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Frigel delivers advanced cooling, digital supervision technologies

Source:FoodPacific Manufacturing Journal

Date Published:10/31/2019 07:10:18 PM

Frigel’s MiND system monitors equipment in real-time  

LEADING advanced process cooling technology and solutions supplier Frigel Firenze S.p.A. stays on the innovations path to prepare for the continuous upswing in the food and beverage packaging market. 

The Italy-based company sees market outlook as generally positive, in particular for the beverage sector, with the growing global economy and greater disposable incomes giving rise to more bottled drinks, packaged foods, healthier goods and generally a wider selection of F&B products.  Roberto Sommi, Frigel sales director for PET & Beverage, projects increasing demand for high-volume food and beverage production lines and, consequently, also plastic conversion; both at low energy use to spike even more.

“Southeast Asia is growing more than other regions. We want to be ready for manufacturers’ needs and demands,” Mr Sommi said.

This is why the company, which has been supplying high-performance process cooling applications to manufacturers worldwide for more than five decades, continues to improve on its best-selling equipment, the EcoDry.

On right, Robert Sommi, Frigel sales director for PET & Beverage, with Frigel Thailand team

High-performance, eco-friendly cooling

The EcoDry patented adiabatic cooling system, which the company showcased at the recently held ProPak Asia 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand, replaces cooling towers and ensures better performance at almost zero water consumption. Besides being environment-friendly, the equipment enables beverage and beverage packaging manufacturers to control temperature at much less cost. It can also be used in other industries to cover all cooling requirements.

“Our core business is process cooling and we leverage our many years of experience and continued learnings to make our best-selling equipment even better and boost our competitive edge even more. The EcoDry has been having huge success across Southeast Asia. With water being one of the scarcest resources we have now, this technology is certainly a good investment not just in terms of manufacturing needs but also, and more importantly, in terms of the environment. It is a very good sustainable technology,” Mr Sommi shared.

Frigel is also promoting the latest version of its Microgel family. This high-performance equipment now combines a water-cooled chiller and a high flow and pressure booster pump but in a more compact form factor to deliver extremely energy-efficient cooling without consuming too much space. It is designed for reducing cooling time in the packaging sector, in particular for the production of PET preforms, caps and blown products.

Capable of shortening the cycle time by as much as 30%, the Microgel is digitally synchronised with the moulding machine; it can also store and retrieve the best flow and temperature configurations per mould/format. In addition to ensuring product quality, this translates into high energy efficiency and savings. 

Both the EcoDry and Microgel provide consistent temperature, flow rate and pressure  allowing higher consistency and stability on the customer processes and, as a consequence, higher overall efficiency, reduced downtime and larger production volumes.

Beverage processes, especially those requiring high-delta temperature like carbonated drinks or drinks produced in hot fill technology, thanks to FRIGEL’s new multistage cascade chiller benefit greatly reduced cooling costs, in a range of 20% to 40% less energy consumed. 

Proving to be a hit in Asia since its introduction, the EcoDry patented adiabatic cooling system replaces cooling towers and ensures better performance at almost zero water consumption.

New digital innovation to optimise production

Frigel is taking process cooling a notch higher with a new solution designed in line with the company’s goal of providing manufacturers with tools for controlling the production.

The company’s Machine Interactive Database (MiND) technology, launched for the first time during ProPak Asia in Thailand, is a digital supervision system that can be installed in large plants where Frigel has several machines. Designed to meet the requirements of Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the MiND allows for better plant control and optimisation by integrating a central HMI and dedicated supervision software that enables remote access to the cooling system and real-time management of all parameters.

As with the company’s other process cooling equipment, the MiND helps customers making a better use of their cooling equipment. It does these by measuring efficiency, simplifying service interventions and controlling the machines remotely but with the option of changing work conditions. Information from all machines can be collected and stored in a local database for reading in real-time or reviewing of historical events and scenarios.

“A dashboard connected to all the equipment running in a plant gives a complete view in real-time of everything that is happening in all the machines and sending the KPIs in real-time to the manager office. It works with all the machines that we produce whilst also being a complement to large plants and large installations with multiple machines,” said Mr Sommi.

The MiND exemplifies automation in line with Industry 4.0. It is fully accessible from the outside and even from a mobile phone. “So even in terms of troubleshooting and after-sales, authorized people can access machine data through the MiND and provide a more efficient and faster service. In this sense, it is not only a management tool but it’s also a service tool,” he added.

Frigel worked on the prototype installations last year but launched the MiND in Asia only recently at the ProPak in Thailand.

“We are excited by the market reception so far for this technology. Large customers and multinational companies in the food and beverage industry are looking for applications like this. Why? Because these applications are already available in other industries but when it comes to utilities equipment such as refrigeration and in the industry where we are in, these kinds of technologies have yet to be widely adopted. So this is the kind of innovation customers are hungry for,” he shared.  

Proactive service a key differentiator

To complement its advanced equipment and solutions, Frigel invests heavily in its after-sales capability.  

According to Mr Sommi, customers in Asia are typically concerned about product quality and efficiency. “Our customers approach us as a company that designs equipment in Europe using state-of-the-art technology. So they already know we have the technology and are keen on innovating. They trust the product. But what they look for as an added value is proactive after-sales service. Because after they buy the machine, they have to operate it, manage it and maintain it in order to extend its life span,” he added.

Quick access to high-quality and fast after-sales service then is a big priority for customers, he said. “So because it is an important point for our customer manufacturers, it is a selling point for us as a supplier.”

With the MiND technology, Frigel enables manufacturers to practice 24/7 troubleshooting service plus proactive maintenance. The system can be implemented on existing equipment so manufacturers can start slowly building up a digitally equipped process. With the data collected, manufacturers would be able to tell when equipment needs upgrading or repair.

Frigel’s strong emphasis on after-sales capability prompts the company to increase its investment in staff and warehousing. It has a large facility operating since years in Thailand where equipment is assembled, in addition to hosting spares warehouse and service technical center; and it is opening hubs in the Philippines and Vietnam to be much closer to customers in these countries.

The company sees Thailand as a mature market for food and beverage packaging, in particular beverage packaging, compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. “But it’s still growing. Countries such as Vietnam, Myanmar and Malaysia are also expanding at a fast pace. We at Frigel look at countries in the region with a 5% to 20% growth outlook as these countries will be ready for advanced technologies and equipment such as ours,” said Mr Sommi. 

Noting the strong growth of the beverage market in India, Frigel is establishing its footprint there as well. Besides being a huge market in itself, Frigel sees India’s food and beverage market and the related packaging industry as having a huge growth potential.

The company opened a branch in India two years ago, and that operation is already carrying out sales and after-sales service. Frigel plans to start production in India next year.

“We have actually been conducting production activities in India for some of our smaller equipment. But the official launch of that production facility will be in 2020. We may even consider participating in more regional and local trade events there, something that we don’t really do that much at the moment just so we can further promote our products,” he said.

The company is likewise looking to grow its presence in Vietnam.

“All in all, the outlook for Frigel for the next year remains very strong. The beverage market is very much alive, and process cooling requirements are growing. In fact, looking a little bit more ahead, the outlook for the next five years is positive with a very good growth rate,” closed Sommi.

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