The introduction of the new line has created the capacity required to provide flexible aseptic production to meet the fast-changing tastes and demands from consumers for sensitive products.
"As a co-packer, the challenge for us is to improve our production efficiencies to help our clients get their products on the market as and when they need to," says Mr. Keith Dai, Chairman of Hon Chuan. "Improving our capacity and maintaining flexibility to respond to the needs of the market are key to our success."
A competitive marketplace
Competition in the already competitive beverage industry has further intensified following the last two years' slowdown of the Chinese economy. In 2014, the volume growth rate of the beverage market was only 7% - a fall of 2% compared to the previous year. Beverage growth dropped to an all-time low in the third quarter of 2014, yet market analysts remain 'cautiously optimistic' about the overall outlook for the beverage industry.
Over the past year, the industry has witnessed the launch of many new soft drinks by various manufacturers and the expansion of several market segments. The resulting demand for this greater variety of beverages requires an increase in the number of technologies involved in their production. Consequently, producers and co-packers need to find greater flexibility from their production lines in order to react to evolving consumer trends and demands.
With increases in the costs of raw materials, packaging materials, energy, labour and overall production now reducing producers' profit margins, it is important for beverage manufacturers in the region to optimise their business operations and to improve their supply chain management.
Great savings and sustainable achievements
The Sidel Combi Predis FMa Capdis, an aseptic blow-fill-cap solution with dry decontamination of both preforms and caps, is operating at Hon Chuan's plant at Taichung, to the west of the centre of the island and the third-largest city in Taiwan. It is used for the bottling of a range of low acid to high acid products, such as ready-to-drink (RTD) tea, milk tea and coffee in 350ml, 450ml and 600ml PET bottles in round and rectangular formats. It has an output rate of 40,000 bottles per hour.
While delivering the vital reliability in food safety and hygiene for co-packer Hon Chuan, it provides a solution that is highly competitive, offers faster production with lower costs and dramatically reduces use of energy, resources and chemicals, thereby contributing to the company's ambitious sustainability goals. The Sidel Combi Predis FMa Capdis also had to be flexible enough to manage frequent changeovers as bottle formats, shapes and product recipes change several times a week.
Compared with their existing aseptic PET line equipped with the traditional wet bottle decontamination which runs at 36,000 bottles per hour, the new line runs at 40,000 bottles per hour. The team at Hon Chuan is pleased with the performance of the new line and in particular its contribution to increasing sustainability in production and reducing operating costs.
"With the recent acquisition of the aseptic Combi solution equipped with dry preform decontamination in Taiwan, we benefit from lower operating and maintenance costs to lighter bottles and reductions in energy," says Mr. Dai. For example, based on a 6,000-hour operation with 85% overall efficiency, the bottler can save 40,800 litres of chemicals, 32,640 tonnes of water and 3,641 tonnes of steam.
These resource savings of water, energy and chemicals fit perfectly with Hon Chuan's overall sustainability goals. "Driving sustainable solutions and respecting the environment are top of our agenda," says Mr. Dai.
Aseptic line testing took place a few months after the installation was completed. These tests checked the microbiological validity with high acid and low acid products. The final commissioning was completed only five weeks after the line started up and the first commercial run took place shortly after.
Staying ahead by continually expanding
Well known throughout Asia, Hon Chuan is Taiwan's largest and longest-running beverage packaging manufacturer. It offers complete solutions and an all-in-one service for beverage companies and producers, providing preforms, PET bottles, metal and plastic caps and other products. As a co-packer, Hon Chuan produces many customers' products on their behalf at production facilities throughout Asia in China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as Taiwan.
As Taiwan's leading beverage packaging manufacturer, Hon Chuan is always looking to retain its position and to maintain its lead in a highly competitive market. In order to achieve this over its 40 years of operation, Hon Chuan has undertaken a policy of active collaboration with other leading beverage companies within the region, combined effectively with a programme of continual expansion. By investing in high quality production lines, the company has been able to forge partnerships for the co-packing and aseptic bottling of sensitive beverages in PET.
Mr. Dai explains: "We have been an early adopter of aseptic solutions in Taiwan. To date, we have installed four aseptic lines with Sidel across Asia, producing more than 20 products for several leading beverage companies. We are more than satisfied with the results."
Confident in Sidel aseptic technology
Hon Chuan chose to work with Sidel again on this occasion because the co-packer is confident in Sidel's aseptic technology. Mr. Dai explains: "One of the main reasons why leading beverage companies continue to place their trust in Hon Chuan, is our attention to quality, whether it's hygiene standards, project execution or our entire supply chain from raw materials to production. And we expect the same from our suppliers."
Hon Chuan has a longstanding relationship with Sidel that dates back to 1997 when the Taiwanese company first placed an order for a standalone blower. Hon Chuan ordered its first aseptic bottling line from Sidel in 2006 and placed the order for a second four years later. As a consequence of the two companies' long history of collaboration, Hon Chuan has great confidence in Sidel's proven expertise in aseptic production and its high levels of both technological and practical know-how.
Highly competitive solution
By investing in the Sidel Combi Predis FMa Capdis, Hon Chuan is replacing bottle rinsing with dry preform decontamination. With the additional facility of Capdis, the company is also sterilising its bottle caps in the same way, that is, by using hydrogen peroxide vapour. The solution uses no water in the sterilising process and, requiring only 10% of the agents used in traditional systems, only minimal use of chemicals. However, most importantly, due to the uniform distribution of the hydrogen peroxide vapour on the inner walls of the preforms and its activation by the heat of the oven, Predis achieves 100% sterilisation and offers complete safety. Once sterilised, the preforms are blown with sterile air to create the finished bottles, which are transferred to the aseptic filler by the neck in a controlled atmosphere. This high-temperature treatment of the preforms - rather than the blown bottles - also presents greater freedom in bottle design and lightweighting opportunities, opening up further possibilities for ultra-light containers.
Mr. Dai sums up: "We are constantly working towards reducing waste, energy and raw material cost. Technology plays a key role and we are glad we chose Sidel's Combi Predis FMa Capdis for our latest aseptic line. Predis dry preform decontamination ensures high hygiene for sensitive beverages while offering cost-effectiveness along with product and environmental benefits."