Founded in 1756, Apatin is the oldest brewery in the Balkans and the Molson Coors Group. The Serbian plant run by Molson’s subsidiary Apatinska Pivara Apatin has relied on KHS technology for over four decades. The Jelen beer brand is particularly well known. The partnership between the two companies was recently further cemented by conversions to two of the brewery’s glass lines and the procurement of a KHS Innofill Can DVD can filler. As a result of the extensive modernization, Apatin Brewery has been able to greatly optimize its line efficiency and product quality. The traditional brewery also benefits from improved hygiene and savings in energy and media.
The cooperation between Apatin Brewery and the Dortmund systems supplier dates back to the 1970s and to KHS’ predecessor companies Holstein & Kappert and Seitz Enzinger Noll Maschinenbau, who in 1993 merged to form KHS. “We’ve always had a really reliable partner at our side in KHS. Its personnel know not only our production site and technology inside out; they’re also familiar with our requirements and all possible challenges,” smiles Tanja Popović, packaging manager at Apatin Brewery.
When in 2014 the brewery decided to modernize a few of its machines – some of them almost 20 years old – it again went for sustainable systems from its long-term partner KHS. The mechanical engineering company first renewed two glass lines and in 2020 the customer then invested in the Innofill Can DVD can filler. “Our old machines could no longer meet our current demands regarding product quality, performance and sustainability,” Popović explains. “Together with our colleagues from KHS, we devised a sophisticated concept for modernizing our lines.”
Resource savings and improved economy
KHS started revamping the first glass line back in 2014. The brief was to reduce media and electricity consumption on the bottle washer. By installing ECO carriers the KHS engineers considerably optimized the resource efficiency and economy of the system. “The machine now not only uses a lot less water and caustic and fewer additives; it also consumes less energy,” states Bojan Culibrk, KHS’ local service manager.
Just four years later Apatin Brewery took the next step towards sustainable production by modernizing one of its glass fillers. The KHS specialists replaced the old vacuum pump with a new ECO variant that feeds process water back into the system after treatment. “On the one hand, we’ve cut media consumption, and on the other, the filler is now more economical and more efficient,” says Culibrk. The ECO vacuum pump proved so convincing that the Serbian bottler also procured this piece of equipment for its second glass filler.
Optimized product quality and less wear
The traditional brewery, founded in 1756, also commissioned KHS to install a new capper turret. This is a lot easier to clean than the previous model, Culibrk explains. “It lowers the risk of product contamination and as a result, hygiene is improved.” Furthermore, KHS was also able to optimize the cap quality on the glass bottles.
In addition to improved hygiene and product quality, the Serbian beverage producer also wanted to automate its plant technology. This has been achieved by using HMI panels integrated on the glass lines and new can filler. According to Popović, this makes the machine much easier for operators to use, as all sequences are automated and many of them have been digitalized. “The new programs for product changeover, sanitizing and filling speed up our processes. Using this state-of-the-art technology, we achieve a much higher level of production efficiency and avoid unplanned downtime thanks to improved safety and reliability in filling,” says Popović. The HMI system also detects wear parts in advance, meaning that replacements can be ordered in good time.
Sustainable and efficient beverage canning
In 2020, the brewery then ultimately invested in an Innofill Can DVD filler. “We had to boost our capacity in this segment in order to meet the growing demand for beverages in cans,” Popović declares. “With our new filler we can process up to 25,000 0.5-liter cans an hour. We’re also more efficient and sustainable.”
According to the company’s own statistics, the output runs to more than two million hectoliters per annum. On the Innofill Can DVD it fills all of its brands into containers holding 0.33 and 0.5 liters, among them Jelen, Jelen Chill, Jelen Cool, Apatinsko, Staropramen, Bavaria, Nikšićko and Nikšićko Tamno. The brewery chiefly supplies the regional market, namely Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Northern Macedonia and Slovenia. Popović is not ruling out expansion, however. “With its high capacity and efficiency, the new filler provides ideal conditions for this.”
Optimum hygienic filling conditions
Besides the high throughput, hygiene and product quality also played a key role when making the new investment. The Innofill Can DVD permits warm filling of beverages at around 20°C. This method becomes more significant particularly regarding the further processing stages as it practically eliminates the formation of condensation. This more or less rules out the risk of cartons, trays and cans in six packs growing soggy, forming mold or being contaminated by microbes.
The brewery is also convinced by the new CO2 purging process that has an equally positive impact on the product quality, as Culibrk comments. “Oxygen pickup impairs the quality of the beverage. In order to prevent this, in modern production containers are purged with CO2.” The KHS purging process is so efficient that less oxygen enters the containers compared to using conventional methods – despite lower amounts of carbon dioxide being used. Moreover, the volumetric filling principle also improves the filling accuracy.
Installation despite the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions
The can filler was installed during the Covid-19 pandemic and under the restrictions imposed by this. “Thanks to our local presence in Serbia and the Balkans, we were able to carry out all work quickly and efficiently. Travel restrictions and social distancing of course presented us with a challenge or two during the course of our day-to-day activities. However, together with the customer we managed to bring the project to a successful close within the given schedule,” Culibrk smiles. Popović also draws a positive conclusion. “The dedication and commitment shown by the KHS team have left a lasting impression on us. We were always able to rely on them and their expertise.” This is why KHS will continue to be first choice for Apatin Brewery when it comes to expanding production or procuring new technologies.