sealing solutions for a wide range of markets including food, medical and personal-care.

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