Refined controls for the sugar industry

Sugar undergoes a long process before it reaches your spoon. A process that Nordzucker AG has a major role in shaping.

Global sugar consumption is estimated at over 170 metric tons per year. Nordzucker AG specializes in the production of this sweet delicacy and processes sugar beet at its plant in Nordstemmen, Germany. This technically complex process uses machines from the Braunschweigische Maschinenbauanstalt (BMA) company. The specialist for automation solutions relies on expertise, high quality standards and solutions from Siemens. 

The famous nanny Mary Poppins knew that "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down". But sugar undergoes a long process before it reaches your spoon. A process that Nordzucker AG has a major role in shaping.


During the "sugar beet campaign" between September and January, the company processes sugar beet by the ton in huge sugar centrifuges at its plant in Nordstemmen, Germany.


Since the centrifuges run continuously 24/7 during this period, the associated technology has to be robust. No one knows this better than the professionals at BMA (Braunschweigische Maschinenbauanstalt), who apply extensive specialist knowledge and just as much passion to the further development of their technology. And their dedication is worthwhile: With an export rate of over 90 percent, there is virtually no way that you can miss BMA in the sugar industry. 

From beet to spoon

Sugar production at Nordzucker starts with washing and slicing the delivered sugar beets; some may be familiar with the so-called beet cossettes. A special process is used to extract a raw juice containing around 14% raw sugar from the beet pieces. As the juice undergoes further processing, including evaporation, its sugar content increases to as high as 80 percent.


Crystallization at negative pressure and high temperatures produces sugar, which is separated from undesirable residual substances in continuous centrifuges. Where appropriate, batch centrifuges are used for fine-tuning, meaning the grain size of the sugar crystals is adapted to meet specific customer requirements. The result is the granulated sugar we see in supermarkets, as well as other types.  

Our customers demand a lot in terms of quality and reliability.
 Julius Kröger, Head of Marketing and Communication at BMA

From small to large – diversity is the motto

The complex process of sugar production requires considerable expertise. "We see ourselves as a full-service provider, meaning that we offer our customers everything from consulting to feasibility studies, planning and engineering, through to commissioning." That is how Julius Kröger, Head of Marketing and Communication at BMA, describes the company philosophy.


The role it plays can vary from "very small" to "very large". "We supply everything from individual machines, such as pumps or centrifuges, to complete sugar factories," says Eduardo Lima, Team Leader in BMA's Product Automation department. "Our customers demand a lot in terms of quality and reliability. That's why we only equip our machines with top-class components, such as those we get from Siemens." 

All-round carefree package –technology from a single source

Siemens supplies almost all the technology for the centrifuges. This includes, for example, SIMATIC S7-1200 PLCs (programmable logic controllers), KTP700 human-machine interfaces (HMIs), command devices, motors, circuit breakers, fuseless load feeders (consisting of motor circuit breakers and contactors) and soft starters from the new 3RW5 series.

We opted for the 3RW55 because we already had an excellent experience with the predecessor model.
Han Janssen from the Electrotechnical Design department at BMA

"We opted for the 3RW55 because we already had an excellent experience with the predecessor model. What is more, thanks to the joint development, we knew that Siemens had taken our requirements into account," recalls Han Janssen from the Electrotechnical Design department at BMA. "The improvements include new features such as communication via Profibus, Profinet, Ethernet and Modbus, transparent operation, compact design and hybrid switching technology."

Small but powerful

The 3RW55 must be able to perform well, and should also be easy to use and quick to parameterize. "Our systems are used all over the world, where they come up against a variety of ambient conditions. For example, not all power grids are as stable as they are in Europe. In this respect, the Siemens soft starter has proven itself over a long period of time because it works reliably, even under difficult operating conditions," says Torsten Bockrandt, Product Manager for continuous centrifuges in the Software Creation, Parameterization and Commissioning department.

Well-equipped partnership

Siemens has been and continues to be a supplier to its long-standing partner BMA, and not only in terms of technical equipment. "We benefit greatly from the extensive Siemens range of advanced training for all our staff," says Bockrandt. "This includes webinars, on-site trainings and phone support. These are all easy to access, which helps us a lot to implement our projects efficiently."


Siemens also provides advice and support with regard to the planning of control cabinets. "We pay close attention to convenient handling – that's what customers expect. And certification of the cabinets according to IEC 61439 and UL-508A must also be possible. Siemens supports us throughout the entire process with the STS selection aid and the Simaris planning tool," explains Janssen. "For the electrical planning we use the TIA Selection Tool." BMA benefits on a general scale from the enormous efficiency gains delivered by the digital solutions.


For the future, BMA together with Siemens plans to continue to forge ahead specifically with these digital solutions and approaches on a worldwide basis. For example, networking the controller with sensors and actuators will enable an even higher degree of plant transparency.  

Nordzucker AG, headquartered in Braunschweig, Germany, was formed in 1997 by the merger of the Braunschweig-based Zuckerverbund Nord AG (ZVN) and the Zucker-Aktiengesellschaft Uelzen-Braunschweig (ZAG). The company primarily produces sugar and liquid sugar as well as refined sugar, confectioner's sugar, sugar cubes and preserving sugars, teas and flavored sugar varieties for the consumer market. Total production volume was more than 3 million tons of sugar.

The company was founded by Friedrich Seele, Lorenz Schöttler and others in 1853 as Fr. Seele & Co. It became a joint-stock company under the name Braunschweigische Maschinenbauanstalt (BMA) in 1870 and merged with Salzgitter Maschinenbau AG in 2018. With an export rate of over 90 percent, the company is one of the world's largest machine suppliers in the sugar industry and manufactures extraction systems for sugar beet, diffusers for sugar cane, sugar drying and cooling systems, evaporators, continuous and batch crystallization equipment, continuous and batch centrifuges, and pumps.


BMA combines all electrotechnical activities of the BMA Group in one specialist department which includes I&C and drive engineering, process control systems, hardware design, software, visualization, switchgear construction, commissioning, and service and maintenance – locally and worldwide for the BMA Group and for third-party customers. Main customers are the machine construction industry, sugar industry and food and beverage industry.

November 18, 2021

Picture credits: Siemens

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