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    Consummately complete aseptics
    Consummately complete aseptics
      After glass and cartons now PET for the first time: at Jus de Fruits d’Alsace (JFA), a French producer of fruit and vegetable juices, a new era has dawned.

      “When we do something, we do it right!” That was what the firm’s managers thought and invested in the most sophisticated kit for filling their sensitive beverages, which at the same time also offers maximally gentle product handling. And to top it all, the new bottling line, in fully aseptic design from the blow-moulder to the filler, likewise has some trump cards up its sleeve for future options.

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      Logistical optimisation

      JFA had been founded back in 1956, originally as a marketing initiative for the regional apple-growers. Since then, around 40 million euros have been channelled into the facility in the Alsatian village of Sarre-Union. One major focus was the installation of a high-bay warehouse, supplied by Krones in 2012 complete with the building that houses it, which provides space for 35,000 pallets. Laser-controlled robot vehicles, each able to carry four pallets, constitute the link to the filling hall. The average pallet turnover rate in the high-bay warehouse is up to 1,100 pallets a day. The second major investment was channelled into a new syrup kitchen, with the third modernisation step, finally, taken in April 2015 and covering a new aseptic line from Krones for filling PET containers.

      What was now involved at JFA, was a strategic decision. Daniel Eva used to be the long-serving factory manager in Sarre-Union and was crucially involved in the installation. This likable man from Alsace has meanwhile taken a well-earned retirement, that’s true, but still plays a role in the “aseptic PET line” project. “The aim here was to optimise the production operation logistically,” he says. “JFA’s plant is situated in the vicinity of the German border and the Benelux countries, a fact that offers us good opportunities for the future. Its geographical location predestines it for expansion north- and eastwards.”

      With the new aseptic line for PET containers, a second major investment target was achieved: “We can now optimise the container mix for our key accounts. Because we have an option for providing products in soft packages, glass and in PET in a single truck consignment,” explains Jérôme Buhler, Daniel Eva’s successor and likewise a long-serving JFA employee. “The third goal was to be able in future to fill not only dealer’s brands but branded products as well into PET, thus boosting the latters’ acceptance among consumers,” adds Daniel Eva.

      “Simply irresistible”

      There is a basic principle at the parent company LSDH when it comes to sensitive beverages: either aseptic, or in the cold chain. So it was one of these two, and nothing else, for JFA as well. “Hotfill has never been a viable alternative for us,” emphasises Daniel Eva. “Aseptic filling is quite simply more gentle on the products. When we were considering our investment, we knew already that Krones was at that time developing the new process of a 100-per-cent-aseptic block. The Contiform AseptBloc system premiered at the drinktec 2013 ultimately proved persuasive for us, not least in comparison to other vendors. For me personally, when it came down to it the aseptic process from Krones was more important than the price.” Jérôme Buhler gives his reasons: “Dry preform sterilisation with hydrogen peroxide in combination with the aseptic blow-moulder – that’s simply irresistible. And besides the top-notch microbiological safety levels it provides, it also scores highly in terms of cost-efficiency: there’s no longer any need to rinse the bottles before filling them, so we save on water, chemicals and energy. In our view, dry aseptics is the process of the future.”

      And there was yet another plus. With the newly developed valve, the filler is able to bottle both still and carbonated beverages in aseptic mode. So far, JFA has made use only of the option for filling still NFC juices, concentrate-based juices, squashes and vegetable juices in PET containers with a 38-millimetre neck finish. Now it still has an option available for likewise producing carbonated drinks with a fruit-juice content in future and filling these in containers with a 28-millimetre neck finish. It was not least for this purpose that JFA had a VarioAsept shell-and-tube heat exchanger installed, for flash-pasteurising soft drinks with a fruit-juice content, plus a second disinfection unit for 28-millimetre closures.

      Long continuous running times

      The line now bottles up to 15 different products per week. “Given the frequent product change-overs, it’s vital to minimise the times needed for intermediate cleaning,” says Jérôme Buhler. But not every product change-over inevitably necessitates an intermediate rinsing routine. Although the continuous running time has been acceptance-tested at 120 hours, in the case of the shell-and-tube heat exchanger JFA performs an intermediate cleaning routine after 72 hours, just to be on the safe side – especially when products with a pulp content are being handled. “The figure we’re achieving for steam consumption, at 0.4 tons per hour, is a very good one. It shows that the shell-and-tube heat exchanger works at a high level of excellence, by balancing its own energy requirements itself,” is Jérôme Buhler’s verdict. After the line had been acceptance-tested, JFA concluded a five-year maintenance agreement with Krones, which is linked to a setpoint operating efficiency. “The ultimate goal is for us to be able to perform maintenance routines ourselves after that,” explains Daniel Eva.

      And “just in passing”, JFA also refurbished its existing glass line while the aseptic line was installed. The glass bottles are now dressed on two Prontomatic cold-glue labellers. So as to guarantee optimum label placement, JFA purchases adhesives from KIC Krones. As a versatile all-rounder, the Variopac Pro WTFS can produce full-size cartons, trays with film, trays without film, or just film-wrapped packs. This packer has replaced several discrete machines. “The Variopac has enabled us to reduce staffing levels per shift from six to four operators,” says Jérôme Buhler.

      For the former plant manager and for the present one as well, the target is to turn their Jus de Fruits d’Alsace plant into the most efficient facility within the LSDH Group. That should be no problem.

      Selected machines and solutions