Processing Equipment & Systems, Automation, Control

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New filling machine upgrades help beverage manufacturers meet consumer demand

The basis of success for any manufacturer, regardless of industry, is to stay ahead of the competition. In other words, make a product, and do it better and faster than the others—and repeat. Given this, it’s only natural that manufacturers seek the most advanced and efficient tools to help them do more with less.

According to the Annual State of Food Manufacturing Survey​, food and beverage producers say the need to increase sales and release new products, with customer demand following closely behind, are the top priorities driving their business. To meet the demands, manufacturers are making production improvements, including equipment upgrades. In fact, the survey found that manufacturers have reserved 22% of total company budgets for new production, packaging and process control equipment, and 88% of respondents plan to upgrade equipment.

In addition to producing products faster, food and beverage manufacturers have the need to produce products safely—13% of survey respondents plan to purchase sanitation and cleaning-in-place (CIP) systems.

The findings come when food and beverage producers are scrambling to boost profits in a time when overall sales are slumping in favor of healthier foods. As reported in this Food Dive article​, heavy hitters including Campbell Soup, Kraft Heinz, General Mills and Mondelez are taking cost-cutting measures to protect their bottom line.

Ecolean, a global producer of lightweight packaging solutions for liquid food for both ambient and chilled distribution, has taken these demands in consideration with its EL2+ filling machine. This new version of the filling machine for chilled distribution portion-sized packages follows the company’s commitment to innovation and simplicity for its customers, with a clean, modern design that doubles capacity—all in the same footprint.

“Ecolean has achieved a new milestone for chilled filling machines regarding speed and hygiene,” Christian Olsson, Director Filling Line Operations at Ecolean, said. “The EL2+ will increase the competitive edge of Ecolean’s packaging system in the chilled segment with a further improved ratio between speed, flexibility and hygiene while being easy to operate.”

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                                         Ecolean’s upgraded EL2+ filling portion-sized packages for chilled distribution.

The EL2+ features five fillers and a completely redesigned control system that uses motors instead of pneumatic cylinders to double capacity by reducing cycle times nearly 40% from 2.4 to 1.5 seconds. The machine now produces up to 12,000 portion-sized packages per hour.

Ecolean is able to achieve such an efficient filling machine in a small size due to a complete redesign of the mechanical cam system and servo motors that control the opening of the packages as well as package grippers, all by one single cam movement to ultimately improve reliability and durability.

In addition, the EL2+ now uses the latest Omron control system that features a virtual master servo axis to enable optimization of machine performance. The technology was previously only used on Ecolean’s ambient filling machines and the proven control system design is now available for the chilled segment with the EL2+.

To further support high food quality and safety, the EL2+ can also be equipped with a fully-automated cleaning system of the filling zone that ensures the same high level of hygiene at the start of every production cycle. A steam system can be added to the valve cluster system made with aseptic membrane valves, which enables sterilization of the entire filling system before each production.

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Ecolean has been able to double capacity, yet maintain the same footprint and easy operation of previous machine models.

The EL2+ is enabling food and beverage producers around the world to do more with less—while meeting consumer demands and increasing profits. The benefits of the EL2+ combined with Ecolean’s thin, flexible packages take on a lighter approach to manufacturing from both an environmental and operational perspective.

According to Olsson, the EL2+ reflects Ecolean’s commitment to continually innovate and simplify technology for its customers. “We constantly aim to be better—the EL2+ with extended hygiene and doubled capacity enables customers to produce more with less.”

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