The Uflex stand at PackEx 2017 was a hub of activity with teams from food and beverage majors visiting to inspect the centerpiece of their exhibit – Asepto Smart 78, the first ever aseptic liquid filling machine made by an Indian OEM. Packaging South Asia met Ashwani Sharma, president and chief executive officer, new business initiatives, Uflex Limited, and his team at their stand at PackEx India 2017 for a discussion on how Asepto looks to create an impact on the Indian aseptic packaging space.
Sharma began with a brief preview of Asepto, saying, “We are the first Indian company to venture into aseptic packaging. Our plant for manufacturing aseptic liquid packaging material has been commissioned at Sanand, Gujarat. This plant re-affirms our commitment towards the government’s flagship scheme ‘Make in India.’ Being a fully integrated flexible packaging materials and solution company, Uflex will not only manufacture the aseptic liquid packaging material, but shall also offer the associated filling machines. Till date, none of the Indian companies have manufactured the aseptic filling line; so it is a milestone of sorts. Normally, it’s either European or Chinese machines that are found in India but this is the first time ever that an Indian company has actually manufactured such a machine about which we are justifiably upbeat. I think this particular achievement of ours will go a long way because the kind of response we have got so far is absolutely phenomenal.”
“We’re just half way into the event with another full day to go and all the top customers have already visited us,” said Sharma. Asepto Smart 78 is capable of packing 7,800 packs per hour as compared to other machines in the category that pack up to 7,500 packs. On the operational side, it is a highly automated and sophisticated filling machine and is far more advanced than most other programmable logic controller (PLC) based liquid packaging machines. Uflex has reduced electronic components, which improves the machine efficiency and offers a better design. All the functions are integrated in the PLC system and the human machine interface (HMI) panel is extremely operator friendly. Consequently, whatever issue is faced by the operator, can be seen through the PLC and any defects or issues in various parts of the unit can be rectified faster and more effectively.
PLC as an interface doesn’t require much intervention from the operator. This will also reduce the cost and chances of electronic failure as the machine is already integrated with features that normally prevent breakdowns foreseeable in other machines. As a result, the operational cost is lesser keeping the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) to an optimal low. Asepto Smart 78 is designed to process packs of sizes ranging from 100, 125, 160 and 200 ml. Gradually, Uflex will design machines to process packs in the higher weight category that will go up to one liter capacity.
Commenting on cylindrical-shaped aseptic packs, Sharma said, “If the market demands different shapes, we’ll go ahead with that. Shape is nothing but developing the right tooling and filling lines. The aseptic liquid packaging material will be complemented by our indigenous aseptic liquid filing lines—a fact that makes us truly unique. One of the most important and efficient components of our overall offering in the aseptic liquid packaging space will be our efficacious after-sales services.”
According to Sharma, the market size of aseptic packaging in India in this calendar year will be somewhere around 10 billion packs and there are in excess of 300 machines servicing this market in the country right now. The three major segments of the aseptic packaging market in India are juices, dairy products and alcohol. “We are very positive about all the three segments and on aggregate we see the market growing by 15% year-on-year. Our focus for now is India, which is our home turf. At an opportune time, we may look at the global market but right now we see enough space and opportunities to grow in the Indian aseptic packaging market.”