Dairy producer turns disaster into opportunity for efficiency boost
9 Dec 2021
A disastrous fire destroyed milk producer Imlek’s production site but it turned back to KHS for a solution that has proved transformational
Founded back in the postwar era of Tito’s Yugoslavia, the Imlek Group’s predecessor was an artisan dairy farm sited in a suburb of Belgrade. From a ventiure that supplied little more than 3,000 litres of milk a day, a decade later it had increased output to some 20 million litres annually.
By 1991 and the ending of the Cold War, it had become a stock corporation and assumed its present name. Today it produces a massive 1 million litres of milk in a single day, boasts a €300 million turnover and its market extends to all the other five former Yugoslavian nation states, Albania and most crucially, Russia.
Its success depended upon embracing innovative technology: in 1957 it installed its first pasteurising and filling line; in 2012, it became the first dairy in the Balkans to invest in an aseptic filler.
Its aim was to facilitate the export of sensitive products by lengthening shelf lives and lowering transportation weights. But just six years later, in 2018 a huge fire swept through the production site near Belgrade, destroying many assets including its new filler.
At the start of reconstruction a decision was made to make the new factory the most modern in the region. So, when it came to a replacement, the company again opted for KHS technology – coupled with a block system featuring the latest in stretch blow molding technology.
With its vast 200-product range, fast format changeovers are vital, given that extended shelf life (ESL) and ultra-heat-treated (UHT) milk products are bottled alternately.
KHS’s Asbofill ABF 711 boasts a wide range of bottle and closure design options, that require no mechanical intervention. Its small sanitary room that measures just 1.5 cubic metersreducing recontamination risk to practically zero. Limiting sterilisation to just the neck on the outside of the bottle permits more sparing use of media. Compact design means the filler also takes up less space, is easier to clean and does not need extra water during the production cycle.
The new InnoPET BloFill ACF-L block system is instrumental in this, with latest-generation KHS stretch blow molder, an InnoPET Blomax V, has been combined with a KHS aseptic filler, the Innofill PET ACF-L, for the first time.
It is it more powerful than the previous filler, more sustainable and more economical, saving up to 40% in energy.
Combining the stretch blow molder and filler does away with the need for an air conveyor, resulting in a compact system that saves space, cuts energy consumption and eliminates a potential source of error.
Samardžija explains: “The main emphasis was to ensure product quality and production stability. And with our new acquisition we again attached great importance to a high degree of flexibility so that we can produce our various volume formats on the same machine.”
The block setup means that a full format changeover can now be performed in the space of just ten minutes, taking up to 40% less time compared to single machines with an air conveyor.
Filling volume accuracy has also been improved by around 30% over the old filler. Electromagnetic induction flow meters with new evaluation software and tried-and-tested algorithms are also used in the aseptic zone to achieve this.
The new modular design of the Innofill PET ACF-L aseptic filler also allows for filler retrofits, such as foil sealers or dosing units for fruit chunks.