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    Aseptic premiere: first Krones line for Nihon Canpack

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    Nihon Canpack, the largest contract filler in Japan, invests in an aseptic line from Krones. The technology of choice: a customised Contipure AseptBloc DN.
    • Minato Kobori, Krones Japan, Kenjiro Ichikawa, Operating Officer and Deputy Head of Sales at Toyo Seikan Co., Ltd., Masaru Horikoshi, Factory Manager, Gunma First Factory, Nihon Canpack Co., Ltd., Yukio Arai, Operating Officer, Production Division, Nihon Canpack Co., Ltd. and Hiroshi Nodo, Managing Director, Krones Japan (left to right)

    Big in Japan: With around 130 million units produced per year, Nihon Canpack is the undisputed number one among Japanese contract fillers. Since it was founded in 1973, the company has been on a consistent expansion course: It now operates a total of 15 lines for cans, PET bottles and pouches at five different plants.

    Be it soft drinks, water, coffees or teas: the Who's Who of the beverage world comes to Nihon Canpack's production facilities. The responsibility is correspondingly great, as Factory Manager Masaru Horikoshi emphasises: "We work on behalf of major brand owners – and they naturally want to offer their consumers a great enjoyment experience. Product safety and quality are therefore extremely important to us."

    This applies to both the drinks themselves and their packaging, because: The pursuit of perfection is firmly anchored in Japanese culture. Those who present their products on the shelves must live up to this high standard down to the last detail. "Japanese consumers have an incredible awareness of quality, especially when it comes to beverages and food," explains Masaru Horikoshi. "Even the smallest flaws, such as dents or scratches on the packaging, could damage trust in a brand."

    Joint project by Krones and Toyo Seikan

    International manufacturers of food or beverage equipment can tell you a thing or two about it: Japan is not considered the most demanding market in the world for nothing – and at the same time one of the most influential. Be it new beverage creations or technological innovations: Many trends that are born here subsequently go halfway around the globe. It is precisely for this reason that the Krones Group has stepped up its activities in Japan and enlisted the support of a strong regional partner: the Toyo Seikan Group.

    Japanese consumers have an incredible awareness of quality, especially when it comes to beverages and food. Even the smallest flaws, such as dents or scratches on the packaging, could damage trust in a brand. Erwin HächlMasaru HorikoshiFactory Manager, Gunma First Factory, Nihon Canpack Co., Ltd.

    Brief portrait

    Since it was founded in 1917, Toyo Seikan has been Japan’s leading provider of packaging containers. While it all began with the manufacture of cans, now the various companies across the group supply all types of packaging, including glass bottles, metal and plastic caps, paper cups, PET and other plastic bottles as well as trays and pouches.

    The group also includes a sheet steel company whose origins lay in the manufacture of tin for metal cans, as well as a business unit for the manufacture and filling of packaging. In all, the group covers a broad spectrum of business activities relating to packaging containers. Toyo Seikan Group Engineering, which is the company that is responsible for the manufacture, sale and installation of production lines within the group, also plays a major role in the alliance with Krones.

    The cooperation, which was concluded in 2020, has a clear goal: to provide Japanese beverage producers with solutions and services that are precisely tailored to the region. "Toyo Seikan's knowledge and experience are very valuable to us. We learn at first hand what Japanese bottlers expect from their technology, and what they pay particular attention to", explains Dr. Sven Fischer, Head of Krones Research and Development. And here we come full circle back to the beginning of the article: For the first joint order from Toyo Seikan and Krones was an aseptic line for Nihon Canpack.

    Image 28699
    The line expands Nihon Canpack's aseptic capacity and achieves a performance of up to 36,000 bottles per hour.

    With a total of eight aseptic lines, Nihon Canpack was already more than broadly positioned for filling sensitive beverages. Nevertheless, the increasing demand made it necessary to expand the capacities at the Meiwa site in Gunma Prefecture. once again. The choice fell on a Contipure AseptBloc DN which consists of a blow moulder, filler and capper and uses gaseous hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as a sterilisation medium. Its intended field of application is, among other things, the filling of various tea products.

    Reduction of consumption, same sterilisation rate

    The decisive factor in this decision was, in particular, the consumption data of the system: "We were convinced by the fact that the Krones solution requires less H2O2 than our existing lines and still achieves the same sterilisation effect", explains Masaru Horikoshi. The fact that the blow-moulding machine is directly integrated into the aseptic chain was another important criterion. The same applies to the machine's operation: "Because of our large product variety, we need a system that can be changed over quickly and easily," says Masaru Horikoshi. "With the Krones blow-moulder, that was precisely the case: Changeover takes place without tools and can therefore be done by any operator without much effort. Compared to other solutions we looked at, the changeover time here turns out to be significantly shorter."

    We were convinced by the fact that the Krones solution requires less H₂O₂ than our existing lines and still achieves the same sterilisation effect. Erwin HächlMasaru HorikoshiFactory Manager, Gunma First Factory, Nihon Canpack Co., Ltd.

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    The short changeover times of the blow-moulding machine were one of the reasons why Nihon Canpack chose the Contipure AseptBloc DN.

    Even if the consumption and non-productive times of the unit were convincing at first glance, the technology still had to be adapted to the individual needs of Nihon Canpack in other areas. For example, the line was equipped with an additional rinser between the blow moulder and the filler. "From a European perspective, it's probably unusual to supplement a dry system with a water rinser. At least the Krones engineers were somewhat surprised by the requirement", laughs Kenjiro Ichikawa. "But for the Japanese market, it's a necessity we can't do without. So, we're glad Krones implemented our specifications to our liking." The special hygiene measures also came into play at other points: For example, when providing the conveyors behind the block with an enclosure so that they could also be sterilised with H2O2.

    Premiere: remote commissioning

    When the block was then delivered in January in 2021, the pandemic was in full swing – and travel restrictions made it temporarily impossible to bring a Krones team from Germany to Japan. In order to keep to the schedule anyway, Krones and Nihon Canpack decided to carry out block-welding, commissioning and validation remotely: A local team worked on site under the guidance of Krones' specialists in Germany – via camera and online communication.

    A premiere that caused some nervousness on both sides. "I have to admit that at the time my heart was really racing at the mere thought," laughs Masaru Horikoshi. "In retrospect, however, the worry was unfounded. The Krones team had prepared every step exactly. There was a fixed methodology according to which everything was worked through in detail. In the end, we finished one month later than originally planned. In view of the exceptional situation, this is a really good result with which we are very satisfied. We would definitely work with Krones again on the next project."

    What makes the Japanese beverage market so special?

    Yasumitsu Takebe, Executive Officer of the Toyo Seikan Group Holdings, Ltd, gives us an insight:

    “The Japanese beverages market is very specialised in global terms, and we think this is something that quite surprises many people who come to Japan for the first time. To give a few examples, in Japan all types of beverages are offered at room temperature. That includes tea drinks, which are a legacy of old Japanese culture, and sugar-sweetened milk tea in PET bottles, which arose from the canned coffee that is so popular in Japan. Tea and coffee, by the way, are classified as low-acid beverages, which means they are subject to stricter bacteria controls than carbonated beverages and fruit juices.

    On top of this there is an enormous array of packaging. Even we Japanese find it hard to believe just how many products are offered in supermarkets, convenience stores, railway station kiosks, vending machines etc. in the forms and sizes appropriate to the respective channels of distribution. What’s more, in Japan it is perfectly normal for these many different product types to be produced on one and the same production line with countless change-overs. Under such demanding conditions, it is essential that production proceeds efficiently while maintaining a quality level that is equal to or even higher than that required in EU countries.”

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