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Middle East processor boosts orange juice production with two PET complete lines

Almarai is the largest producer of food and beverage products in the Middle East, distributing its products daily to more than 110,000 retail outlets across the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Yemen, Egypt and Jordan. And the $12.5 billion company is looking to scale even bigger. To increase production capacity of its single-serve orange juice for the Saudi Arabia market, Almarai installed two PET complete lines that deliver high speed and reliability.

Almarai turned to the Sidel Group to boost production of its 200 ml orange juice, which is bottled in PET and is delivered via cold chain distribution. Almarai installed two Sidel PET complete lines in its Al Kharj, Saudi Arabia, central processing plant.

“The key challenge was to find a solution able to ensure greater efficiency, so as to strengthen profitability and optimize total cost of ownership (TCO),” says Anurag Sharma, Sidel sales manager in Saudi Arabia. “All of this without compromising top product quality, a must-have for Almarai considering the great sales performance of its orange juice.”

All-in-one efficiency

Almarai opted for the Sidel Combi, with each line producing 54,000 bottles per hour. Integrating blow molding, filling and capping processes into a single system, the Combi reduces operating costs and uses up to 30 percent less floor space compared to traditional stand-alone equipment. Using fewer component machines, the Combi offers up to 4 percent higher efficiency levels than stand-alone machines, on top of lower energy consumption and faster format changeovers. This results in a reduction of operating costs by up to 12 percent, saving on labor, raw materials and spare parts. The Combi also employs the Tetra Pak Processing Systems to preserve the natural taste and safety of the orange juice.

The two Combis are equipped with Sidel SF100 fillers to optimize uptime and productivity. The filler’s dual-speed valve ensures consistent performance and drink quality, especially when handling beverages with pulps. Additionally, both magnetic flow meters and filling valves are equipped with plungers, leading to higher accuracy and more efficient filling and cleaning. The system allows for no clogging and an easier removal of pulp residual. For greater product safety and ease of operations, the tight enclosure with HEPA filter allows for top hygiene, while the automatic dummy bottles offer clean-in-place functionality, requiring no intervention from operators.

Sidel’s versatile RollQUATTRO Evo labeler complements the Combi. Primarily using wrap-around roll-fed technology to apply either paper or plastic labels with hot glue, it delivers the flexibility needed to match Almarai’s needs when processing lightweight containers and extremely thin labels at very high speed.

End-of-line flexibility

Gebo Cermex’s equipment optimize end-of-line performance. Two shrink-wrapping systems have been installed to manage three pack configurations: 6x4, 2x3 and 2x3 bottles as clusters. For additional flexibility at a very high speed (67,500 bottles per hour in overspeed), a shrink-wrapper handles single squared bottles in mass flow, putting them in tray plus film, while the other one manages both single bottles and cluster packs of bottles through special selection fingers with rollers identifying the clusters according to product grouping or batch. To ensure a consistent and reliable output for greater pack quality — a challenging objective considering the small diameter of the bottle — the machine is equipped with a 3-D inspection camera, which detects missing containers in the tray before shrink-wrapping them. Moreover, the shrink-wrapper’s extractable injection table allows for easy maintenance and stable film handling.

To guarantee greater energy savings and up to 10 percent TCO reduction, the shrink-wrapping systems are combined with two Gebo Cermex EvoFlex palletizers, offering flexibility and efficiency even with high-speed applications. The only palletizing system with a low-level infeed capable of running at up to 12 layers per minute, EvoFlex offers significant advantages in terms of ergonomics, energy consumption and safety. It is equipped with AxoSmart, the layer preparation system designed by Gebo Cermex to meet the need for more eco-friendly packaging (lightweight bottles and less secondary packaging) and a wide product portfolio. With a modular design allowing for smooth adaptation to various line speed requirements, AxoSmart offers the possibility to handle a high number of pack types in the same cycle without compromising on optimal stability and reliability.

Connecting the plant floor

The two PET complete lines installed at the Al Kharj plant feature Sidel Group’s EIT (Efficiency Improvement Tool), a data acquisition and plant intelligence system. It automatically records 24/7 raw production data, calculates a wide array of key performance indicators to help measure performance, analyses production issues, detects efficiency loss sources, and performs root cause analyses. It is designed to ultimately decrease unplanned downtime, reduce waste and costs, and increase the plant’s output as it gives employees at all levels of the organization real-time access to relevant and actionable information on production-related issues. As an additional bonus feature, the EIT version that Almarai uses comes with the ECO module, which monitors and measures energy and utilities consumption at equipment and line level. In addition to providing energy cost per produced unit, the system establishes correlations between consumption trends (including power, water, steam or compressed air) and line events or production phases for improving performance over time.

Since both PET lines were installed in 2017, both are delivering beyond 98 percent of efficiency, with products available in the market as of the same period, according to Almarai.