AIP president explains biodegradable and compostable packaging

Biodegradable and compostable packaging are not interchangeable. Dr Carol Kilcullen-Lawrence, the national president of the Australia Institute of Packaging (AIP) explains why.

Compostable and biodegradable – two terms that are often used interchangeably, but in reality actually mean very different things.

In light of the recent Australian Environment Ministers announcement that 100 per cent of packaging in Australia will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 we need to better understand how we can really achieve this and how different this target is compared to the packaging waste streams that are in place today.

The first step is to understand the difference between compostable and biodegradable packaging.

READ: AIP will run food waste and packaging seminars at FoodTech PackTech

Everything will degrade over time but true biodegradation occurs through a biochemical process, with the aid of enzymes produced by naturally occurring microorganisms, both in the presence and absence of oxygen i.e. aerobic or anaerobic, without leaving behind any toxins, yielding only carbon dioxide, water and humus or biomass.

Biodegradable packaging is either completely or partially derived from a renewable source – like paper or starch – or, if it is petroleum based, is specifically engineered with the aid of additives, to decompose in the natural environment. Such additives change the chemical composition of the plastic.

While this does not affect its manufacturing, use or shelf life, such that it differs functionally from other plastics, it is significant at the end of life.

A biodegradable plastic will be considered a contaminant in the plastics recycling stream, as on being exposed to moisture and appropriate microorganisms, the biodegradation process will commence.

Compostable packaging has an organic origin, like sugar cane, bamboo or paper, and can broadly be classified into two types:

1. one that which will compost in a home compost; and

2. one that requires an industrial compost facility.

Industrial composting can cope with a wider range of compostable products as it involves pre-processing – where materials are ground and chipped down into smaller pieces, and in addition, industrial composting provides the higher temperatures needed for more efficient break down.

Home composting takes place at much lower temperatures and over an extended time frame, which can typically go up to a year, compared to a matter of weeks for industrial composting. And what people and organisations need to realise is that there is a different set of standards for materials suitable for home composting, which is governed by Vincotte a Belgium-based certification organisation.

While not currently available in all regions of Australia, industrial composting facilities are becoming increasingly widespread with many more councils and private companies providing bins where food scraps and compostable packaging can be disposed of within existing green waste collection services.

Known as FOGO, participating councils are considering potentially reducing landfill collections to fortnightly, allowing FOGO collections to become weekly. However, most councils also know that there will need to be significant consumer education to ensure the right types of compostable and biodegradable packaging are disposed of in such services.

One of the ideal situations to utilise compostable and biodegradable packaging is at public events where the inputs to the waste stream can be controlled by those at the arenas.

In such situations if all food packaging is manufactured from compostable organic sources and biodegradable plastics, then disposal facilities that capture this with the food waste will allow the packaging to be industrially composted together.

This is an ideal solution as many types of biodegradable and compostable packaging cannot be recycled, hence cannot be placed in kerbside recycling. It would be impossible for a consumer to identify the difference between a biodegradable PLA plastic container with a visually identical petroleum-based polymer one.

The move to biodegradable or compostable packaging is real, and with a 2025 target, now is the time to identify not only the most suitable sustainable solutions to suit each product, but to also ensure that the packaging waste streams have the capabilities to manage this change.   

Insights from the Food and Beverage Industry Awards winners

It was a balmy night in August that brought together innovators, entrepreneurs, risk takers and industry stalwarts for the 15th annual Food and Beverage Industry News Awards.

MC’ed by the ABC’s War on Waste host Craig Reucassel, the gala event was a sell out and showcased all that was good about the food and beverage industry in 2017 and 2018.

READ: Food and Beverage Industry awards to be held in Sydney in 2019

Below are the champions in each category.

Best of the Best, sponsored by Flavour Makers, and Beverage of the Year, sponsored by VEGA Australia, were awarded to Utonic

Young South Australian drinks company Utonic Beverages was awarded Beverage of the Year, sponsored by VEGA Australia and the top award – Best of the Best, sponsored by Flavour Makers.

Utonic is a functional beverage manufacturer that aims to create and promote a healthier body and mind through naturally great tasting drinks. Each drink is backed by science and designed to serve a purpose, whether it’s providing an afternoon boost, recovery from a big night out or stress relief after a hard day at work.

Utonic co-founder, Michael Brinkley, said the company was stoked to be awarded Beverage of the Year. “Industry recognition means a lot to a young company like us and it’s encouraging to know we bumped out some major drink brands to win this award.”

The awards were won by the Utonic Repair natural tonic. The drink aims to restore the body with powerful antioxidants from blueberry, pomegranate and sour cherry, as well as containing turmeric and ginger, which have been shown to provide anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea functions.

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Founded in 2016, the company was created by founders Brinkley, Tyson Goldsack, Leigh Morgan and Toby Yap, who shared a belief that it should be possible to lead a healthy life while also achieving daily goals in today’s high-pressure, fast-paced, work, sporting and social environments.

The team created a range of scientifically blended drinks produced from concentrated real foods and targeted nutrients. The drinks have no added sugar, preservatives, chemical highs or negative side effects.

“We wanted to produce a functional drink range, free from artificial flavours and preservatives,” said Brinkley. “Sports drinks are typically loaded with artificial ingredients and sugar and we knew there was a better solution.”

The drinks include ingredients such as passionflower, sour cherry, chamomile, kale and spirulina. “It’s a very new category,” said Brinkley. “We chose ingredients that had functionality but also tasted good.” It was about getting a balance of good flavours and creating a product that was truly healthy, he said.

Utonic released to the market in April 2017, focusing on South Australia first. “Our sales strategy was to focus on our home state first and fine tune our marketing and communication before going national,” said Brinkley.

The award came just weeks before Utonic started national distribution with Manassen Foods. The full Utonic beverage collection is avaliable Australia wide from October.

Hemp

Paddock to Plate, sponsored by Manark Printing, was awarded to Australian Primary Hemp

Supporting the Australian agriculture industry while developing a sustainable food source, is paramount to the makers of Australian Primary Hemp.

The company’s journey began in August 2016, with four friends and a vision of growing and manufacturing a sustainable, high-protein product in Australia. Co-founder and sales director, Skye Patterson said that research highlighting hemp’s nutritional content, sustainability, success in similar western countries and the opportunities to easily integrate into current farming made their decision obvious.

At the time, national food standards didn’t allow for the sale and consumption of hemp food products in Australia. But, this did not deter the team. “We were pretty confident it was going to come to fruition,” said Patterson. “On a global sense it was popular, so it was just a matter of time until it took off in Australia.” Laws to legalise the consumption of hemp foods in Australia were passed in late 2017. Now after just two years of business, the company is one of the country’s largest producers of Australian-grown hemp.

Australian Primary Hemp handles every step of the hemp process – from farming and production, to packaging and selling. This allows the company to ensure the quality and freshness of all products including de-hulled hemp seeds, cold-pressed hemp seed oil and hemp protein powders.

The company’s headquarters are based in Newtown, Geelong, where day-to-day business operations and processing facilities are kept. The hemp is grown across Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia with the company’s partnered farmers.

“We started growing hemp ourselves and then with the legal changes, the demand for hemp food products grew astronomically,” said Patterson. “We needed to expand our growing capacities, which led to building relationships with partnered growers to increase our hemp supply.”

The company continues to grow its four core products – hemp oil, hemp seeds, hemp balance and hemp boost. It also launched hemp milk kits in September, so people can make hemp milk from home. Patterson said the hemp milk is best when sweetened with a few dates.

The company also has hemp-based recipes online, including hemp granola bars and hemp tabbouleh. Hemp food is still a relatively new concept in Australia, but Patterson said it is a growing industry. With a focus on health and sustainability, Australian Primary Hemp hasn’t looked back, she said.

Apple Cider Vinegar Powder 2

Ingredient Innovation was awarded to Botanical Innovations

Botanical Innovations is an Australian manufacturer of phenolic rich flavours, fragrances and ingredients for functional foods and beverages, nutraceutical and cosmeceutical applications. The company invests heavily in research and development, which has led to innovations and the development of a unique range of products.

Botanical Innovations won the ingredient innovation section for its apple cider vinegar powder. The company’s managing director, Kerry Ferguson, said a number of people had asked if Botanical Innovations offered natural preservatives that didn’t have a strong flavour. “We look at what the needs are in the market. There’s a demand out there,” she said.

The apple cider vinegar powder is naturally fermented. “It has two functions. It can be used as a flavouring and it can also be used as a natural preservative,” said Ferguson. The benefit of Botanical Innovation’s apple cider vinegar powder is that it’s got a neutral taste. “It hasn’t got a terribly strong flavour,” she said.

Botanical Innovations is a business-to-business company that supplies to bakeries and other food manufacturers. The apple cider vinegar powder increases the shelf life of products. A bread could last two or three days longer with the powder, said Ferguson.

People wanted natural, cleaner products that were not laden with chemicals, she said. Ferguson is passionate about health and providing alternative products to consumers.

“I never used to read labels, but now I do,” she said. “I believe very strongly in the use of natural products.”

Vinegar has historically been used to treat diseases and wounds. More recently it’s been used in food and beverages as a health supplement. Botanical Innovations highlights that potential health benefits of apple cider vinegar, and fermented vinegars and extracts, include weight loss, lowering cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. It can also help in preventing and treating diabetes and alleviating asthma symptoms.

Other products the company develops include fermented grape seed extract, fermented papaya extract, cherry seed oil, quandong seed oil and sweet pea flower powder.

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Meat, Poultry and Smallgoods was awarded to Sunshine Meats

Sunshine Meats started as a small butchery in Redfern, Sydney, in 1988. Founder Jose Pereira took the opportunity to buy the small butcher shop, despite having little financial backing. Thirty years later, his investment is still paying off.

Sunshine Meats has now moved away from being a traditional butchery, but business developer Nalita Ferraz said the company’s values remain the same. “We still get phone calls from people wanting traditional meat cuts. We’ve definitely evolved into a totally different business, but it’s always about quality,” said Ferraz.

Sunshine Meats won the award for its smoked duck breast. Smoking is what the company focuses on. The company has a range of duck products including chorizo, duck thigh and duck breast.

Sunshine Meats’ director, and Jose’s daughter, Celina Pereira, said consumers are becoming more interested in duck. “There is a need for these kinds of products,” said Pereira. “With almost two year’s development to fine tune the recipe, it has really made the product what it is.”

The company sells its products at independent and specialty stores. Creating duck products was a great opportunity for Sunshine Meats, as restaurants were using duck due to it gaining popularity with consumers, said Pereira. “Chefs need to rely on a product that’s always going to be consistent. Sunshine Meats is mostly retail based, but we would like to explore the idea of food services. The possibilities are endless,” she said.

Ferraz said providing quality smoked products cuts back the time people spend in the kitchen without compromising on food quality. “You can achieve a meal that would take two hours, that can now be prepared in half an hour,” she said. For an industry perspective, chefs can use Sunshine Meats’ products and save time by not smoking meats themselves, but still having a great product to use, said Ferraz. “When we are talking about our products we try to talk about the convenience aspect.”

Pereira and Ferraz agree there are plenty of meals that can be made with the smoked duck breast and other duck products made by Sunshine Meats. But their favourite is a risotto with smoked duck breast or chorizo.

COYO KIDS COCONUT YOGHURT POUCH -3

Health Foods, sponsored by JCurve Solutions, was awarded to COYO

COYO is a brand dedicated to making delicious and healthy coconut yoghurt and ice cream. The company won the Health Foods award for its coconut yoghurt kids’ pouches.

COYO started with a natural, unflavoured coconut yoghurt and the range has since expanded into offering other flavours such as blueberry, and plum and guava. COYO co-founder Sandra Gosling said the idea was born in 2009 by her husband Henry Gosling. Henry was born in Fiji and grew up with coconut as part of his diet. Sandra said with her background in bacteriology and gut health, and her husband’s life experiences, the company was able to flourish. “It puts us in a unique position,” Sandra said.

“We come very much from that health platform and remaining true to our values. We have a philosophy that all our foods and all the we produce has to be delicious. It has to be good for us and it has to be functional,” she said.

Despite becoming a successful business, Sandra wasn’t sure at first that coconut yoghurt would work. “It was all about Henry’s idea. He woke up on a Sunday morning with this ridiculous idea saying, ‘I’m going to make yoghurt out of coconut’. I just said, ‘Don’t be stupid, go back to bed’,” she said.

“After a lot of research we found that no-one was doing it. At first, I wasn’t sure about it, but then with my interest in gut health and the benefits of coconut, I thought, ‘Hang on, this could be good’.”

There was a lot of soy yoghurt at the time, but no coconut yoghurt, Sandra said. “It’s been a long, very satisfying journey.” More people are becoming interested in plant-based yoghurts. “The tidal wave is coming so it’s very exciting. From an environmental point of view, we have to make some changes, but they have to be changes that are very palatable. It has to be a win-win for everybody, including farmers,” said Sandra.

The kids’ pouches were introduced after extensive research, she said. “Our yoghurt doesn’t contain any sweeteners. In the children’s market they screw their noses up a bit so we use an unrefined brown rice syrup so we’ve actually now created a new range,” said Sandra. “The pouches have been incredibly well-received. The kids are loving it.” The Goslings then found out that some adults were wanting slightly sweeter yoghurts as well.

COYO has now adapted to cater to the sweeter tooth by creating two bases – one without sweetener and one with unrefined brown rice syrup. “In our ice-creams again, we are very low sugar but no less delicious than other ice creams. We use chicory root – it’s only about a tenth as sweet as sugar,” said Sandra.

The COYO kids pouches come in vanilla, strawberry, and banana and mango flavours.

Grape N Go - lunch box

Packaging Innovation, sponsored by Jet Technologies, was awarded to Result Group

When it came to creating packaging for Grape N’Go, Result Group was there to deliver the next innovation in packaging for table grapes, working alongside Fruit Master and Navi Co Global. Result Group was challenged to deliver packaging that was user friendly, improved shelf life, protected the product from damage and spoilage, improved overall sustainability and reduced product waste.

Result Group general manager, Michael Dossor, said Grape N’Go was developed using good design principles based on addressing the product life cycle to achieve a more environmentally sound packaging alternative to what already existed on the market.

With Fresh Lid re-closable film, the company managed to meet the brief. “By delivering a fully recyclable pack, as well as addressing the food waste challenges, we were able to address key issues faced by today’s packaging and consumer brand owners,” said Dossor.

Result Group is involved in the development of a new range of label applicators developed specifically for the fruit and vegetable sector.  “These will be equipped with multifunction labelling capability and offered via a cost-effective platform. We are also using laser coding and marking technology. The great part about laser coding is it gives you the ability to print human readable text as well as symbols and logos, but all without using printing inks,” said Dossor.

“Remove the ink and the environmental footprint is unsurpassed. All we are doing is using the laser coder to etch the surface of the product. That also helps when it comes to authenticity projects for companies exporting,” he said.

Result Group staff enjoyed working on the Grape N’Go project as it had numerous environmental benefits, said Dossor. These include a longer shelf life and consumption window due to the printable Fresh Lid film. With Fresh Lid, less material is used and the need for additional self-adhesive labels is eliminated, which results in a plastic footprint reduction. “The packaging is also 100 per cent recyclable and easily facilitates household kerbside recycling,” said Dossor.

“Customers have an appetite for wanting to know that brands are doing their best in the area of sustainability. Packaging is an area that is closely aligned with Result Group’s own sustainability goals and corporate social responsibility,” he said.

Result Group aims to keep embarking on projects that aim to deliver a sustainable packaging solution while reducing the environmental impact through the use of equipment in innovative ways.

OJI Yatala March 2018

Best in Design, sponsored by Wiley, was awarded to Oji Fibre Solutions

Oji Fibre Solutions produces market pulp, paper and fibre-based packaging products throughout Australia and New Zealand. The company aims to deliver environmentally sustainable products and to work with customers to develop solutions that enhance their business operations.

The company successfully opened its state-of-the-art corrugated packaging facility in Yatala in March 2018 and received the award for this plant. The new facility enables Oji Fibre Solutions to meet anticipated growth in demand for packaging solutions. Corrugated packaging products are one of the fastest growing segments of Oji Fibre Solutions, with its paper and product specifications being well-suited for the fruit, vegetables and meat sectors.

National sales and marketing manager, Philip Nuttall, said winning the award was a great step to creating more brand awareness. “We’ve invested $70 million in the new plant. It’s great to be recognised for the work,” said Nuttall. “Our biggest strength is our papers.” The company wanted to continue growing in the food sector, he said.

The majority of Oji Fibre Solutions’ operations are based in New Zealand, where kraft pulps, packaging papers and a range of packaging products are manufactured from locally-grown softwood plantations, producing materials that are suitable for primary sector packaging systems and are in demand across the globe.

Nuttall said Oji Fibre Solutions targeted horticulture and meat companies, but it could help other businesses in the industry as well. “We’ve got the potential to be a corrugated supplier to anybody in the food and beverage industry,” said Nuttall. “It’s giving people choice.”

The Brisbane-based Yatala Packaging Plant created 300 jobs during the construction phase and now has about 70 employees. The plant has a five-star Green Star environmental rating. It is designed to consume reduced amounts of water and electricity as part of the company’s focus on sustainability. Some of the sustainable features include a rainwater harvesting system, which will reduce potable water consumption by 80 per cent. A 100kW solar PV system, daylight sensors and an efficient lighting control system in the warehouse are also part of the facility.

The new plant aims to provide customers with innovative and environmentally sustainable products that enhance their competitiveness, while attracting new customers.

It will enable the company to expand its operations in Australia and provide customers with innovative products.

HMPSEquipment

Innovative Technology of the Year, sponsored by NHP, was awarded to HMPS

HMPS won the award for its HMPS8000 robotic flat-bread packer. The company shows there is an intricate process to packing, stacking and sorting flatbreads. While most people simply enjoy the end product, HMPS was behind the development and build of a system that created the best packaging solution for a flatbread producer.

HMPS CEO, Shaun Westcott, said the company needed to meet its clients’ needs to create a product that would allow the flatbreads to be packed in a variety of formats, while increasing productivity. “The project is designed to improve the throughput, productivity and efficiency of our client” he said.

HMPS was tasked with packing four different-sized flatbreads, in five different-sized stacks. This needed to be done to fit the customer’s existing carton range and the application required a cycle rate of up to 110 packs per minute. It also needed to adhere to food safety requirements and remain flexible with little operator involvement. “We were successfully able to achieve that for them,” said Westcott. But, the task came with challenges. The HMPS team realised the biggest challenge would be catering to the variety of product sizes, packing formations and varying weights, while still maintaining a good production speed.

By taking this into consideration, the team opted for the HMPS8000 robotic flat-bread packer as the ideal solution. “We value the opportunity our customers give us to develop new and innovative solutions and recognise our staff for working tirelessly to make it happen. Developing innovative and cutting-edge solutions for our clients, remains an ongoing focus for our team,” said Westcott.

HMPS was grateful for the recognition the award gave the company as it continued to offer automated and customised solutions to clients, he said. The company works on projects worldwide, including current jobs such as a specialised packaging solution for packing of pet food pouches in Thailand.

HMPS is an Australian-owned company specialising in the design, development and manufacturing of high-quality machinery for packaging processes. The company started off designing and developing bag-in-box machinery in the 1980s. It has since grown to offer case packers, RSC, palletisers, carton erectors and sealers, pick-and-place applications and specialised robotic solutions. HMPS machinery is exported to Asia, South Africa, New Zealand, Europe, USA and other markets across the globe.

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Food Safety Equipment and Materials, sponsored by COG Advertising, was awarded to CCP Technologies

CCP Technologies is an Australian company that specialises in product development and product management within the realm of the Internet of Things (IoT). The company builds business-to-business hardware and software solutions, which provide customers with a critical control point monitoring platform. For companies such as Earth Walker and Co, this means the Wollongong-based café and general store can save money on refrigeration.

CCP Technologies executive director, Anthony Rowley, said monitoring was important considering that refrigeration made up 80 per cent of some companies’ energy consumption.

“We tuned an eight-foot by eight-foot cool room and saved the owner $120 a-month,” said Rowley.

Earth Walker uses CCP’s wireless temperature monitoring system in its fridges to ensure all perishable foods are kept in optimal condition. Earth Walker co-owner Bianca Poscoliero said she started using CCP’s monitoring system in early 2017, when the café opened. “We’ve got a general store and a café, so we use them in all of our fridges,” she said.

“We’ve had a few incidents – including fridges failing.” Poscoliero knows immediately when something is wrong with a fridge as she receives an email and an SMS. “We’ve also got the app on our phone so at any time we can log on to the app,” said Poscoliero.

Earth Walker saved time and money by not having staff members manually check on fridges daily, she said. “It’s made our lives much easier. It’s a weight lifted off our shoulders. We are saving thousands a-year,” said Poscoliero.

CCP chief executive officer, Michael White, said based on data captured by CCP, 4.9 per cent of refrigerated coolers and freezers in businesses would suffer a complete failure each year. “In the food industry, if something goes wrong with a fridge, it causes enormous business disruption and can jeopardise food safety,” he said.

“While strengthening regulatory compliance remains a key driver for adoption, customers are using our solution to yield energy savings, reduce waste and support preventive maintenance programs,” said White.

CCP is harnessing the convergence of cloud computing, IoT, blockchain and big data analytics to deliver solutions to food and beverages businesses that help save them money and time.

Differential pressure transmitter can make a huge difference

In processing facilities in the chemical, pharmaceutical and energy industries, the main focus today, more than ever, is on “safety”.

That is why Safety Integrity Level (SIL) is becoming more important, providing modern process instrumentation with a coherent concept that can minimise potentially high risks to people and the environment.

Reliable measurement, easy integration

VEGADIF 85, a differential pressure transmitter developed especially with safety in mind, is Vega’s new component for reliable, continuous control and monitoring of industrial processes.

Its strengths lie not only in functional safety, but also in the option of measuring differential and static pressure simultaneously with just one instrument. Housed in a compact single-chamber case, the transmitter is designed for economic efficiency and installation with low space requirements.

These features are flanked by particularly simple, intelligent operation – a real plus in terms of error avoidance.

VEGADIF 85 is qualified and approved according to SIL-2 (SIL-3) for manufacturing processes that depend on certified components, simple, user-friendly operation and permanently transparent processes.

It can be parameterised via cable connection, as well as wirelessly via Bluetooth. Its measured values can be integrated into the existing processes quickly – always in a form suitable to the respective conditions and requirements.

Unaffected by steam

Differential pressure, a robust and universal measuring principle, is used in many processes, especially for gases or steam.

The pressure difference is determined by means of an orifice disc that narrows the flow in a pipe at a predetermined point. Flowing steam, or gas, builds up a higher pressure in front of the constriction point than behind it.

The difference between the two values – before and after the restriction – can be used to deduce the absolute quantity of gas that flows through.

Differential pressure transmitters are characterised by their high accuracy in measuring flow rates, even at pressures of only a few mbar.

They also handle extreme temperatures with no problem. Vega rounds out these advantages with a large number of available measuring ranges.

Many different process fittings are available in conjunction with single- or double-sided chemical seals: denoted as CSS or CSB respectively. With this high-performance line of products, highly accurate, fail-safe measurements can be realised even under challenging conditions.

Differential and static pressure with one instrument

VEGADIF 85 sensors are equipped with a second, piezoresistive detector.

They are thus the first transmitters of their kind that can measure both differential pressure and static pressure. And they can easily handle these two different measuring tasks in parallel.

For example, they ensure a high degree of fail-safety in pipelines by determining the dynamic pressure and the superimposed static pressure at the same time – a measuring task that used to require two separate pressure transmitters.

Where Bluetooth makes sense

There are many ways to simplify processes. However, it is important to strike the right balance between safety and convenience.

Wireless data transmission can offer real added value in cases where access to data is difficult.

With intuitive, simplicity, Bluetooth makes operation more flexible via smartphone, tablet or PC and provides transparency in wide-ranging applications.

Bluetooth is now available as an option for the new generation of differential pressure transmitters.

Since it is part of the tried-and-trusted modular Vega instrument platform plics, it implements safety precautions at various levels already proven in the field.

These include current encryption modes at the interface level, such as via PC or smartphone, as well as the necessary access codes that protect the sensor from unauthorised access.

Bluetooth is also something for older systems: the current display and adjustment module PLICSCOM is downward compatible for the majority of Vega measuring instruments manufactured since
2002 and now operating in the field.

Flameproof housing

In process engineering applications, pressure transmitters have to withstand environments where flammable gases, vapours or mists can escape from closed systems. Under certain conditions, with oxygen from the air mixed in the right proportion, there is a great risk of explosion.

The electronics used in VEGADIF 85 are 100 per cent intrinsically safe and flameproof according to ATEX, IECEx and CSA.

This means that the instruments can be safely adjusted at any time, even during operation in hazardous areas, which is ideal for the food processing industry.

MHE-Demag dock levellers focus on safety and efficiency

Getting from point A to point B needs to be done quickly, but safely to ensure workers are not harmed and products are not damaged.

One large international soft drink manufacturing company ensured its new distribution site near Brisbane had a safety focus with the help of loading bay solutions from MHE-Demag.

MHE-Demag’s loading bays provide a bridge to load trucks in logistic hubs, food and beverage manufacturing outlets, hotels, hospitals and many other outlets.

READ: Bridging the gap – dock levellers in food & beverage manufacturing

Using dock levellers promotes the safety of the goods and operators, facilitating loading and unloading operations efficiently.

Bridge to safety

MHE-Demag’s managing director Vince DiCostanzo said the GATOR dock leveller range rises and lowers to the height requirement of the user for maximum safety and smooth transition during loading and unloading processes.

“On top of the GATOR’s standard features and functions we offer a range of ancillary products to customise loading bay requirements,” said DiCostanzo.

Optional upgrades can include independent lip control, automatic return to dock feature and standard full-range telescopic toe guards ensure that feet and equipment are not accidentally jammed under the decks.

Fall-safe rupture valves also ensure the dock is maintained at level if a truck accidentally departs while the GATOR dock leveller is engaged.

The dock levellers also have available a remote control system, which is customised to all needs, said DiCostanzo.

“There can be up to 100 dock workers working on one control.” Solutions range from standalone control boxes to interlocking systems of docking equipment. “Users then have more control over the dock,” said DiCostanzo.

The features help make it a more convenient and safe product than others on the market, he said.

MHE-Demag’s signals, signs and traffic lights can further help safe loading processes within the dock.

A solution for all

MHE-Demag GATOR dock levellers are installed in pits, on frame or on ramps, depending on the layout of a loading bay.

Pit style dock levellers are mounted inside a purpose built concrete pit and flushed to the floor level of the loading bay when parked. This allows smooth cross-traffic of forklifts.

Frame supported dock levellers work when a concrete pit is not possible. Supported with a sturdy steel frame, the dock levellers are projected out from the loading bay.

Dock levellers on concrete or steel ramps are an option when a facility does not have a loading bay or when there is insufficient space available in the loading bay.

“The GATOR dock leveller is making its way through Australia and while a number of installations are still happening at the moment, we are happy and proud to say that we have completed a major project with an international beverage manufacturer due to the distinct product features,” said DiCostanzo.

Along with options for dock levellers that suit any company’s needs, MHE-Demag also offers easy installation and maintenance services and training to ensure the equipment is used correctly.

MHE-Demag solely supplied docks to the large beverage manufacturer, but it also offers full loading bay solutions.

The company has supplied overhead cranes and material handling equipment to many Australian companies.

With the dock leveller extending MHE-Demag’s product portfolio, customers can expect the same quality and level of service as with the cranes.

Roxset makes factory floors that won’t crack

Food processing floors take a particular hammering on a daily, sometimes 24/7, basis.

These floors face frequent contact with heat, chemicals, and spills as well as heavy equipment and machinery.

Avoiding the need to regularly replace floors, saves money, time and unnecessary headaches. A concrete floor for example, will not last long in a factory setting without cracking under a heavy load and chemical exposure. 

They are almost impossible to maintain and they risk high exposure to failure of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) compliance.

READ: Roxset helps with specialised flooring for Vasse Felix winery

Luckily, there are better options than opting for a concrete floor that may crack under pressure.

Roxset SE’s industrial factory floor is specifically designed and tailored for food, beverage and meat processing facilities. It offers a seamless, clean and safe floor that supports a productive environment while withstanding heavy use for many years.

The Roxset SE solution for food factories is both HACCP and Slip Resistant (R13) to meet the high safety grade. Additionally, the aggregate can be varied to suit the various traffic areas of the factory whether it be foot, forklift or trolley.

Industrial grade coatings offer a seamless surface free of joints, cracks and crevices. Roxset uses epoxy – a thermosetting polymer, which is available in three formulations for a seamless floor. 

The available formulations are water based, solvent based and 100 per cent solid based.

They allow for varying thicknesses, from 3ml to 10ml, depending on a factory’s needs. Epoxy bonds well to concrete and is ideal for use as a resurfacing agent for old or worn concrete. 

The best epoxy formulation is 100 per cent solid for an extremely hard, thick and impact resistant coating.

Cleanliness is a top priority that Roxset has captured in its floors. Limiting the spread of diseases such as listeria is critical.

The Roxset SE industrial floor reduces the risk of contamination in areas around drains so they do not harbour bacteria.

This is done with an epoxy coating, which will dramatically limit these dangerous harbourage points.

Australian woman shares success as a health food manufacturer

More than a decade ago, an Australian naturopath started hand-mixing cereals for clients who wanted healthy options that weren’t readily available in the market.    

Without knowing it, Narelle Plapp had started her path to creating a muesli manufacturing business that would bring clients aboard from as far afield as China.

In the past 12 years, Plapp has owned two health food stores, founded the muesli brand Food for Health, and just 12 months ago she started a manufacturing business called Grain and Bake Co Australia.

Her businesses continue to flourish, but the getting there required a lot of determination and risk.

READ: Congratulations to the winners of Women in Industry Awards 2018

“I was living off the smell of an oily rag at the ripe old age of 24,” said Plapp. 

“I started as a naturopath and had created some recipes for patients.”

The cereals Plapp made for clients had essential botanicals that are said to help aid in liver cleansing, as well as having other health benefits.

Twelve years ago, there were few options for people wanting a truly healthy cereal, she said. Plapp saw a gap in the market for muesli that was low in sugar and high in nutritional value.

“I took a leap of faith to do it on my own.”

That leap of faith has not only allowed her to succeed as a businesswoman, but it’s also given her the opportunity to mentor other women in the food industry.

Muesli manufacturing doesnt stop at the bowl

Plapp’s success was recognised when she was nominated as a finalist in the 2018 Women in Industry awards, for the Excellence in Manufacturing and Mentor of the Year categories. 

She is currently mentoring three people, with regular catch-ups every second month.

“Some are university students who want inspiration and one is someone that just started a business. I’m particularly passionate about women in business.”

She sees the importance in giving people support as she too has experienced working on her own to achieve business goals that can be daunting at times.

“It can be intimidating,” said Plapp.

She enjoys helping people succeed, while also learning from the people she is mentoring.

“When you’re talking to younger people it certainly gives you a different perspective. I like the challenge they put back on me,” said Plapp.

While mentoring is important to Plapp, she also supports people in other ways. 

Wellbeing is more than eating nutritious foods

Coming back to work after having a child can be difficult, so she offers flexible working hours to staff, but this isn’t limited to women. Plapp, who has two children, believes all parents should also have the chance to spend as much time as possible with their families. 

“If your child is in a school play you might as well get out and watch it and make it up another day. What I can do is support people through a journey through how you juggle that,” she said.

Within hours of having her children, Plapp was back on her laptop because work never stopped for her. But she understands the difficulty some parents face when trying to get back into a work routine. Accommodating employee’s needs is a must in her company.

With a focus on employee wellbeing, as well as the health of consumers, Plapp is making a name for herself in the health foods sector.

Grain and Bake, based in Melbourne, is a contractor manufacturing brand that has eight brands on board after just 12 months.

“We’ve certainly got a huge plan. We are already selling our Grain and Bake brand in China. We currently support our partner there,” said Plapp.

“It is certainly a long way from when I used to hand mix the muesli, however I am more passionate, driven and determined than ever before.”

Plapp works hard and encourages others to do so too by supporting them during their entrepreneurial journeys.

While it was hard work, she said it was still a labour of love.

Newly Weds Foods helps spice up products with well-researched seasonings

Bbq sauce used to be simple – sweet, a touch smoky and the perfect accompaniment with chicken, beef or even lamb. But consumers are increasingly wanting more choice. And with more choice comes a need to expand the range of flavours with a new twist.

Newly Weds Foods marketing services manager, Vivienne Stein, said people still want those traditional flavours, but they like having a more refined version.

“American BBQ flavours are trending. We’ve seen a lot of products with different types of BBQ flavours,” she said.

“In the past it’s been very general with the sweet or smoky BBQ. Now it’s becoming more specific with flavours such as Memphis BBQ and Texas BBQ,” said Stein.

Newly Weds Foods makes customised ingredient creations for food manufacturers.

The food ingredient supplier develops new seasonings, coatings and crumbs to help companies expand their product range. “We look in the market place and show customers what is becoming popular,” she said.

There are two main ways to start the development process, Stein said.

The first is having the customer come to Newly Weds with an idea for a new flavour.

The second is Newly Weds suggesting flavours to customers, which suit their needs and help grow their business.

“We are offering flavour advice in terms of research. We have a lot of research available to us because we are part of an international company. We have access to a couple of databases, including Mintel,” said Stein.

These databases help Newly Weds determine what is trending in the food market, which the company can then use to make the best flavour range for its customers.

“They look to us for what they can be doing differently. They are being more inventive,” she said.

Sharing ideas globally

Because of its international footprint, Newly Weds’ different teams can help out with different products.

“In terms of the Asian flavours, our American counterparts are looking to us,” said Stein.

For BBQ flavours, the Australian-based manufacturer can bounce ideas off the US-based branches to make the perfect American BBQ seasonings.

The company has 26 manufacturing facilities worldwide, with its head office based in Chicago.

Newly Weds Foods flavour developer Thidawan Sa-Uram said the Sydney-based team gets samples sent from America.

“We look at what the unique profile is from each BBQ. We have done lots of testing and evaluation,” she said.

Consumers are wanting variety.

“Now, we can’t just call something a chilli sauce. It has to be chipotle chilli or another combination,” said Sa-Uram.

Creating seasonings for customers was more than just presenting the customer with a new flavour, she said.

“It’s not only presenting the products that taste good. We need to communicate with the customer to make sure it runs successfully in the company.”

Sa-Uram and her team make sure the seasonings run smoothly on customers’ production lines. If it doesn’t work for them, Newly Weds will adapt the recipes and modify the flavours to suit the customer.

Adapting to customers’ needs

Newly Weds also changes flavours in its seasoning to best suit the product it will be matched with. Stein said some flavours didn’t work with some proteins.

“We present slightly different flavours to our red meat producers than to our chicken producers,” she said.

Products can also be customised to ensure they fit with the customers’ vegetarian and vegan products, as these are becoming more popular, said Stein.

“We really have to build that into our flavours to make sure it’s not going to cause any problems to the claims they are making. Consumers are much more knowledgeable. People are becoming interested in trying meat-alternatives,” she said.

“It might not just be a specific flavour to give them the market advantage. It’s the functional factor too – such as not adding artificial flavours,” said Stein. “If our customers have got something they are requiring, we will help.”

With meat alternatives and more distinct flavours trending in Australia and internationally, food manufacturers are looking for new ideas.

Thermo Fisher helps manufacturers steer clear of adulterated products

Consumers want to know they are getting the quality product that is promised to them when they are picking an item off a shelf.

This year alone more than 50 food and beverage products have been recalled in Australia, putting the country on track to for its worst year since 2003, where 70 recalls were issued.

Currently, 58 per cent of all food product recalls are due to labelling violations, with no improvement year to year, while there has been an improvement in recalls due to microbial contamination over the same period.

Labelling is essential in consumer confidence, with food allergy estimated to affect 1-2 per cent of adults and 4-8 per cent of children under five years old in Australia, according to a SA Department of Health and Food report from 2010.

READ: A practical guide to checkweighing and Checkweighers

Twenty-three people died from food allergies between 1997 and 2013, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with seafood being the leading cause.

This is despite Australia having some of the strictest laws in regards to integrity and labelling of food. Historically, these laws were focused almost entirely on consumer safety. In 2018, advancing technologies are allowing regulators to monitor all aspects more closely.

Companies such as Thermo Fisher Scientific are able to offer end-to-end solutions that provide coverage across all aspects of composition, safety and authenticity of foods.

Food labelling isn’t a new trend, it is a long-established legal requirement within Australia and particularly for food exports.

So what notable changes have occurred in this consumer driven marketplace? Medical consequence, public awareness, new technologies, legal requirements, ethical sentiments, religious beliefs, significance for consumers and much more.

Now more than ever, not understanding or misrepresenting a product can have legal and economic impacts. Recurring food contamination scandals show there is always room for error, and there is limited differentiation between accidental and intentional adulteration and mislabelling.

Giving consumers the right information

It is important manufacturers, can provide information to allow consumers to make an informed choice while providing reassurance of accuracy.

For example, when a company makes a product using olive oil, it should be able to prove the oil is in fact made from 100 per cent olive oil and not blended with cheaper substitutes.

Addition, depletion, substitution, reformulation and changes in processing of food that affects the products composition, nutrition or visual representation requires clear labelling, otherwise it may be deemed an illegal adulteration, whether deliberate or intentional.

Adulteration could include adding dyes to spices to enhance the colour, or blending a premium product, such as virgin olive oil, with a low-value vegetable oil at levels that consumers don’t detect.

Adulteration and mislabelling is not limited to food with beverage equally under the microscope, with reports of tea containing dried beech leaves and coffee being bulked up with maize and other cereal grains.

Thermo Fisher Scientific highlights that milk is one of the most common targets for adulteration with additions including water, whey, sodium hydroxide, urea or melamine.

The products are skewed to increase volume, mask inferior quality, and replace the authentic substances.

Getting the real deal

Food labelling and authenticity testing can range from basic dipstick analysis for presence and absence of antibiotic residues, through to advance molecular techniques performed at certified laboratories to trace the origin of raw materials.

Thermo Fisher Scientific offers a range of videos and tutorials to educate food processors, packers and manufacturers about how they can protect their consumers and brands.

Understanding the right tools for the job

To enforce regulations, there are targeted and untargeted methods of analysis. Targeted methods are used to detect and quantify a known substance used for adulteration.

Untargeted methods can be used initially to screen for possible adulteration, leading to identification of the substance responsible and then subsequent target analysis.

For authenticity, untargeted methods are primarily used to fingerprint foods, by measuring a number of different variables and looking for characteristic patterns.

For target analysis, the approach is the same as that used for the analysis of residues or contaminants in foods.

However, often what starts out as target analysis for a single chemical, progressively expands to cover a wider range of possible adulterants, as it becomes evident that other substances might be implicated.

In some cases it may be that the adulterant itself cannot be readily detected, but the adulterant may contain marker compounds not found naturally in the commodity being adulterated, and these marker compounds can be targeted.

Once there is a known adulteration problem, target analysis using molecular spectroscopy can be developed with a view to rapid screening.

By its very nature, adulteration is inevitably difficult to detect, so increasingly profiling or fingerprinting of foods is being used as a means of highlighting any unusual features. Once the unusual peak has been pin-pointed, it then requires classical identification techniques to be applied to identify and establish whether adulteration has occurred.

Thermo Fisher Scientific knows this is a challenging approach, as it relies on establishing a normal profile for a foodstuff in the form of a database and getting a good understanding of the natural variations that can occur.

The drawback of this approach is that analytical techniques inevitably are selective as the whole food cannot be analysed directly.

Ecowize promotes food safety practices with its colour-coded products

If you are in the food processing industry, there’s no situation where a company wants to run the risk of cross contamination of different food stuffs.

Getting food poisoning from contaminated food can be avoided if the right precautions are implemented.

While consumers can minimise cross contamination in their homes, it is reassuring when they know factories also have quality safety precautions in place.

Simple steps, such as buying colour-coded cleaning equipment, can help a company avoid mishaps that could put them out of pocket when items are recalled, have to be thrown away before they hit the shelves, or they cannot go to partners who need that valuable ingredient to bring their product to the market.

It is also an easy solution for employees who gain from having an uncomplicated cleaning system.

Ecowize makes the cleaning process easier by offering colour-coded cleaning equipment. Red can be used for one room and blue in the next – helping to minimise health and safety risks and the aforementioned cross-contamination.

While this seems like a logical solution, it can be difficult to find good-quality equipment that will last when used daily, or even hourly.

Equipment that lasts

Ecowize business development general manager, David Clarke, said the products had a one-year warranty, but they often lasted longer.

“The benefit of having colour-coded products include minimising cross contamination, which can occur between departments in a food factory, raw and cooked, or between surfaces, food contact and floors,” he said. “Floors are difficult to keep clean as waste products from processing may fall onto the area, and traffic, people and trolleys move through this area.”

Ecowize’s range of colour-coded products include buckets, floor brushes, hand and specialty brushes, squeegees, scrapers, mixing paddles and more.

Colour improves cleaning processes

The strong colours help differentiate equipment easily. With nine colours to choose from, the range not only helps companies use different products for different rooms, it also allows workers to separate colours used for flooring, benchtops and other areas that need to remain clean without the risk of cross contamination.

Vikan is the manufacturer behind the colour-coded products Ecowize sells to businesses across Australia.

Vikan knows the primary purpose of colour coding is to help prevent cross contamination, which can occur as a result of physical factors, chemical, microbes and allergens, among many others.

“The colours help businesses avoid confusion in its cleaning processes,” said Clarke. “They are also made from EU and FDA-approved compliant materials.”

Buying the company’s colour-coded products is easy. All a customer has to do is add their colour preference number to the product code to confirm the product required.

Packaging that stops the cracker from crumbling

Consumers have hundreds of products to choose from when they are walking down supermarket aisles. There is no shortage of choice and that makes it a challenge for companies to create packaging that stands out from the rest.

Carman’s was faced with this challenge when making the perfect packaging for its Super Seed and Grain cracker range.

The exterior needed to look appealing in its shape and design, and the interior packaging needed to offer something that kept the crackers whole. Many of us have experienced carrying crackers home or to a dinner party and being left with broken pieces crumbled in the bottom of a bag.

It’s disappointing, especially when the dip is waiting to be scooped up with a delicious cracker. What’s also disappointing is when crackers become stale within days of opening the packet.

READ: Glass bottle redesigned with confidence using clear SLA 3D printing

Carman’s had a goal for its packaging – it needed to be easy to open, functional as a serving vessel, and enable Carman’s customers to reclose the container for storage. For ease of access, it was determined that the crackers should be stacked in three columns with room to encase the top crackers without crushing them.

The packaging also needed to meet the retailer requirement for vertical packaging to maximise differentiation on the shelves. There was also a question of on-shelf instability due to the light weight of the product and the properties of the tray material.

With a brief on what the packaging needed to achieve, Birdstone was brought onboard to design the best packaging with the help of 3D Systems On Demand Manufacturing (ODM), which then created it using SLA 3D printing technology. 3D Systems ODM brings ideas to reality through 3D printing, additive manufacturing, and injection moulding manufacturing services.

The company provides professional-grade 3D printing and manufacturing services that help designers and engineers with the tools and expertise to move from an idea to final production.

The company’s sales and marketing manager Peter Canfield said it was great to have an ongoing relationship with companies such as Birdstone. “Each collaboration between 3D Systems and Birdstone provides a unique opportunity to draw upon decades of combined experience in our respective industries to find new and interesting applications of our technology. We continually learn from each other and push the envelope with each project we collaborate on,” he said.

Birdstone uses 3D Systems ODM as the company creates prototypes with a quick turnaround. The collaboration between Birdstone and 3D Systems ODM helped produce the ideal packaging for Carman’s quickly and efficiently. Birdstone design and strategy director, Grant Davies, said 3D Systems ODM had a range of materials to choose from and the staff worked with speed and quality.

“Customers don’t necessarily understand the way the equipment works and there’s actually a queue of designs to run in the machine. Sometimes the turnaround times that come back from a supplier can be challenging to communicate. 3D Systems helps reduce those timeframes,” said Davies. “Any time they can get back to us quickly on the prototype, we buy time.”

The company helped meet Birdstone’s requirements by producing multiple prototypes to demonstrate options with different aesthetics and functions. Four designs were created using varying features and materials. Birdstone was then able to decide which prototype best fit the brief. Working within a tight timeframe to achieve this, allowed Birdstone to then focus on the consumer research phase.

3D Systems ODM also shared Birdstone’s values, said Davies. “They fit in nicely with our strategy, which is to combine creatable and makeable products. That’s what makes a difference,” he said.

“The appeal for us is also familiarity. We’ve built a good relationship.” Birdstone regularly goes to 3D Systems ODM when it needs prototypes for its clients. Birdstone and 3D Systems ODM also worked together to provide new packaging for Schweppes, and the companies continue to collaborate when they have new packaging projects.

By designing a product and having a prototype created by 3D Systems ODM within days, Birdstone was able to offer Carman’s the best result. 3D Systems ODM was able to help keep project costs within budget – the SLA prototype was ready in four days and the functional and aesthetic prototype features enabled effective manufacturing tests and consumer research.

Ultimately the client, in this case Carman’s, needed a product that met its requirements. That’s what they got – an attractive one-piece clamshell case, uniquely contoured to the shape of the stacked biscuits.

Preventing spillage in food and chemical environments

Stauff’s highly effective protection plug aims to minimise external spillage and internal contamination on all areas requiring FDA approved materials for industrial and commercial usage.

The company’s Foodline “white” service plug is suitable for the prevention of spillage when handling food and chemicals.

The working principle is based on the Stauff Industrial “yellow” service plug which provides protection in industrial environments.

The Foodline is made from a rubber compound intended for repeated use for the production of consumer articles in contact with food meets in its composition of active substances approved by the FDA – Food and Drug Administration, USA.

The Foodline “white” service plug is a solid shaped plug made of high quality durable rubber, resistant to alcohol or other washing liquids, temperature rated between -25°C to +90°C  for non-pressurised systems and suitable for reuse.

Available in sizes from 1 mm up to 130 mm diameter, the range of each plug allows it to be inserted between a minimum to a maximum pipe size.

The conical lightweight design enables a fast flexible “grab and seal” installation which means – no tools required – to plug.

This ensures a clean work-space in safety-critical areas.

Five individual plug sizes are available, MICRO: 1-10 mm, STD: 5-22 mm, XL: 13-42 mm, INDUSTRIAL: 35-80 mm, INDUSTRIAL: 60-130 mm, with a MIX-BOX blister pack version available combining the MICRO, STD & XL sizes.

Typical commercial industry applications include food processing, for example liquids in pharmaceuticals and food production, for example dairy, meat, beverage plants, bakery, pet, distillation and edible oils.

Production plant equipment examples include; pipework (pipes and coupling fittings), storage tanks and vessels, dispensing and spraying equipment.  In addition they are suitable for use in both during service and storage preventing contaminants from entering system tanks, pipework or hose lines during repair or disconnection.

Typical retail industry applications include beverage dispensers, storage tanks, drums, storage vessels and kitchen equipment for example, boutique breweries and bars, hotels, cafes, restaurants and cruise ships.

In addition, they are suitable also for use for both handling and processing food products preventing contaminants from entering and excess spillage after dispensing.

Manufactured for Stauff by Yelloc International AB-Sweden.

Contact Stauff for further information.

Meet ifm expert: Roland Denholm

Roland Denholm is a sales engineer with ifm who has vast experience working with the food and beverage manufacturing industry and in managing automation and contractor accounts. He explains how the company’s approach to a customer’s business is entirely customer-centric – “It is about them, not about what we do.” Roland enjoys working with customers and getting to understand their business in order to help meet their requirements. He is proud of the unique rapport that is built between ifm employees and their customers, explaining that it truly epitomises the company’s slogan to be ‘Close To You’.

SMC Pneumatics explains benefits of getting on board with Industry 4.0

Japanese-based SMC Pneumatics knew that in order to future-proof its business it needed to get on-board with Industry 4.0 especially with the push towards automation.

“Five years ago, the managing director of SMC brought me in to reposition the business post the mining industry moving from greenfield to brownfield,” said SMC Pneumatics’ Australian and New Zealand director of sales and marketing James McKew.

“We needed to move from a capital investment phase to a maintenance repair and overhaul phase. We saw the mining boom come off quite considerably until about late last year. What I don’t think SMC contemplated was the car industry going away so quickly in Australia,” he said.

Luckily for McKew and SMC Australia and New Zealand, the route a Japanese-based company takes differs from that of a traditional western industrial enterprise. It is this support and direction that McKew sees as the starting point for the growth the company has seen.

READ: SMC to showcase its new Industry 4.0 technologies at Foodtech Packtech New Zealand

“In hindsight, it was quite exciting because the leadership in Japan, fundamentally our founder, said ‘go back to Australia, get your team together and tell me what you need to reposition the company so it stays on a growth trajectory’, as opposed to the alternative,” said McKew. “The western philosophy would have been, ‘well your major market is going down, make sure you resize your business and make it profitable’. The Japanese philosophy was, ‘you tell us the investments you require to target and access new markets and based on your representations we’ll look at making those investments’. So we did.”

And has there been a pay off? Absolutely, said McKew. While the mining industry was off the boil, SMC aggressively targeted those businesses from the OEM and end user side with the multi-site operators. Its market share over the past three years has gone from the low 40s, percentage-wise, to 51 per cent. And it is in growth in every single market in Australian and NZ. The last two-year financial results for SMC have been the best in a decade, according to McKew. The company is now on a trajectory to be the biggest it has ever been in the industry.

Which brings us back to Industry 4.0, smart factories and making sure that a company is future-proofed when building new plant, machinery and the automation aspects.

“I think educating people is what makes automation an easy sell,” said McKew. “I think everybody in manufacturing – ourselves included – is tasked with asking themselves ‘how will our future look and what technology do we need to drive it?’. You are future proofing. We also need to talk about the benefit of big data and being able to intimately understand our businesses at a granular level. So the question is asked – how can we chart our future based on those two things with massive improvements in efficiencies and substantial improvements in understanding things at a granular level? We look at the different pieces in our business and how they align with the best possible operation result.”

This brings us to the next aspect of Industry 4.0 that has been mentioned and really gets McKew animated. Big data.

“When going down the big data path it is being able to understand intimately – from a data capture perspective –  what your employees in the field are doing,” he said. “How does that correlate to a fantastic result? By capturing the data and analysing its correlation to results, you can get extraordinary performances from your people in field service or field selling.

“I think big data support in manufacturing is going to lead to a rejuvenation of the sector. When you look at the investments being made in the advanced manufacturing sector, I think there is finally a light that has gone on in government that says manufacturing creates more value through supply chain than just about any other industry including financial services.

“The growth in manufacturing is economically sound. If you look at the investment that the federal government has put behind the advanced manufacturing growth sector initiative, and the fact they are rolling their sleeves up and actively wanting to promote manufacturing, it is showing everyone where it creates value.”

McKew is also optimistic about the traditional manufacturing and primary industries within Australia, some of which have struggled over the past few years. He believes that Australia has to play to its natural resources. The sector has to acknowledge that food is just as much a part of this as minerals are.

“I even think that the current conversation around the ban of live exports is a positive for Australia,” he said. “The ban is good for Australian manufacturers in that, in my opinion, it will result in jobs for Australians in Australia.”

Speaking of jobs, doesn’t all this talk of Industry 4.0, robotics, automation and a slew of modern manufacturing processes mean less jobs for the traditional Australian working man and woman?

“A protein processing plant can’t run with lights out,” said McKew. “You still need people, so everything is not fully automated. It’s around how you employ people and those people – particularly in automated plants – are being paid better rates because they are in a more sophisticated role.    What I’m talking about is initially opening and expanding plant.”

McKew is also optimistic about the next few years for the Australian manufacturing sector. He believes Australian industry needs to be more aggressive, and not towards the low-cost labour markets in South-East Asia, but against more traditional industry rivals.

“I am very positive for the next two to three-year outlook. You’ve got to formulate your strategies properly,” he said. “They’re not Disneyland, but they’re not Luna Park either.  You have to be realistic about how far out you can look. We are expecting positive momentum in the manufacturing sector, especially the food, robotics, mineral processing, building products and aggregate. What we are also seeing a lot of is automation in large warehouses. I think for Australia there is an opportunity there because at the moment, a lot of that technology is coming straight in from Germany. There is no reason that Australian automation companies cannot deliver those solutions. Designed, built and delivered in Australia and New Zealand. Germany is a high-cost country.

He believes that Industry 4.0 is about keeping high-cost labour countries in play and believes that what people forget about Australia being high cost is that the country also produces high-quality goods.

“It’s all well and good to malign the manufacturing sector – the costs are what they are – but we are high quality,” said McKew. “There is nothing that comes in from Germany or Japan that Australia can’t do as well. I think in the presence of an automated warehouse, that knowhow and expertise is a combination of Australian and New Zealand engineering and manufacturing, and componentry from Japan and Germany. World-class solutions can be deployed in Australia and New Zealand.  We’re having bigger conversations in Australia about manufacturing and quality. The reason we are having these conversations is because manufacturing is important to so many Australian families who can rely on it for employment. We are committed to the sector and are committed to manufacturing across the five locations we manufacture in Australia and New Zealand.”

Stibo Systems helps find business-minded solution to data management

Managing the flood of information coming into a business can be difficult at the best of times. But companies such as Stibo Systems can help take the necessary steps to growing and improving a business by managing data the right way.

Consumers ask questions, such as, ‘Where do my frozen vegetables come from? How much sugar is in my yoghurt? Does my item contain any trace of peanuts?’

Supermarkets can have difficulty finding products if a certain ingredient is recalled. Cereal manufacturers can spend weeks gathering information on what ingredients were sourced from which country depending on the factory where they were made.

There’s many ways to collect and find information, the challenge is doing this efficiently.

Luckily, these time-consuming, yet necessary steps in the daily running of a company, can be made easier with an effective data management system.

The proof is in the pudding for Stibo Systems, as the company’s data management software has helped businesses in the food and beverage industry better manage information.

Stibo Systems is a Danish foundation founded in 1794, and has now expanded to a global enterprise with a local presence in Australia and New Zealand. Stibo prides itself in managing data in the state-of-the-art technology at the time. In 1794, this was the printed book, and now it is the Stibo STEP Master Data Management (MDM) platform.

Lending a helping hand

Global companies such as Kellogg’s and Kraft Heinz use Stibo’s software to better manage their complex manufacturing and distribution businesses. Stibo is also used by companies such Walmart and Kaufland for providing the right food information to their customers.

Kellogg’s manufactures breakfast foods, frozen products and snack foods in about 180 countries.

The company uses Stibo STEP to manage their complex data set of more than 100 brands, 3,500 stock keeping units (SKUs), 4,500 consumer recipes, and 9,000 product images that feed more than 400 global websites.

Kellogg’s maintains a single view of its brands to customers all over the world. Challenges are constantly arising – including changing consumer behaviour and increased in consumer demand for more nutrition information and labelling.

Government legislation and expanding industry regulation also demand richer product information. Increasing information demands include all the customer touchpoints such as product labelling, in-store displays, product catalogues, websites, sales staff, social media and point of sale.

Industry challenges such as expanding food categories and increasing food regulations also need to be addressed regularly.

Since the implementation of STEP, Stibo Systems’ product information management solution, Kellogg’s has been able to replace old legacy systems, homegrown solutions and countless spreadsheets. Kellogg’s now has more control over its branding and there is improved visibility across all its brands. STEP feeds more than 400 Kellogg’s global websites in over 40 languages.

Kellogg’s IT marketing global director, Maria Keller, said the thing that made Kellogg’s STEP implementation unique, was that it was global from day one.

“When we evaluated solutions, it had to have that capability and be able to accommodate all the languages and nuances for our markets around the world,” said Keller.

Benefits of using Stibo’s STEP software for the food and beverage industry, include being able to efficiently find products containing ingredients that are allergens or high in sugar content. Information passed from a manufacturer to a retailer, can be easily found by the retailer and relayed to customers.

Businesses also have easy access to data that can be collated to find products relating to each other. It’s also quick to find out key information, such as how fast a product is selling and why it is selling so well. For example, data may show a product is selling well because it contains less sugar than similar products, or it may be the country of origin that has buyers coming back for more.

Trends in data will help determine this. With the country of origin becoming an increasingly important factor for Australian consumers, there is a benefit to having software capable of narrowing down this information.

Stibo national sales director for Australia and New Zealand, Costa Mikhael, said Stibo’s solution allows people to manage all the types of products they have and all the information about what’s inside the products. It was important information to have about the market, when various compliance issues could come up, said Mikhael.

“Without structure and processes to govern your data, you are carrying a heavy risk burden to the business. In the event of a mistaken allergen label, you are putting your customers safety at risk, not to mention your brand,” he said.

“Supermarkets and retailers like to promote themselves as being consumer oriented. But they often fail to consider the information needs of modern customers. Shoppers want to know exactly what is in a product. Where did it come from? Is it good for me? Is it safe for my children?” said Mikhael.

Often, the information can be found on the label of a product but STEP helps set up a system that allows consumers to look online for the information on the company’s website. “We introduce efficiency between the supplier and the retailer,” said Mikhael.

A solution for all

Stibo’s software is by no means limited to supermarkets or the food and beverage industry. It is widely used by other sectors such as the clothing retail and distribution industries.

A key reason for Stibo’s success is the user-friendly system design. There’s no need to be an IT whizz as the software is simple to use and quick to adapt to. “Stibo gives you a business first-type application. It’s a business-minded solution,” said Mikhael.

“A lot of similar solutions to ours describe how it fits into the IT environment, capabilities, complexities and how you can set it up. Where we come in a lot different is we talk to the business guys and say, ‘Do you want to sell more? Do you want to reach more customers? Why don’t you put items that are related to this product on your website and we can give you the capability to do that’. The value proposition close to their heart,” he said.

The system allows businesses to save time. Where companies may have taken weeks to introduce data on new products in the past, they can do this within days with STEP. The information is easy to input and there are ways to save time down the track with alerts on certain items.

Let’s say a product contains palm oil, which a company considers an ingredient it does not want to sell to its customers. An alert can be sent out to inform the business if it is against company policy. Instead of continually searching for palm oil in new inventory, the alert will tell the business when it is present. This fool-proof monitoring step allows the business to find issues as they arise, without having to worry about human error.

Stibo Systems managing director Manfred Heckt says, “the STEP software enables enterprises to consolidate all their data. We are the data hub for different dimensions. For example, the central dimension is the product. But the value in the data, comes from managing the complex web of relationships between the product, the supplier, to the distributor, the retailer, and the customer. We make sense of it all.”

Stibo customers benefit from single view of their data. They can control, monitor and maintain data, and can score and profile their data. They can optimise their business’ packaging chain. They have a complete view of digital records and dynamic real-time access to data and images.

Stibo STEP is one seamless solution for the complete supply chain. The STEP platform can be deployed on the cloud, or it can run on-premise.

Stibo Systems entered the ANZ market over five years ago, and has been successful in helping its customers to grow and expand their business. It is not just the food and beverage industry, in Australia, Stibo has helped local companies such as Target, Officeworks, Wesfarmers Industrial and Safety, Toyota Australia and many others.

Industry 4.0 a hot topic at iba Munich baking and snack trade fair

Industry 4.0 is becoming increasingly important in the food industry as it helps businesses stay on top of data management, it increases productivity and it limits product waste.

The iba Munich baking and snack trade fair shows businesses how they can stay on top of the latest technology, and keep up with competitors, by getting on board with industry 4.0. 

Industry 4.0, which originated in Germany, combines automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. 

It encompasses the Internet of Things and cloud computing, among other things, and it is commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. 

READ: Food and Beverage Industry News heads to iba Munich food expo in Germany

At iba, companies that create machinery, equipment and cloud solutions, are showcasing how this revolution fits into the food sector – in particular the baking and snack sector. 

Exhibitors include Nord Drive Systems, which caters to the baking, fish, meat and dairy industries. 

Nord drive units can be controlled individually, for example to regulate kneading and conveyor speeds and to prevent blockages. 

The Bosch packaging technology division is also displaying its equipment, which uses the latest technology to provide businesses with a productive and scalable system. 

A common theme in the food industry is seeing companies, such as Bosch, offering a full service that allows businesses to buy from one supplier. 

This allows businesses to use one company from processing to a finished product, as well as supplying businesses with training on how to use the equipment and ongoing support. 

With tighter deadlines, and pressure from clients to supply a product quickly and at a good quality, industry 4.0 and single-source companies, are making their mark in the food and beverage industry. 

Iba, held from the 15th to 20th of September, also offers people an insight into industry 4.0 and digitisation through numerous forums. 

These include a forum on the need for digitisation as consumers want to pay quickly and easily when buying products. Christian Rau, head of core products for Germany and Switzerland at Mastercard, will talk about how businesses can get on board with the digital world to cater to the busy consumer. 

Data management is also being discussed by speakers such as Martin Kreitzberg, from Brixxbox, who will talk about how to use data effectively.

With so much data being collected by companies, Kreitzberg will talk about how to achieve fast results and selecting only the necessary data. 

 

Environmental Product Declarations lead to transparency in packaging industry

With an emphasis on the life cycle impact of the processes from raw material to product end-of-life, Ecolean is the first packaging system supplier to review an entire production system.

It has detailed analysis and description of Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) – encompassing the lightweight packages as well as filling machines.

It also continues to develop its focus on sustainability.

Ecolean’s EPDs are designed to make it easy to understand and compare the environmental life cycle impact of Ecolean’s packages and machines.

In developing the EPDs, Ecolean has conducted a comprehensive analysis of the environmental impact of its operations.

“I think that far too many in our industry focus solely on a small part of their offering – be it raw materials, recycling or machine performance – never the full environmental life cycle impact. But that’s what we are doing now by publishing these EPDs. We are raising the bar in order for food producers and consumers to get the full picture, without green washing,” said Peter L Nilsson, CEO, Ecolean Group.

“Although our new EPDs are only one part of our dedication, to be honest and transparent in how we conduct our business, they are very important,” said Anna Palminger, sustainability manager for the company. “They contribute to making it much easier for brand owners to compare our offering to other packaging solutions on the market. Small measures can make a big impact in the lives of the consumers, but in order to really change something, one needs to equally look at all measures. With the EPDs, we are providing a powerful decision-making framework for making sustainable packaging solution investments.”

In order to be as transparent as possible, Ecolean is the first packaging system supplier to trace the environmental impact of the components in the filling machines as well as the packages.

“I welcome the publication of Environmental Product Declarations by Ecolean, providing a transparent declaration of the life cycle environmental impact of their products,” said Kristian Jelse, programme manager, The International EPD System.

“This is to my knowledge the first case where a company publish EPDs of both their packaging and filling machines, which demonstrates how communication of life cycle based environmental information may be relevant for different applications and target audiences,” said Jelse.

Focusing on sustainability, Ecolean’s ambition is to continuously push the industry agenda and provide transparent and comprehensive sustainability facts from a life cycle perspective in order to achieve real change across borders.

Research shows younger generations care about free-from foods and small portions

Free-from claims and smaller, more convenient pack sizes are important to younger consumers, research from a 2017 Nielsen report suggests.

At the iba baking and snack trade fair, a panel of experts from the baked goods sector spoke about the importance of moving towards free-from and organic products.

The forum, which took place on the 18th of September, showed a strong need for food manufacturers to cater to an increasing desire for clean products.

The information based on a Nielsen research report from 2017, on the US market, showed that organic sales among households with a millennial head of house, were 38 per cent greater than sales among total US households.

READ: Industry 4.0 a hot topic at iba Munich baking and snack trade fair

Robb MacKie, CEO of the American Bakers Association, said despite the data being from the US market, the association’s European counterpart found similarities in the data.

“The connections between the US and the international market are very strong.

“We are seeing health and wellness claims are the fastest growing areas for sales on the retail level in the US market,” said MacKie.

There is a big trend in free-from claims, he said.

“A lot of the soy-free and some of the others are growing at a very fast rate.

“The younger consumers are gravitating the most to those health claims,” said MacKie.

“The greatest generation, which is considered to be the World War 2 generation, is not really being impacted by some of these health claims. In baby boomers you start to see some movement,” he said.

But despite people being drawn to health claims, MacKie said cream filled pies, speciality desserts and muffins are on the rise in the US market.

“Taste is still King,” he said.

The key to the success is being healthier, but still having a tasty product on offer, he said.

Corbion vice president Mark Hotze agreed that consumers still have a need for food that tastes good.

“For us to be successful as an ingredient supplier, it’s really that willingness to roll up our sleeves, partner with our customers and understand where they want to go in that space.”

The consumers need to know an item is worth the calories, said Hotze.

Brian Dwyer, vice president of bakery manufacturing at Kroger, said the supermarket chain noticed people going for smaller portions.

“The one trend that I would say I’ve seen with indulgent food is the move to smaller pack sizes. Whereas in the past our consumers would pick up a 12 inch or and 8 inch pie, we are seeing that move to a smaller size, maybe a 5 inch pie,” said Dwyer.

“What we are seeing is there’s a need for indulgent, but our consumers want to eat that and have that indulgent experience without feeling guilty.

“The health and wellness is clearly a rapidly growing segment. We are seeing a lot of activity and a lot of energy around the health and wellness sector,” he said.

Kroger’s Simple Truth and Simple Truth organic brands have been the company’s  fastest growing brand ever, said Dwyer.

Research from Nielsen shows the dollar growth of grain free products in the bakery section has increased by 51 per cent from 2017.

Cruelty-free products have increased in US dollar growth by 30 per cent, and grass fed products have in increased by 28 per cent from 2017.

Maxum Foods makes life easier for food manufacturers across Australia

When Ben Woodhouse and Dustin Boughton got together in 2003, they had an inkling of an idea about how they could make life easier for food manufacturers across Australia.

In May of that year, Maxum Foods was born and now the company employees more than 30 staff at its headquarters in Brisbane and dry blending facility in Melbourne.

“We saw a gap in the market due to multi-nationals, which although they are big, high-quality companies, they were slow movers,” said Woodhouse.

“Small to medium-sized customers usually order products for delivery the next day. What we found was that some multi-nationals and even distributors, were slow to move to accommodate these customers. They were missing a big niche and were letting customers down. That really made us start the bones of Maxum Foods – to add a level of service to not only help customers but the big suppliers, too.

“What has happened over time is that we have grown so organically, and we do so much volume, that we also now appeal to the multi-nationals,” he said.

“All of these multi-nationals are using us because we cannot only service to those levels, but we are competitive because we buy so much volume.”

Over time, Maxum has developed what it calls ‘eight value pillars’ that not only drive the company’s business, but that of its customers, too.

Incorporating part of the company name, these pillars are MaxComplete, MaxReach, MaxTech, MaxFX, MaxConnect, MaxIQ, MaxPerform and MaxSafe.

But what do these values encompass?

MaxComplete means the company is a one-stop dairy shop.

Any manufacturer that requires a range of dairy ingredients can go to Maxum Foods as the one supplier of these products.

It means they don’t have to have open accounts with five or six other companies. They have one point of contact.

“A good example is one of our customers on the Gold Coast. They are a major repacker of dairy products and they use a whole range of milk powders,” said Woodhouse.

“Generally, they would have to go to three or four different manufacturers to source each different powder, buy instead, they come to us and have only one account.

“We can go out and source all dairy products. Anything from butters and fats to cheese and  milk powders. As long as it is a dairy ingredient that gets used in food manufacturing,” he said.

MaxReach refers to the global reach of the company. Maxum Foods sources most of its product from Australia, New Zealand, most EU countries, the US and Canada.

This is one of the main reasons, the multi-nationals in particular, work with them, said Woodhouse.

“For example, when dealing with a multinational, we’ll get at least one product approved from each continent for them to choose from,” he said. “That gives them complete scope.

“As long as we approve a high-quality product for them, then we can give them the most competitive source whenever their contracts get renewed. We do all that work for our customers.

“We get the import permits done with the Australian government so the customer only needs to place an order and we deliver it,” said Woodhouse.

As the name suggests, MaxTech involves Maxum providing technical solutions to its customer base. The company has a technical manager and his role is to help customers – whether it be recipe formulations or product substitution advice.

“A lot of the companies we deal with have a number of QA, research and development teams,” said Woodhouse.

“They’re working behind the scenes to improve their products all the time and our job is to assist them. It is not to replace their roles. But some companies will take us in whole heartedly. They will want a full project management from us, while other companies will just use us for advice.”

MaxFX is not about special effects, but about Maxum offering its customers different pricing options. Maxum does this by using derivatives markets – the CME in America, the NZX in New Zealand and the EEX in Europe. Because most suppliers of dairy products don’t offer long-term pricing – they only offer quarter by quarter – Maxum uses the derivatives to offer long-term prices for its customer.

“Locking in these prices allows our customers to focus on what they do best, which is make high quality food products,” said Woodhouse. “We take the risk and volatility out of the pricing for that period of time,” he said.

Then there is MaxConnect, which is basically the collection of detailed operational information about our customers.

“Over the past 15 years we have built what we think is a very bespoke CRM system, which is all around food manufacturers,” said Woodhouse.

“That means that the information we hold on each one of our customers and our suppliers is extremely detailed. Their product might need to be halal, it might need to be kosher. We have all the information required by the customer. What quality systems they have in place and what is required.”

MaxIQ is all about sharing market intelligence with its customers. The company communicates with dairy companies all over the world – New Zealand, Europe and the US – on a daily basis. It collates all the information it receives into a user friendly format and shares the information with its customer base to allow them to make better procurement decisions.

MaxPerform speaks for itself, said Woodhouse. One of the major reasons the company was born was that its customers needed ingredients delivered on time, in full (DIFOT).

“They don’t want to have to worry about getting their ingredients, or their ingredients are late, or they didn’t receive the whole order,” said Woodhouse. “Max Perform is all about DIFOT requirements.”

Finally, there is MaxSafe, which is all about food safety. Maxum Foods has two people in its QA team. For the first 10 years of its existence, the company didn’t have a QA division – it relied on the QA divisions of its suppliers.

“If they were supplying the butter, then we would rely on our suppliers ticking all the boxes and crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s,” said Woodhouse. “But what we found was that the more suppliers we were dealing with the more issues came up where product would come in and it would be out of spec. Our QA division makes sure the product is within spec which gives the customer peace of mind that what they have ordered and approved is what they are receiving. It’s a lot of work, which is a straight out cost to the business, but the feedback we have from our customers is that it eliminates so much work from their end. So, the value that gives us across our 500 odd customers in Australia and New Zealand wide means we think it is worth us investing in, to make our customers happy.”

Meet the ifm expert: Harsh Zala

As a Systems Solutions Engineer, Harsh Zala is responsible for providing the full technical delivery of an ifm solution to a customer – from sensors to high level control systems. He is an expert in providing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that are tailor-made for clients as they become industrie 4.0-ready. He loves the family culture of ifm and is passionate about the products, seeing first-hand how these high quality products add value to customers and how they will do business in the future.

SEW-Eurodrive equipment helps Yalumba Winery save on energy costs

At a time when energy costs continue to spiral upwards, saving energy is not just good for the environment, it is important for the commercial bottom line.

According to Jesse Auricht, engineering manager, Yalumba Winery, decisions taken when planning a bottling upgrade at the plant have turned out well in both regards.

He said the choice of energy-efficient SEW-Eurodrive Movigear mechatronic drive units to keep the conveyor lines and bottles moving, contributed to this positive outcome.

The winery is serious about reducing energy costs and monitors energy consumption continuously. Typically, half the cost of energy is based on network charges, so it is important to avoid any spikes in consumption as the wine bottles are filled, capped, labelled and packed in the bottling plant, said Auricht.

“In the energy market, 50 per cent of your cost can be dictated by a half-hour event,” he said. “If you hit that peak once, depending on the time of day, you’ll see an ongoing energy cost increase.”

John Gattellari, national industry specialist – food & beverage, with SEW-Eurodrive, said the Movigear units are designed to minimise the use of electrical power and help manufacturers make savings. Movigear complies with efficiency class IE4 (super premium efficiency) and reduces energy costs by up to 50 per cent, due to the high efficiency of all its components.

Planning pays off
Once it was clear that the plant needed refurbishing, the owners decided not to rush in. Starting with their own design concepts, they issued a tender for detailed design and implementation of the project, and awarded it to Foodmach, a specialist Australian provider of machinery design, manufacturing and control services.

Working closely with Yalumba, Foodmach designed and installed the new conveyor and line control system. The revamped system consisted of the original bottling line with new controls, conveyor and palletisers, and a second line with a new de-palletiser, filler and packer.

SEW-Eurodrive’s engineering and customer service, together with energy efficient Movidrive mechatronic drive system and high precision servo motors and Movidrive controllers, were fundamental in obtaining the desired result.

In addition to saving costs by reducing energy consumption, the upgrade also led to a safer work environment and a reduction in noise.

Noise amplification and reduction
Another key issue was that of noise, especially given the running speeds of the conveyors. Line 2, which is used for wine only, runs at 12,000 bottles per hour. “You get glass bottles banging into each other at that rate and it’s noisy – and potentially dangerous as well,” said Auricht.

Trevor Burgemeister, process control technician at Yalumba, said that to alleviate the noise and danger of uncontrolled collisions, the system had to be designed to detect when bottles were about to collide. When this happened, it set a maximum collision speed.
Auricht said to achieve this, the drives needed to be accurate, reliable, efficient and controllable. As for the noise component, he said that the Movigear is so quiet it’s negligible in comparison to the rest of the system.

These characteristics, along with past performance and a strong relationship, were major factors in the choice of SEW-Eurodrive.

“They have been a solid partner of ours for a long time. It’s a recognised brand and we’ve had a lot of success,” he said.

No pressure
The key to reducing the noise is creating a pressureless line. In this case, pressure refers to the accumulation of bottles at any point on the conveyor system. It occurs when the conveyor is transporting more bottles than the individual machine process rate. If a processing machine for filling, capping or labelling is operating at a slower speed than bottles are being delivered, the bottles bump into each other, and that familiar sound of glass against glass can be heard. On a grand scale though, it’s not a pleasant clinking sound that you might hear in a restaurant. At a rate of thousands of bottles per hour, it’s more of a cacophony.

Auricht said that if the conveyor keeps running when this happens, the pressure continues to build up. This means energy wastage, inefficiency and noise, along with wear and tear on all the conveyors.

On Line 1, which is used for many different bottle types ranging from sparkling wine with a cork, to table wines with screw tops, the flow is between 5,000 and 9,000 bottles per hour. While the aim is zero pressure on the conveyors, the processing machines require a degree of pressure to function correctly.

To achieve this, the conveyors on this line run at set speeds, while the line’s process machines vary their speed as necessary to maintain head pressure of between five and eight bottles.

In the Foodmach, line control system speeds are controlled by software programmed according to a “recipe” that varies for each production variety.

The recipe specifies which processing machines are required for the product and also their operating parameters. Recipe data – speed, diameter of bottle, gap between bottles and the like – is communicated from the programmable logic controller (PLC) to the SEW-Eurodrive gears and units. These are calibrated so that the speed of the conveyor is set correctly. Burgemeister says that connecting the motion-detecting sensors to the motors and gear units, in order to manage the flow of bottles, was a simple operation. “It was just a matter of plugging the photoelectric in,” he said.

Poetry in motion
Correct flow is set up at the start of the operation on the Foodmach de-palletisers, where thousands of bottles per hour are fed into the two bottling conveyor lines. At this point, several mini conveyor lines, running side by side and at different speeds, cause bunched-up groups of bottles to be fed into a single line. Complex programming, communicated to each Movigear drive in the system, makes the operation look easy. For Auricht, this is what good engineering is all about. He describes the process with a single word – poetry.
“This was probably one of our most successful projects undertaken – both in timeframes and outcomes,” said Auricht. “In the scheme of things, the premium for the high-efficiency, low-energy drives was not that much. Looking back on it now, it absolutely was the right decision.”