Short batch runs and strict hygiene does not normally lend itself towards high manufacturing efficiency. Take a look at any conventional pharmaceutical plant; one batch per shift is what they typically can cope with. But the very smart and simple design features combined with the ‘parallel processing’ concept means that Stern Ingredients are typically able to change from one recipe to a completely different one within less than an hour – without any hygienic compromise.
This in turn results in very low processing cost per kg – which is especially interesting for companies considering employing Stern Ingredients for contract manufacturing. Matcon assisted Stern with initial concept design as well as providing all handling and processing equipment necessary to make this plant a reality. Find out more below:
Founded 30 years ago, German food manufacturing specialist Stern-Wywiol Gruppe are amongst the most successful enterprises operating internationally today in the global Food and Feed Ingredients market. Presently, the group exports over 80% of its products to 110 countries worldwide.
A critical success factor in global competition is their ability to react fast to changing market conditions with innovative products and services. Under the umbrella of Stern-Wywiol, eleven independent companies and thirteen affiliates abroad operate with a high degree of specialization, producing a wide range of functional ingredients for food and animal nutrition to meet this challenge.
In recent years, there has been a growing demand in China for flour standardization and fortification as the downstream market, such as bakeries and biscuit producers, are evolving from artisanal towards industrial ventures, where reliable and predictable behaviour of raw materials is a necessity. Consumers are also increasing their demands for increased safety and transparency in their daily food consumption, especially staple foods like noodles and bread.
To best capitalise and ensure they kept close to the erupting market and meet the requirements of Chinese millers, Stern-Wywiol opted to establish a local operation in China as importing ingredients and compounds from Germany was not viable in the longer term and a local production facility was regarded essential – Stern Ingredients (Suzhou) Co., Ltd. was born.
Having an esteemed reputation globally, Stern Ingredients wanted to assure the highest possible quality by installing state-of-the-art equipment and solutions for their dry powder blending and packing operations at their new Suzhou facility. It was however a tough compromise between quality and investment level, since the initial production volumes were forecast to be low.
Local and global equipment suppliers were evaluated, with the decision finally going in favour of UK-based Matcon Ltd, who is represented with a local team in Shanghai. Matcon’s powder handling system were higher capital cost than local alternatives but with their ‘Lean Manufacturing’ philosophy being applied, this not only meant that plant efficiency would be very high; it also allowed Stern Ingredients to begin with a moderate initial investment and add further process modules as and when demands increased.
Ingredient Weighing and Formulation
Stern Ingredients offer a wide variety of proprietary compounds as well as contract manufacturing; the result being an almost endless number of ingredients. Strict operator procedures combined with high accuracy weighing equipment assure a “right first time” approach. The formulated ingredients are placed on a batch pallet and taken to a dedicated tipping room. The batch is transferred into an Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC) which is check-weighed to confirm that all ingredients are present. For Quality Assurance purposes, all ingredients are sieved and passed through a metal detector during the IBC Filling operation.
The IBC Blending concept used ensures that the powder stays inside the IBC during the blending cycle – no transfer is required. This further ensures full batch traceability. Once the gentle, yet effective 360º tumble mixing operation is complete, the IBC is simply unloaded from the mixing cage and moved to the packing area in its entirety; there is nothing to clean in relation to the mixer, which is immediately ready to process the next batch – even if it contains a totally different batch recipe. This can be done with absolutely no risk of cross contamination from the mixer.
Stern Ingredients offer “no frills” Business to Business (B2B) packing in hygienic, sealed bags, available in standard 25Kg or customized weights to suit their client’s particular process. In either case, the packing process is performed in a compact, easy to clean tower without any screws or vacuum conveyors which are inherent bug traps. The bag weights are verified electronically and a final metal detector is employed to further certify quality.
Once the batch has been packed into bags; a pedestrian stacker truck is utilised to move the complete IBC into the washing area where it is wet or dry washed. The type of wash is dependent on what the next recipe to be processed contains. The fixed equipment is cleaned based on the same criteria. Quick release and “change parts” are utilised throughout making recipe changeover extremely rapid.
Stern Ingredients building design, combined with equipment choice and operator procedures results in a plant which meets the most stringent food and even pharmaceutical production legislations. Stern was amongst the first to receive the very highest credits in China’s new and demanding hygiene audits installing customer confidence in their products and attracting new customers.
In the first year of operation, Stern Ingredients has started production with a tight focus on specific key accounts as well as uncompromising emphasis on product quality over sheer quantity, hence production volumes will stay below 1000 MT p.a. Due to rapid growth, capacity utilization is increasing fast. Fortunately, the nature of the IBC Blending concept and parallel processing philosophy means that the system is very easy and cost effective to scale up.
Additional packing suites may be employed, whilst still utilising the existing IBC Blender to produce up to 4 batches per hour. Stern Ingredients are thereby well prepared to fulfill orders from the most demanding Chinese customers as well as international companies who wish to ease their way into the market by using contract manufacturing. Stern is the safe choice to assure your quality and brand security.
According to Stern Ingredients: Consumers in China, or indeed globally, have the right to feel assured that even tiny ingredients and additives in their processed food, which they may not even be aware of, are perfectly safe to consume, traceable and in compliance with official and industry regulations. Since we are used to adhering to such standards and have managed to earn and retain customers’ trust, we believe we are well placed to contribute to that goal.
Matcon has sold numerous systems of varying sizes to different manufacturing industries in China in recent years. Armed with these references and a local qualified and dedicated team, China is expected to become Matcon’s largest market over the next few years.
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