HIGH-TECH FOR THE HIGH CARE SECTOR
EGS means evacuation, gassing and seaming and represents an innovative project that Optima Consumer has successfully brought to market. For many years now, Optima has been operating as a successful technology partner in filling and weighing technology in the baby formula sector. Over 30 filling systems have been sold in recent years and there are over 60 Optima filling systems in production worldwide.
The Chinese baby milk powder scandal, also known as the melamine scandal, caused uproar among experts and heightened awareness of product safety in baby milk powder production. Optima Consumer took this opportunity to reassess what was needed. Detailed product market research was conducted. What became apparent was that the industry has adapted and, above all, made its requirements more stringent. The focus is on product and production safety, product quality, resources and sustainability as well as the desire for a machine solution for the functionalities evacuation, gassing and seaming for the highcare sector from a single source. Turnkey skills are also in demand. This meant that the Optima development team's objective was a clear one: the demand is for a safe and efficient solution for the high-care sector that can be integrated into turnkey lines. A long-standing partner was found for this project – the Mittelelbe dairy plant, also known as Elb-Milch, with the aim of incorporating as much production experience as possible in the development process of the OPTIMA EGS, alongside Optima Consumer's technological experience. The machine designed for the fully automated evacuation, gassing and seaming of baby milk powder containers can safely and efficiently process up to 250 cans per minute. "With the OPTIMA EGS and the OPTIMA FS filling machine, we are able to provide the centerpiece of baby milk powder production lines from a single source," explains Christoph Held, the Managing Director of Optima Consumer.
Uwe Bedau General Manager, Milchwerke "Mittelelbe" GmbH
With the OPTIMA EGS, it is possible to assign important production data to each container clearly and traceable throughout the processing steps. This also includes documentation of all process parameters such as the residual oxygen values of the cans at every step in the process. This is possible because each can is evacuated, gassed and seamed individually. Production data can be stored using the Manufacturing Intelligence solutions developed by Optima and important key figures are clearly displayed. It also means that entire production lines can be networked with machines from different manufacturers, so optimizing overall equipment effectiveness in a targeted way. When they are used in combination with software tools, for example for predictive maintenance to increase machine availability, Optima Smart Services make production processes even more reliable and efficient. In the past, foreign bodies present in the product have resulted in recall measures being taken, so protecting unsealed cans is vital. This need is met by the patented function lid. The cans are not transported open with product in them; they are closed with a functional lid during evacuation and gassing. This means that the costly additional function of clinching every can in advance is eliminated.
Clinching is a process where metal is joined together without using a joining medium, and where the can lid is pressed onto the can from above.
Interview with:Uwe Bedau
General Manager, Milchwerke "Mittelelbe" GmbH
The first OPTIMA EGS was put into operation at the Mittelelbe dairy plant. We asked its General Manager, Uwe Bedau, why the company decided to work together with Optima on this innovative project.
Optima's staff has professional skills in every sector. Their expertise means that optimal adaptations and personalized solutions for sensitive products like ours are completely possible. Design solutions always incorporate our wishes as a manufacturer and those of our end customers wanting products that are safe in every respect. Alongside this, they provide a comprehensive service – from product development to technical modifications in the design phase and after sales service.
We have several OPTIMA FRK filling machines. These are the predecessor of the OPTIMA FS filling machine. The centerpiece of our overall production line for filling baby milk powder products was also implemented by Optima. Here, the OPTIMA FS, the OPTIMA EGS and the OPTIMA Rotocap cover the processes of filling, gassing, evacuation and seaming.
The OPTIMA EGS is a perfectly adapted system combining high speed with maximum safety and quality levels.
Officially, the residual oxygen levels are lower than 1 percent and so are in a range that meets all the requirements of modern infant nutrition. In reality, the values in production are usually much lower. I would also like to stress the compact design. All of the functions – evacuation, gassing and seaming – are contained within a small area. The OPTIMA EGS works perfectly with the OPTIMA FS's high speed. The system can also be integrated into any production line, which makes it extremely flexible. These points along with Optima employees' commitment led us to purchase the OPTIMA EGS following the pilot phase.
I would like to stress the commitment of Optima employees from all areas – from sales, project management, design and assembly – who supported us during the implementation. We have been able to significantly improve the performance of the baby milk powder production line, for which Optima supplied the centerpiece, with fantastic residual oxygen levels and very high safety levels for all our products.
Combining in a unique way the functionalities of evacuation, gassing and seaming in a single concept is also a resounding response to the market's demand for a high care room with an optimized footprint. This translates into lower investment costs by saving money on the clincher, as well as lower production costs due to a high-care room that takes up less space while increasing safety and efficiency. Challenging products, some of which contain new ingredients, require heightened product protection. The objective is to achieve reduced residual oxygen levels. This requirement has been met by an evacuation process specially developed for baby food powders. The product is "brought to the boil" in the process via different pressure stages without the need for valves and the oxygen contained in the product is released. Depending on the product, a residual oxygen content of 0.5 percent is achieved with an output of up to 250 cans per minute. Parts in contact with the product are particularly easy to clean, as they are easily accessible. Some of these can also be removed for cleaning and can be washed in a wet area away from the production zone.
The functional lids ensure maximum reliability in the production process.
In the future, production and product safety requirements will increasingly be aligned with pharmaceutical standards. Here, the experience within the Optima Group – from Optima Pharma – was drawn upon. The Elb-Milch company supported Optima Consumer throughout the entire development period of the innovative system. This includes, in particular, comparing identified market requirements, coordinating initial concepts in the Virtual Reality Center, comparing test results at the test station and on the prototype and conducting the initial on-site field tests in Stendal. This joint project for the future was concluded by the validation and approval of the OPTIMA EGS as a production plant for Elb-Milch. Standing still means going backwards. This is why the Optima Consumer development team is already working on more key systems to provide even greater safety and efficiency in baby food powder production. The next goal for Optima Consumer on the development roadmap is a non-destructive 100 % leakage check.
- Optima Consumer has developed a solution for the fully automated evacuation, gassing and seaming of containers of baby milk powder called OPTIMA EGS.
- This new development is the result of extensive market research.
- The key advantages include high levels of production and product safety, low space requirements and low residual oxygen values.
- An economical changeover for formats and products boosts availability.
- Used in combination with the OPTIMA FS filling machine, customers are now getting the centerpiece for baby milk powder production lines from a single source.
- If required, turnkey lines with further process steps can be realized.
- The high care room is space-saving and can be used as a replacement for existing systems that no longer meet current production and product safety requirements.