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Fruit juice from a dairy
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Fruit juice from a dairy
    Following the Gropper Dairy’s more-than-satisfactory results during the past seven years with its PET-Asept line from Krones, the privately owned company from Bissingen in Bavaria has now commissioned a similar line.

    Following the Gropper Dairy’s more-than-satisfactory results during the past seven years with its PET-Asept line from Krones, featuring dry sterilisation and a four-colour filler for milk-based mixed drinks, the privately owned company from Bissingen in Bavaria has now commissioned a similar line, likewise with a four-colour filler. But this one is for fruit juices and smoothies. At the same time, Gropper also expanded its high-bay warehouse, here, too, opting for Krones technology once again.

    Freshness specialist for discounters

    “Gropper sees itself first and foremost as a freshness specialist, with the yoghurt division here accounting for most of the sales. We make yoghurt you can drink, you can spoon, in a wide variety of fat content gradations, with and without fruit, as a conventional or an organic product, and fill it into tubs and into PET bottles”, explains Karl Klein. Around 60 per cent of production is concentrated on the yoghurt range. In addition, Gropper also makes milk-based mixed drinks, fruit milk, drinking milk, cream in a variety of fat content gradations, café au lait, smoothies and fruit juices. More than 90 per cent of its production output goes to discounters all over Europe, “from Finland to Greece”, to quote Karl Klein. The company’s own “Gropper” brand is sold on a regional basis only, making up less than five per cent of the total. The rest is accounted for by co-packing for other firms.

    Yet again rotary machines, Krones once more, yet again dry aseptics

    Both the first and the second dry-aseptic PET lines each run at a speed of 18,000 containers an hour. After that, Gropper also installed a linear aseptic line, which can be variably used to produce small 100-millilitre to 125-millilitre bottles with a 28- or 38-millilitre neck finish, at an output of max. 30,000 containers an hour.

    For the most recently installed PET-Asept line, rated at 22,500 containers an hour, Gropper again opted for the rotary variant, once more from Krones, supplying all of it this time, and yet again for dry aseptics with hydrogen peroxide. “The fact that we decided in favour of Krones’ kit yet again speaks for itself”, emphasises Karl Klein.

    Direct juices and smoothies

    In the spring of 2012, Gropper encountered a bottleneck, especially in its fruit-juice-filling operations, and a rapid response was imperative.

    Gropper was one of the first producers to address the idea of filling smoothies. It is solely for these two products, direct juices and smoothies, that the new PET-Asept line is now being used, with juices accounting for about two-thirds of its production time, and smoothies for the remaining third.

    In contrast to the first filler from Krones, which had been designed as a weighing filler, Gropper this time opted for a volumetric filler with an inductive flow meter. “Krones guaranteed that we’d be getting the same weight accuracy as with a weighing filler. Our insisting on a weighing filler back then was in actual fact very strongly driven by our experience with differing glass weights in bulk glass. But with PET filling, we found that the tare weight of the preforms is well-nigh constant.”

    A dedicated fruit filler

    The blow-moulded PET containers are first of all prewarmed in the PET-Asept D filling monobloc, so as to prevent the containers from shrinking; they are then dry-decontaminated with gaseous hydrogen peroxide in the sterilisation module, and in the next steps filled and then capped. Screw-cap decontamination of the latest generation, CapAsept D, uses H₂O₂ and takes place in a linear rinser as the caps travel downwards from the screw-cap hopper to the capper. It is fitted with an inspection unit that checks the screw-cap. “For us, this system is a dedicated fruit filler. Theoretically, it would also be possible to fill ESL-60 milk on it (milk with an extended shelf life of 60 days) but what we’re ultimately aiming at is to have – if at all possible – a dedicated filling line for each product category”, explains Karl Klein.

    Expanding the high-bay warehouse

    Simultaneously with the new PET-Asept line, an expansion of the high-bay warehouse with 4,800 new pallet slots and four storage and retrieval units was commissioned, as a refrigerated store in facade-bearing steel construction, with a likewise new logistics section featuring order-picking and dispatch operations linked up to it.

    “The most important things for a warehouse are the material flows and the control systems involved.”

    “In my view, what’s most important for a warehouse is that both the material flows and the control systems are fit-for-purpose. We’ve always felt that we’re in good hands with Krones here”, explains Karl Klein. “The task of linking up the material flows to the old warehouse without interrupting operation was not an easy one at all, but Krones handled it very well. We pride ourselves on supplying fresh products. We simply cannot afford to stop production for two days just like that. This would mean major problems, which is why you have to have absolute trust in your vendor as far as the IT goes. With Krones, this has always been very goal-driven indeed.”


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