Schwarzwaldmilch, the Freiburg-based dairy is set in the Black Forest and processes 600,000 litres of milk a day. The raw milk is purchased exclusively from the region’s own farms – most of them family-run smallholdings with 25 to 30 cows. (Article by Thomas Kriebler, Krones AG.)
Prioritising gentle, hygienic filling technology, when it came to purchasing a new glass filling line, the Dairy opted for Krones AG and its Viscofill filler.
In the production hall, there are six lines in parallel – for jars, tubs, cartons and gastropacks with little unused space. The production staff manoeuvre their way through the hall teeming with machines, past pallets, fork-lift trucks, conveyors.
Andreas Haberstroh, the dairy master, checks the returnable-glass line installed just a few weeks ago. His fingers tap briskly through the touch-screen menu at the filler, looking at the displays.
The line was planned by Krones with the Viscofill SC filler, at its heart. This piston-based dosing unit has been developed specifically for use in both food and beverage plants. Its capabilities include dairy products, and foodstuffs and beverages that are highly viscous or thread-forming, or contain large chunks. In order to meet the hygiene requirements posed for dairies, the machine’s drive and food areas have been hermetically sealed. The filler cleans itself automatically at change-overs or at the end of a production run, without outside intervention.
After Adolf Darbo AG, Schwarzwaldmilch is the second company in the world to have invested in this new technology. What tipped the scales in its favour was the Viscofill’s ability to handle a broad range of foods and beverages, as the Schwarzwaldmilch dairy fills five different products in returnable-glass containers: milk, natural yogurt, fruit yogurt, cocoa and cream and into three different formats.
“We were looking specifically for a manufacturer who’d be able to cover all of these stipulations with a single filler, explained Andreas Haberstroh. And the fact that space was at a premium did not make the job any easier: another filler, which was short-listed, would simply not have fitted into the hall.
Viscofill works with a piston that provides active product feed, with the filling process being divided into two steps: first of all, the correct quantity of product is dosed, in that the piston – by moving up – sucks the product into the dosing cylinder. The next step then constitutes the actual filling operation: the piston descends to its original position and discharges the product into the waiting container. Piston-dosing has been a tried-and-tested method for filling foods and beverages. The Krones Viscofill upgrades this classical filling principle to a new technical level: with a hygienic machine design, ingenious dosing functions and automated cleaning sequences.
As the production hall with its six lines had come up against the limits of its capacities, it was impossible to create additional room for the Viscofill line. Instead, it had to be tailor-fitted into the space of its predecessor, and so literally planned down to the very last millimetre.
The time schedule turned out to be similarly constrained. Since the other production lines handle tubs and cartons, there was no option for temporarily relocating glass filling to another line. Which meant dismantling of the old and installation of the new line had to be accomplished while work continued. “A week’s lost production was the maximum we could accept,” said Andreas Haberstroh.
When considering these preconditions – little space and even less time – it must be regarded as a huge vote of confidence that the dairy chose this filler. “There was a certain amount of risk involved, for sure,” admitted plant manager Stefan Protz, but this vote of confidence was rewarded in full: “The new filler’s running characteristics are smoother, and it provides enhanced product reliability. It is also simpler: where we used to have to do a great many things by hand, today we just call up the menu and select the parameters.”
Schwarzwaldmilch played a decisive role in fine-tuning the Viscofill. After all, this mid-tier company has been at home in the dairy business ever since the 1930s, and had a substantial fund of relevant experience to draw on. Stefan Protz, found it gratifying that the dairy’s own input, its expectations and ideas were incorporated in the development work: “I’m sure Krones learned a few things from us about the dairy industry, which will come in handy in future projects.”
“Glass is an important packaging material for us, one that sets us distinctively apart from our competitors,” emphasised Maren Zeidler, head of communications and PR. “And this applies most especially to our organic line of products. We are the only vendor to offer this in our typical brown bottles.”
Although the company delivers right up to the far north of Germany and (as far as lactose-free fresh milk is concerned, it leads the national market) its most important sales market is where the dairy has its original roots.
“The consumers in this market have grown up with the company’s products and stayed loyal to the dairy over decades. The best example here is Schwarzwälder Schoki’, a cocoa drink that awakens sweet dreams of childhood,” she explained.
In 2010, the company re-invented itself from scratch with traditional products a constituent part of the current brand focus – highlighting regional origins and seasonal products. Last year Schwarzwaldmilch GmbH finished 2013 with record sales of around €180 million. “We’ve done a lot of work in recent years on our brand and with our products,” said Maren Zeidler, “and now we’re reaping the benefits.” “We have plenty of plans for the future”, emphasised Stefan Protz”, in 2014 alone we are implementing 17 major projects.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020