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    Lack of space is the mother of invention: a container instead of a factory building

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    Since space in the production hall is in short supply, the new water treatment system at Blends is simply being installed in the shipping container to the side of it.
    • Andrew Richardson (left) and Peter Millea from Blends Flavours & Colours travelled to the Krones plant in Neutraubling for the Factory Acceptance Test at the end of March 2022.

    The Krones planning team is actually used to inserting systems exactly into existing halls or even between existing lines – and having to fiddle around a bit in order to get a precise fit. But the only available installation space for laying out all the vessels and modules of the Hydronomic RO being a container? Even Krones had never come across that before. 


    Since demand at the British co-packer Blends Flavours & Colours is going through the roof just at the moment, the company had to increase its capacity for beverage production and filling, which is why it turned to Krones. “We have a water treatment system already, but it wasn’t big enough for our needs. So we spoke with Alex from the local Krones UK sales team and then decided to collaborate with them, because we had the feeling that the Krones quality was right for our customers,” says Andrew Richardson, who manages the beverage plant for Blends.

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    The Hydronomic water treatment system is being assembled in the same shipping container in which it will later be installed next to Blends’ factory building.

    During the planning phase, though, it quickly turned out that a new water treatment system and a new syrup room together would not be able to fit into the existing factory building. This challenge didn’t present an obstacle for Krones, however: If there isn’t any space there, we’ll just create some more, was the approach. Yet anyone now thinking of diggers and excavators can think again – because Krones planned the water treatment system in short order so that all components would fit inside a single container. Only the 20,000-litre product tank has to be installed outside.

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    Only the product tank is located outside.

    Assembly Tetris

    In the plant in Neutraubling, where the vessels and modules of the Hydronomic are assembled, there was also astonishment when a shipping container suddenly appeared alongside the usual vessels, tanks and components. And then it was ‘open the doors and let's get started’. 

    It almost had something of Tetris about it: Rather like the video game, where the coloured elements have to be stacked precisely and efficiently in and on top of each other, the components of the Hydronomic are sensibly arranged and efficiently coordinated. For accessibility in the three metre by twelve container, the same planning basis as for installation inside a building was used. It was thanks to this perfect preliminary work and the necessary routines in assembly that all machine components were ready and in place right on time for the Factory Acceptance Test at the end of March 2022. 

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    The entire Hydronomic has a footprint of three metres by twelve.

    When Andrew Richardson came to Neutraubling with colleague Peter Millea specially in order to see the future systems operating live for the first time, they were both also delighted by the planning and assembly work achieved.

    New syrup room from Milkron

    The Hydronomic, though, is not the only new process technology equipment that Blends is getting from Germany: The installation team of Krones subsidiary Milkron has been in Knowsley since January 2022 in order to assemble the systems of the new syrup room. 

    Here the aim was to be able to produce as broad a range of beverages as possible. That’s because alongside CSD and water in a variety of flavours, Blends also has mixed alcoholic drinks such as hard seltzers in its portfolio. “For the canning specifically, we have a customer in the sports and nutrition sector who wanted to release a range of cans. We struggled to find capacity for canners in the UK and even in Europe to get the product right at the quality they wanted. The new syrup room and the canning system now enable us to offer our customers the corresponding diversity,” says Andrew Richardson.

    The syrup contains various dosing stations, such as for flavourings or high-proof alcohol, a sugar-dissolving plant and two blending tanks each with a capacity of 15,000 litres. The scope of supply also included a CIP system. 


    Hydronomic RO water treatment system

    • Method of operation: reverse osmosis (RO)
    • Output: 15,000 litres per hour
    • Components installed in a shipping container::
      • dosing station for cleaning media
      • 2,000-litre break-water tank
      • Hydronomic UV (ultraviolet radiation) module for removing all the ozone or chlorine
    • Also: adjacent product tank with a capacity of 20,000 litres

    … as well as a can filler and dry end from Krones

    While its portfolio and expertise may suggest something different, Blends’ main business is not even in the production of beverages. In fact, the roots of the company originally lie in the food industry: The family-owned business has been supplying bakeries with a variety of additives since 1994. Its portfolio grew year on year, though, and the company now creates over 20,000 products such as flavourings, dyes and other ingredients for the baked goods and beverage industries. 

    Over the last few years, however, Blends has also made a name for itself as a co-packer. In addition to a glass line, the company also offers canning. Demand in this segment has grown enormously – and Blends could no longer get away without boosting its capacities. “We’ve seen a lot of customers that were switching from bottle to can because of sustainability, so we took the opportunity to strengthen our position in that market,” says Andrew Richardson. 

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    The Modulfill VFS-C will offer huge flexibility in filling in the future and processes slim and sleek cans in a variety of sizes as well as still and carbonated beverages.

    The Modulfill VFS-C can filler is configured for an output of up to 15,000 containers per hour, with future capabilities of achieving even 19,200 containers per hour. Blends, though, is not actually going to utilise that to the full in the first step: For the time being the filler is instead to process around 8,000 cans an hour – which is almost three times as much as the existing system. Should it be necessary to increase output further, this can be readily achieved on the new line without the need for any further investment. 

    “We try to offer 50 ml up to 500 ml if we can and we do the same for bottles, where we go from 20 ml to 5 l, so we to be very flexible depending on the customer and what they want us to do,” Andrew Richardson adds. The new system also fits in perfectly with this flexible approach: It can be used to process both slim and sleek cans – in sizes between 150 and 330 ml – as well as still and carbonated beverages. These are mixed with the aid of a new Krones Contiflow. For sensitive beverages such as milk alternatives, Krones also installed a VarioFlash J flash pasteuriser for preservation. 

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    For Krones, too, this is the first time that a system is being installed in a container instead of in a factory building.

    “So far, the experience has been brilliant”

    One of the arguments that spoke in favour of Krones when it came to choosing the new equipment was its general expertise in process technology. The Krones Group is, after all, the only player on the market able to offer the entire bandwidth of technology, from water treatment to the finished product, from a single source. 

    “It’s our first time working with Krones. So far, the experience has been brilliant. Probably the best supplier we have worked with. The team has been really helpful and for any questions we had, the answers came back really quick,” Andrew Richardson concludes.

    Following the successful Factory Acceptance Test he returned to England together with Peter Millea – and Krones shipped the Hydronomic and the can filler there so that installation can start in May. The first products are set to run off the conveyor in summer.

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