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    Successful milestone: Filling cans in enhanced hygienic design

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    13. December 2021
    8:15 min.
    Spitz of Austria is using the Modulfill Bloc FS-C filler-seamer block for cans – in hygienic design with a small cleanroom.
    • The Modulfill Bloc FS-C filler-seamer block in hygienic design offers clear advantages when it comes to hygiene and flexibility – and is currently the only one of its kind on the market.

    Aseptic filling of beverages into PET containers has been common practice for many years. But what about cans? Market demand is pushing in the direction of enhanced hygienic design, which would eliminate the need for a pasteurizer or preservatives in popular products. This trend holds true for the Austrian food and beverage producer Spitz – and the company has responded by installing a hygienically designed variant of the Krones Modulfill FS-C filler-seamer block with a small cleanroom.

    Spitz is the first company to use Krones’ new filler-seamer block in hygienic design. And they have good reason to do so: Demand for sensitive drinks in cans is growing steadily among customers in industry and retail. “We’re completely sold on the hygiene concept behind the Modulfill Bloc,” says Leo Gietzen, Operations Manager for the Beverages Division at Spitz.

    “In the run-up to the project, we had some lively discussions with Krones about our current and future requirements. And we were really excited that we’d be using technologies and concepts on a canning line that had, until now, only been used for filling into PET. Because no matter how much pressure there is to innovate – and there is a lot – the most important thing is still to produce excellent products of impeccable quality, in every batch,” he explains.

    No matter how much pressure there is to innovate – and there is a lot – the most important thing is still to produce excellent products of impeccable quality, in every batch. Erwin HächlLeo GietzenOperations Manager, Beverages Division

    Strong on private-label production

    This can be said of Spitz in the beverages segment: “There is very little that we aren’t good at.” That’s how Jörg Knebusch, Division Manager Beverages, puts it, referring to the fact that Spitz makes all product categories, from mineral water to juices, CSDs, and energy drinks to the newest drinks as well as alcoholic beverages. Like their product range, the many sales channels and markets and the types of packaging they use are extremely diverse.

    Article 26495
    “The decision to buy this combined filler-seamer block entirely from Krones grew from our high expectations for hygiene. This combination is the only one of its kind on the market,” says Jörg Knebusch, Division Manager Beverages.

    Spitz’s core business is producing private-label goods for leading grocery retailer groups, followed by B2B contracts to produce and fill drinks for brand manufacturers to their specific formulas. “We have the utmost competence in private-label manufacturing,” emphasizes Jörg Knebusch. Spitz also produces its own brands, which are marketed through its Alpine Brands company. These own beverage brands are sold in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, while exports to other, non-German-speaking countries amount to around 50 percent of sales. Markets in the Middle East are especially strong. For instance, Spitz’s sister company Power Horse makes an energy drink that is highly popular there.

    The options for filling are also many and varied: Spitz runs a total of 13 lines for cans, PET containers (including aseptic and conventional filling), glass bottles, beverage cartons, and large canisters – making it one of the most versatile filling companies in Austria.

    Not one but two new filling lines from Krones

    As part of the company’s five-year plan, Spitz has recently made a number of investments, among them two new filling lines: a state-of-the-art aseptic PET line and a canning line – both for the facility in Attnang-Puchheim, both recently brought online, and both from Krones. “We have a long-standing partnership with Krones. Over the many years of our relationship, Krones has proven to be a dependable partner for beverage production machinery and equipment – and an important sounding board for us when it comes to determining which technologies we need for our products,” says Leo Gietzen.

    Article 26499
    Krones also just recently delivered a dry aseptic line.

    Turnkey line for 87,000 cans per hour

    Krones delivered the canning line, which is rated at 87,000 cans per hour (based on the 0.25-liter can), as a turnkey project. “Of course, it’s always easier if you have just one contact for everything,” says Leo Gietzen, clearly glad to have had just that. “Because every interface has the potential to cause problems.” 

    The heart of the line is the Modulfill Bloc FS-C, comprising a Modulfill VFS-C can filler and a Modulseam seamer. The block is equipped with a small cleanroom for improved hygiene. Prior to filling, the empty cans are checked by a Cantronic inspector. Krones also delivered the process technology, which included a Contiflow mixer for beverage preparation and the VarioClean CIP system as well as a LinaFlex pasteurizer downstream of the filler. 
    For packing and palletizing, Spitz uses a Variopac Pro TFS packer and a Pressant PalBloc 1AJ palletizer block which incorporates a Robobox T-GS. The entire line is monitored and managed by SitePilot Line Diagnostics.

    Article 26503
    The dry end includes a Variopac Pro TFS packer.

    “We installed the new Krones canning line to expand our overall capacity in this segment. Because we’ve seen very high demand from the market – from the private-label side and from the B2B segment,” explains Jörg Knebusch, Division Manager Beverages. “We have identified the can as a model for the future.” 
    The new line more than doubles production capacities for cans and gives Spitz more flexibility. The existing canning line could only handle the different formats sequentially. With the second line, the team responsible at Spitz can now better combine orders as needed.

    Thanks to the new variant of the Modulfill Bloc, Spitz can ensure a higher standard of hygiene than a conventional block – let alone a stand-alone filler and seamer – can provide. “Our decision to go with this particular Krones line stems from the fact that we had repeatedly received specific requests for beverages that are unpasteurized but at the same time contain very little CO2. I’m thinking, for example, of interesting water blends that are ‘lower’ in sugar, carbonation, calories, etc. This line’s hygiene concept opens up the possibility for us to cover this beverage segment well and safely fill sensitive beverages,” says Jörg Knebusch.

    What makes the new concept special from a hygiene perspective?

    The Modulfill Bloc FS-C is a block solution for filling and seaming cans. In it, Krones combines two individual machines: the Modulfill VFS-C can filler and the Modulseam seamer. In this variant for Spitz, Krones has encapsulated them in a small cleanroom.

    06 - Image with Hotspots 26539

    The concept of a small cleanroom ensures that the sensitive filling and seaming area is self-contained and thus no air or dust particles can be carried in from outside. The cleanroom has been kept as small as possible – so the volume of air to be filtered is around one-tenth of the volume for a filler with a large cleanroom cover. That reduces the burden on the HEPA filters, which ensure that the circulating air is free of particles, and the integrated ventilation, which generates a slight excess pressure so that the filler is charged with clean air only.

    The small cleanroom is designed to a dry-floor concept. That means the filler is fully enclosed so that no product or other liquids can drip onto the hall floor. Thus, on the one hand, the filling area is securely separated from the surrounding environment and can be fully cleaned, while, on the other hand, the hall floor doesn’t get soiled. 

    The Modulfill VFS-C can filler has a new filling valve that works with a high-precision inductive flow meter. It has no corners or edges and is completely cleanable. 

    The main bearing is grease-free, lubricated instead by an automatic oil-circulating system, which improves cleanliness in the drive area.

    The machine is cleaned fully automatically, with both inside and outside cleaned simultaneously with hot caustic, which has proven highly efficient in a small cleanroom. When foam cleaning is used, it is also automatic but inside and outside must be cleaned sequentially since the foam would otherwise stick to the hot machine.

    Because the inside and outside of the machine can be cleaned simultaneously, daily cleaning times are shorter by around one hour – time gained that can be used for production. At the end of the day, the operator has benefited from higher line uptime and can therefore put more cans on pallets with the same size filler. 

    This also reduces the volume and variety of cleaning media needed since CIP and COP can be done with the same cleaning media. Moreover, this design eliminates the need for CIP cups.

    Small batches, frequent changes

    But hygiene wasn’t the only factor that played an important role in the decision to use the Modulfill Bloc FS-C. As a contract filler Spitz, too, is following the general market trend toward smaller batches, which inevitably entails frequent changeovers. “The challenge for us is to process the wide variety of our customers’ products and at the same time use this high-speed line as efficiently as possible – so we can fill small batches, with frequent product and format changeovers, securely and economically,” explains Leo Gietzen. “Our expectation of Krones was that the line be clever and pragmatic so that changeovers happen fast.”

    Article 26512
    A unified operating concept and shared touch screen for the filler and seamer make changeovers easier.

    A number of features on the line ensure that these product and format changeovers happen quickly: 

    • Height adjustment is fully automated. 
    • Adjustments to the drag chain pitch are fully automated.
    • Handling parts that can be replaced and adjusted quickly make for fast changeovers to different can sizes.
    • The combination centering bell can be used for several can sizes.
    • A unified operating concept and a shared touch screen for the filler and seamer and pre-programmed type settings entered directly at the touch panel make changeovers easier. 

    Spitz is already operating the new line in four shifts – and thus nearly at full capacity. The main products handled on the line are carbonated beverages like energy drinks and CSDs, but still ones are also covered. In all, seven can formats (slim, sleek, and base) and sizes (from 150 to 500 milliliters) are filled and then put into a variety of secondary packaging. 

    “Hats off to the team!”

    “The installation and commissioning of the line went very much to our satisfaction. It was a successful cooperation. The team from Krones really knuckled down for the project,” remarks Jörg Knebusch. And that despite the fact that erection and commissioning of the canning line had to be done in fall 2020, in the middle of the second coronavirus lockdown in Europe. “That presented a huge challenge for both sides, but they managed it very well. Hats off to the team,” he says. “They were able to stick to the timetable despite the restrictions, and that was most certainly due to the fact that Krones is a global company with technicians available on site in the various countries around the world. So they were able to cope with the unique circumstances. In other business areas, we had serious difficulties with getting technicians into the country,” recalls Leo Gietzen. He also considers the company’s logistical proximity to Krones very important for access to spare parts, especially in light of the production volumes that would be lost if supply chains were interrupted.

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    With the new canning line, Spitz is well equipped to meet future market demands.

    “The commissioning of this new canning line, particularly with respect to its hygiene concept, opens up entirely new prospects for us for the future. We firmly believe that this decision was a step in the right direction for meeting future challenges and being able to implement new product concepts as they develop on the market,” concludes Leo Gietzen.

    One of Austria’s most versatile co-packers

    The family-owned and operated company S. Spitz GmbH has over 1,000 products in its repertoire and can truly claim to be one of the biggest Austrian food and beverage makers. The group of companies serves three segments: beverages, confectionary and baked goods, and sweet and savory condiments like ketchup, mustard, and fruit spreads. Spitz has three production sites: its headquarters in Attnang-Puchheim, in Upper Austria, the Honigmayr honey factory in Tenneck, and the Gasteiner Mineralwasser mineral water bottling operation in Bad Gastein.  

    In the beverage segment, Spitz serves as a strong partner to industry, supporting products from development to store shelves. A central research and development department and a team of divisional product managers track developments on the beverage and raw materials markets, which the in-house development teams then use to create innovations or reverse engineer benchmark products. For the products themselves, Spitz has a great depth of value creation, which includes systems for producing juices and extracts and for brewing teas and coffees as well as 13 lines for beverage filling alone.

    13. December 2021
    8:15 min.

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