Digitalization makes fruit juice production even faster
To ensure efficient and competitive production, the Austrian food manufacturer Spitz relies on digitalization. The fully automated production of small batches is already ensuring extreme flexibility, efficiency, and quality.
Every day, roughly 1.2 million products leave the Spitz factory in Attnang-Puchheim, Upper Austria. With 30 process lines and 35 filling and packaging plants, the company manufactures many different foods. Products range from liqueurs, ice tea, and mineral water to wafers, sliced bread, sauces, jams, and now honey. This extremely broad spectrum of products and the small batches are especially challenging for management.
Every day, 1.2 million products leave the Spitz factory in Attnang-Puchheim
New products launched even more quickly
“Automation and digitalization are extremely important for Spitz,” says Walter Scherb Jr., CEO of the Spitz Group. “The goal is to manufacture new products even more quickly in the future. To achieve that, we’re relying on developing our own recipes as a decisive competitive advantage.”
To make production as efficient and economical as possible, Spitz uses Siemens digitalization technology. “Our existing system for production control was no longer able to handle the demands of digitalization,” says Scherb. “We wanted to implement a new, future-ready system that could be expanded over the long term. It was important for us that we be able to control all production processes via one system and process them in real time.”
We wanted to implement a new, future-ready system that could be expanded over the long term. It was important for us that we be able to control all production processes with one system and process them in real timeWalter Scherb Jr., CEO of the Spitz Group
The end-to-end, integrated solution not only increases process stability and product quality; it also minimizes potential sources of error. Spitz is using manufacturing execution system (MES) solutions with the SIMATIC IT Production Suite. This software controls production and manufacturing systems, matches the production processes to the delivery chain, and closes the gap between business systems and process control systems. Materials management and operating data acquisition are both integrated in the automation solution.
Product changeover at the push of a button
A production line can be switched to another product practically at the push of a button. Each product changeover has to be optimized to minimize losses and delays. Although setup time for certain machines has to be reckoned with, the actual process control is performed automatically as is the retrieval of the specified amounts of raw materials required for the particular product and of the materials necessary for the subsequent packaging.
Order data is linked directly to the ongoing process. At the same time, production and consumption data is supplied to the higher-level system. Thanks to digitalization, the procedure is the same at all the plants, meaning that the data from all production processes is complete, consistent, and comparable.
Digitalization for better analyses
In the future, Spitz will have access to precise data and analyses from all the plants and lines at the Attnang-Puchheim factory. All silo filling levels are recorded in the new production system on a batch-specific basis, as along with the type and quality of raw materials. After a specific raw material has been removed from a silo or pallet, its amount and the path it follows in the individual production lines are precisely documented.
Smart recipe management
In addition, it will soon be possible to adapt the individual recipes to the raw materials’ properties: for example, sugar content. The recipe can be automatically recalculated and modified so that the end product always has the same flavor, texture, and appearance. A welcome side effect is that there’s no possibility of using the wrong raw material, because the system verifies whether the material being supplied is actually part of the order. If an error occurs, the system immediately sounds an alarm.
Optimized energy and maintenance
In order to optimize the process in terms of both operation and energy, Spitz also uses the Siemens energy management system. This system clearly shows how much energy is being used and where, and whether unused energy is being lost, for example. In the future, condition monitoring could also play an important role at Spitz. In this case, sensors monitor each individual motor for temperature, acoustics, and vibration. Determining the motor condition in this way makes scheduling maintenance cycles easier and ensures high machine availability.
When it comes to digitalization, I don’t think it’s a matter of “whether” but of “when.” We’ve simply taken early action. We see many opportunities for digitalization, both to improve product quality and consistency and to increase sustainability. It’s making us more flexible. It supports product safety and quality as well as uniformity in production.Walter Scherb Jr., CEO of the Spitz Group
The Spitz Group has been involved in the development, production, refining, and marketing of long-life, unchilled foods and beverages of premium quality for more than 160 years. The company has been owned by the Scherb family since 1952. The Spitz Group is active in both the brand product segment and the private-label and co-packing areas.
Since the company’s founding in 1857, its product portfolio has been continuously expanded. With a little more than 700 employees, the Spitz Group generates about €250 million in sales: 50 percent of which are outside Austria. Every day, 1.2 million products on some 2,000 pallets leave the factory in Attnang-Puchheim.
Spitz wants to continue to grow in its core markets in Austria and is continually striving to improve and optimize its value chain. Customer focus, technological leadership, and appreciation of its employees are central elements of the corporate culture. They’re reflected in the company’s processes as constant improvement to products and workflows.