Milchhof Sterzing, which is also known by its Italian name of Latteria Vipiteno, is one of the largest dairy cooperatives in Italy (annual turnover of €54m with 500 members) processing around 130,000 litres (20% for fresh milk and the remainder for other products) of fresh milk per day and producing a range of fresh milk (UHT and pasteurised), cream, butter and yoghurt (fourth largest yoghurt producer in Italy).

The main production facility for yoghurt is in the Italian Alps just south of Tyrolia (a large dairy area) and this underwent the installation of a new aseptic filling and cup feeding system that has increased production by around 80% (130 employees) in late 2007. Canada is one of the largest international markets for the company’s Sterzinger brand yoghurt and cream (this includes the eight varieties of organic yoghurt products).

“[The main production facility] underwent the installation of a new aseptic filling and cup feeding system that has increased production by around 80%.”

New filling

The company has such successful yoghurt production that suddenly bottlenecks in production were beginning to affect distribution. Sales from international and domestic markets demanded more yoghurt production, which required faster filling and packaging.

Faced by this problem Milchhof decided to implement a new filling system. The solution was the installation of a new Mastercup GHM 162 system from Oystar Gasti. This system can aseptically fill yoghurt containers in weights from 80 (airline size), 125 (main retail size) to 500g (family size) with one of 100 different Sterzinger products and 40 other retail products by the application of new moving seal technology.

To complement this system and give the highest possible filling speeds a SetLine cup feeding/tray packing system was also installed by Oystar A+F (the Italian subsidiary of A+F Automation USA). There were also other systems installed to give more production efficiency. There is a total of six filling lines in the facility and the majority of end of line equipment was manufactured by A+F (tray/case erector, palletiser, and conveying equipment) this helped line integration.

Technology

The Mastercup GHM 162 is a 16-pump aseptic cup filling/sealing model, which is known for its reliability and its easy cleaning. The system is easy to changeover from one cup size to another and retooling for different product lines and maintenance is minimal. Specific technology advances include chain encapsulation, separate servo drives for each individual machine action, package sterilisation and flexible product friendly, maintenance-free aseptic filling units with no moving seals; the system is also equipped with a patented integral cup-leakage monitor.

The filling system is configured to fill some 43,000 125g PET yoghurt cups or alternatively 35,000 500g family size containers and can dispense a range of products including yoghurt, puddings, cream desserts and cream. The filling is concluded and then the pots are sealed with foil lids.

End of line

“The filling system is configured to fill some 43,000 125g PET yoghurt cups or alternatively 35,000 500g family size containers.”

The small footprint PLC mediated SetLine cup feeder gives the system large advantages in compiling primary packages and uniting them into the secondary multi-packs for retail sale. The SetLine system has special-purpose grippers that function with the majority of primary container configurations and allows the feeder to compile cup sets using a pick and place procedure of 2, 4, 6 or 8 and stack them into various multi-pack shapes or trays (6-unit trays for 500g cups, 3×8 sets for 125g cups or 20 unit trays for 80g cups, as well as 10 and 20-unit trays) before inserting them into erected printed cardboard sleeves.

This can also be integrated with a flexible format tray making machine and palletising equipment. Milchhof Sterzing has also expanded and improved its warehousing with a new automated facility with seven load ramps allowing a faster and more efficient operation.