Moulin Peterschmitt is a flour mill in the Alsace region of France. Opening in 1782, the mill has been passed down through generations of the Peterschmitt family.
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Synutra International, Inc., is a leading infant milk formula (IMF) company in China. It principally produces, markets, and sells its products through its operating subsidiaries under the Shengyuan or Synutra name, together with other complementary brands. As of June 2016, Synutra International had 910 independent distributors and over 280 independent sub-distributors in its network, selling to approximately 26,500 retail outlets.
The Synutra factory in Carhaix-Plouguer, France, employs 300 people and produces up to 120,000 metric (about 130,000 imperial) tons of infant milk formula per year. The company is located right in the heart of Brittany, which is renowned for its dairy production.
“Everything is manufactured here on-site at Carhaix, with complete traceability from start to finish,” says François Musellec, the industrial manager for Synutra France.
THE FOOD CRISIS THAT SHOCKED THE WORLD
In 2008, a scandal in the baby formula supply made international headlines: infants in China were falling ill and in some cases even dying from melamine-tainted baby formula that had been produced in their own country.
As was to be expected, the crisis resulted in wide-scale distrust of Chinese baby formula. To find a way out of this crisis, Synutra International searched outside of China for a new site to build a new factory, eventually selecting Brittany, France, which is widely respected for its milk production. It officially opened in September 2016 and is the first overseas facility for Synutra International.
THE MAIN GOAL: HYGIENE CONSUMERS CAN TRUST
Because of the melamine crisis, Synutra needed a production line that placed hygiene and public safety standards above all else: only advertising that the baby formula was produced in France would not be enough.
“The hygiene aspect, among others, is crucial for us. Therefore, the main criterion that we stipulated was the absence of hollow bodies,” Musellec explains. The parent company spent four years planning the new factory in France. This process included establishing new contracts for milk and whey supply and searching for a machine capable of packing 10 (11) tons per hour, i.e., 40 25-kg (55-lb) bags of IMF hourly.
“The technical aspect was sorted out fairly quickly. What we really wanted was for it to work,” says Musellec. Premier Tech Chronos came highly recommended: “We were persuaded there wouldn’t be any worries with Chronos and we haven’t regretted this decision.”
CONTINUOUS CYCLES WITHOUT A BUFFER SILO
Synutra France has two drying cycles: a 6-ton (6.5) one and an 8-ton (8.8) one. In addition, the factory has no buffer silo. “Therefore, when the cycle turns, the powder absolutely must be bagged, whether that’s in big bags or in small bags, and it is actually always a challenge because these drying cycles must not be stopped,” says Isabelle Bervas, a packaging supervisor at the factory. Only one technical issue, such as a density problem or agglutination in the funnels, needs to occur to interrupt the process.
Because of this setup, Synutra France was on the lookout for a machine that could meet these requirements but, if needed, be restarted quickly.
EXACT DOSING REQUIRED
To keep costs down, Synutra France also needed a system that measured exactly to 25 kg (55 lbs). To solve that need, Premier Tech Chronos installed a two-step bagging process. The first filling station fills the bag to only ¾ full to avoid overflow. The bag is then weighed, and a second filling station fills it to 25 kg exactly. Not more. Not less. To reduce the amount of residual oxygen in the bag, the company’s machinery uses thermo welds, which help to better preserve the product after bagging. The product is then palletized on a Premier Tech Chronos CPL compact palletizer and wrapped using a stretch hooder.
The hooder is especially perfect for baby formula bags because it pulls the packaging film over the pallet instead of wrapping it all around, thereby protecting the product from anything that might leak through and spoil it, such as rain. Perfectly packed and tightly sealed, the product can now be shipped as far as China. Musellec explains: “We believe that it is very well adapted to our way of delivering products very far away, 10,000 km [6,200 miles] away, in fact. It allows us to load the pallets into containers with quick-loading systems on slip sheets and all that, while minimizing the number of operators, so-to-speak.”