Customer story Refresco Sittard:
on to 1 billion cans per year

CUSTOMER STORY Refresco Sittard:
on to 1 billion cans per year

On to 1 billion cans per year

Refresco Group is Europe's largest producer of soft drinks and fruit juices for national and international A-brands and has been working closely with Inventflow for almost ten years. On an industrial estate in Sittard, the imposing building of one of Refresco's branches immediately catches the eye.

Roger Kremer is Purchase Officer for the Refresco offices in the Benelux; a position that entails great responsibility for extensive processes. They are expected to achieve the magical number of cans produced in one year in Sittard this year, namely 1 billion (!). “A wonderful achievement,” says Kremer. “Our ambition is to always supply a high-quality product at the best price. To achieve this, we continuously invest in the latest technologies and facilities. ”

Kremer explains that there are 6 production lines in Sittard and the syrup chamber, the heart of the company, where all drinks are mixed. '' Here syrups are made according to recipe, then it goes to the mixer, where water is added. Then to the filler, shutter and packer and then the product is ready. ” The two newest lines are complete Krones lines, according to Kremer the most beautiful technology there is.
Krones AG is a German group that makes machines and systems for the production, filling and packaging process of drinks and other liquid products.

The processes and volumes within Refresco continue to grow, partly by entering new markets. Kremer, explains that Refresco identifies new developments at an early stage, tackles them and translates them into local markets. “We are now producing a new drink from America, consisting of a combination of sparkling water, natural fruit flavors and alcohol. The number of milk products is also increasing sharply, including coffee drinks ”.

Refresco Sittard posseses the technology to pasteurise milk products at ultra-high temperature (100 C +), which is unique for a soft drink producer. Hundreds of different products are produced throughout the factory, including concentrated beer: a new product that has recently been produced. In order to meet the very diverse requirements of the wide range of products, production processes are continuously adapted and optimized.

A long-term and valuable collaboration

We rewind to the beginning of the collaboration between Refresco and Inventflow. With a smile on his face, Kremer says that he has always had a special interest in pumps, even though he was not sure why. Before the collaboration with Inventflow, the processes did not always run smoothly. Kremer can still well remember how many calamities they experienced. “Failures and malfunctions occured almost every week. If it was not a pump, something else would break. Often a replacement pump had to be installed quickly or the pump had to be overhauled”. Because of the large number of technical malfunctions and five companies for the delivery and maintenance of pumps, there was no control.

It quickly became evident that the choice had to be made for one party. Kremer said he entered into discussions with all parties to gain insight into the people behind the companies. “We soon ended up with Floris (Floris Oonk, Sales Manager at Inventflow). Inventflow looked a lot more professional. It was already clear then that pumps are not being repaired from a hallway or a garage”. 

Kremer also mentions the (Inventflow) Service Center as an important tool and decisive factor. “This way I can see which pumps we all have, what we can exchange, when the maintenance was done… And above all: which spare parts I need. That was always what I ran into: we need a part of the pump, but which seal, which O-ring; that was often difficult to figure out. I need tools that make life a little easier. Then I chose to work exclusively with Inventflow in the field of pumps, so I know who I can approach and because it enables us to build a partnership. ”

Why does Refresco choose Inventflow?

We chose Inventflow for various reasons, says Kremer. “The platform (Service Center) makes my work more efficient. The professionalism and knowledge in the field of pumps was also very important. In addition, they (Inventflow) are the official partner of Grundfos and Hilge, which are very important brands for us. Because those are the pumps that are used in the food industry. I want to standardize as much as possible. It all sounds very logical, but you have to do it and persevere. ''The goal for Kremer was to take big steps in maintaining our processes instead of putting out fires. ''To ensure that the processes did not stand still for hours, we started doing maintenance preventively. We have therefore started making complete analyses of all pumps in the factory”.

The transition to preventive maintenance

Kremer: “Downtime was common, there was a rush every week. Such things are quickly forgotten when things go well, but think about how it used to be. We have about 400 pumps here, so we had to invest a lot to combat these problems.”

A starting point was established to set up preventive maintenance for all pumps and measure associated effects. Kremer: “Make good investments in maintenance once and you will reap the benefits in the next few months!”. Since the collaboration with Inventflow, processes became a lot easier to follow for Kremer. '' When someone from Inventflow comes by, all pumps are analyzed, a quotation is issued and maintenance is carried out. That creates clarity. ” Within Refresco, every pump is checked yearly, with the exception of CIP pumps and booster sets, which are checked every six months. The processes run 24/7 with 5 shifts, so continuity must be guaranteed at all times.

For each project it is determined with which brands can be chosen from, Kremer continues, in order to standardize as much as possible. The aforementioned malfunctions are now rare, with no more than two or three failures a year. There are replacement pumps available, but not too many, to avoid dead capital. An additional advantage is that all pumps and spare parts are visible in the Inventflow Service Center.

Process improvements over the years

Over the years, Refresco has made great strides in the field of process optimization. For example, the 'sugar pumps' formed a bottleneck with very high maintenance costs, while the pumps are a crucial part of the processes. “When the sugar pumps were stopped, for example, the sugar started baking. If you then restart te pomp, the seal would leak. If the pump leaks, you have to intervene immediately, otherwise the shaft would be damaged”. Replacement pumps and parts were stocked as the pumps had to be replaced every three months.

It was soon realized that this was not a tenable and sustainable approach, so we had to find a solution. Kremer: “Together (with Inventflow) we came up with the idea of converting the pumps into using double seals, including water lubrication and monitoring. According to the supplier it wouldn't work, but we did it anyway. The pumps are now working perfectly and preventive maintenance is carried out once a year”.

The most crucial pump in the factory is also a sugar pump. It became clear that the pump was no longer in production and that the parts were no longer available. This had to be resolved quickly, as 5 or 6 lines would stop working if the pump failed. For this purpose, a Hilge Maxa hygienic centrifugal pump was selected that can pump up to 140 m³ of sugar solution per hour. Parts for this pump are always in stock at Inventflow. In addition, over the years, more and more standards have been standardized in collaboration with Inventflow. Kremer: “This allowed us to limit our stock and our stock pumps can be deployed at several locations in the factory”.

Another unique addition to the process were the mobile screw spindle pumps with a flexible hose set up by Inventflow. These pumps are ideal for pumping a product in and out of an IBC tank, or if there is a malfunction. '' This means we can continue immediately and can pump both left and right. These pumps are used every day, all day long. If something needs to be controlled with speed, the mobile pumps are ideal ”, Kremer concludes.

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