You don’t get to be the world’s leading coffee industry secondary packaging machine company without significant experience and a class-leading range of solutions. Cama adds these to its customer-centric approach to deliver just what a fast-moving market needs. To learn more about those topics enjoy the roundtable What’s brewing in the coffee industry
Cama Packaging machine in action for coffee industry.
The first beans and the origin of coffee
The origin of coffee as a beverage is hotly debated, with apocryphal stories emanating from both Ethiopia and Yemen. But no matter who picked and roasted the first beans, millions – if not billions – of people around the world rely on it as an eye-opener first thing in the morning, a mid-morning/afternoon pick-me-up, or as the perfect sign off to a pleasant evening meal. You could even go as far as saying that to many, coffee makes the world go around!
Sitting just behind water and tea in terms of global consumption, unroasted coffee beans are one of the world’s most traded agricultural commodities; and the market forces behind its harvesting, preparation, distribution and presentation are commensurately impressive.
The sheer variety of flavours, formats, serving options and packaging solutions give consumers an incredible amount of choice; but this cornucopia of variety places immense amounts of pressure on suppliers, roasters and grinders as they try to keep pace with consumer demand for convenience and new innovations.
Innovation in new lines: research and development in coffee industry
“The global coffee industry is incredibly competitive, while also facing competition from other beverage sectors,” explains Marco Padelli, son of Gimoka founder Ivan Padelli. “To stay competitive, you need to be efficient across all stages of the value chain. You also need to innovate, not only to improve existing lines, but also introducing new ones. It is for this reason that we undertake significant investment in research and development, not just in products, but also machines, people, materials and, of course, process & machinery improvements. Currently, the market is moving more and more towards single-serve concepts, such as pods and capsules,” Padelli continues, “but we can’t stand still… it could all change again in a very short time and we would need to adapt. Indeed, the changes we face are huge”
“10 years ago, there were no capsules, now capsules represent one of the market’s largest segments. They used to be just simple plastic, but now we are seeing capsules made from aluminium or compostable materials, with oxygen barriers – a sign of greater quality – and we have had to adapt our processes and machines to match these market demands.”
Every day new ideas: flexibility and agility in secondary packaging for packaging changes
As you can imagine, companies such as Gimoka have come to rely heavily on machinery OEMs – tasking them with the delivery of this all-important market-driven agility, especially in terms of secondary packaging capabilities and feature sets.
As a global market leader in the secondary packaging of coffee products, Cama is at the forefront of new technology and innovations and, as a result, is helping to define the direction the industry is taking in terms of packaging concepts and technology.
According to Alessandro Rocca, Sales Engineering Director at Cama: “The coffee capsules market is very interesting – I would even go as far as saying intriguing – for us as a secondary packaging specialist. There are so many possibilities in terms of arrays, mixes, formats and materials, and this is further compounded by new ideas being introduced every day. As an OEM in this sector, you have to deliver astounding levels of flexibility and the agility to modify parameters as quickly and simply as possible.”
This fact is reinforced by Padelli, explaining: “We require machine suppliers who can keep pace with us. And this is not just in terms of throughput. We need suppliers who can keep pace with product and packaging changes. Fill technology has evolved, as has secondary packaging, where there is a real drive to make boxes smaller to help with logistics and palletisation. Secondary packaging is end of line, so this pacing is vital. We cannot afford to have machines that slow the downstream processes causing bottle necks. We like speed, we like efficiency! “We must also consider the customer angle,” he adds.
“We compete with bigger brands by offering better services to our customer in terms of cost, quality and technology. And to maintain this reputation, we must have suppliers that empathise with our needs and aims.”
Top loaders and side loaders: two tecnologies for secondary packaging in the world of coffee
Having an extensive technological portfolio is an essential facet of any machinery company wishing to address their customers’ contemporary market needs. End users need machines that are matched to their precise needs and performance levels, as opposed to inappropriate ill-fitting technology that has been modified in an attempt to address these requirements.
“Thanks to our long organic growth, in-house innovation and permanent and historic presence in multiple markets,” Rocca elaborates, “we have developed a core range of machine styles and packaging technologies that address the vast majority of secondary packaging needs. The coffee industry is one example where one size certainly does not fit all. Different products and different performance requirements can be better addressed by different technologies. “Our core coffee industry range is divided into two primary technologies, top loaders and side loaders,” he adds.
Flexibility with the top loading approach: what customer wants
“Each of these approaches offers different levels of configurability, flexibility and performance, all three of which are defined by the application, the product, the packaging style and the throughput.
Top loading is more the flexible of the two approaches,” Rocca explains, “suiting medium-to high-speed lines. And with our configuration flexibility, we can offer several different packaging styles in addition to the nested approach so commonly used. One example would be a new approach one customer wants that has capsules arranged in a flower-type format, with four capsules face downwards and two face up. It’s complex to realise but we have the technology that allowed us to achieve it”.
Higher speeds with the side loading for quick market
“Side loading on the other hand is more suited to higher speeds,” Rocca elaborates, “but it is less tolerant of changes in carton sizes and shapes. Although there is less flexibility, sometimes this is not an issue for standard packaging formats, where high speed is the order of the day. Indeed, in one of our latest applications, we are packaging 1,500 capsules per minute across two lanes. “The market is very quick change and react,” he continues.
“Our customers are constantly coming up with new configurations, but they want to keep existing ones too, as a result, packaging processes and machine demands become more and more complex, which in turn demands maximum experience. Only a few companies in the world can do this; and we like to think that we know all the tricks. Anyone can build a machine, but can they combine speed, flexibility, throughput and delicate capsule handling? We have seen customers in the past opt for a lower-cost alternative, only to come back to us later, as their efficiency suffered, and capsule damage was too high”.
Coffee packaging experience and flexibility
This need for knowledge and flexibility is highlighted by Andy Fawkes, Managing Director at Masteroast in the UK: “We’ve always held a unique position in the market, being known for our ability to offer flexibility, short-run capabilities and high levels of quality. When we moved into the capsule market, we knew we had to exploit automation for capacity and cost reasons – but we did not want to give up the flexibility for which we are famous. Cama offered us significant coffee packaging experience, we knew it was already well established in this market and its capabilities to deal with short runs and different packaging formats ticked all of our requirements.”
“We also have to look at agility within each of the core technologies,” Rocca adds, “as some of the smaller companies – which are growing faster than the big guys – are asking for far more packaging differentiation in order to compete. They want new shelf styles, wider product count variety, more space and multi-flavour packaging, in order to pry customers away from the more established global brands. Ultimately, everyone wants a machine that is able to efficiently run 10 different packaging formats, and this is especially what is driving the co-packing market today.”
Multiple changeover with Industry 4.0 technology with integrated communication
It is this machine efficiency that underpins another core metric of any successful machine implementation; and it is not just in operational terms. “With broad packaging variety comes the need to undertake multiple changeovers, often several times per shift,” Rocca explains. “So, the onus is on us to make these changeovers as quick and painless as possible. We have always considered changeover as a core operational parameter of our machines, but it is the advent of Industry 4.0 technology and integrated communication solutions that has enabled us to take this to a whole new level. Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, QR coding and RF tagging are helping us to help our customers and to make not only changeover, but also maintenance and operation as simple and as straightforward as possible. The recent Covid-19 pandemic has also pushed this means of distanced operation right to the top of the need list too”.
“We are boxing these capabilities up into what we call 4.0 Packages,” he adds. “These can comprise a combination of technologies, which can be tailored and adapted to the needs of the customer and application and can cover anything from day-to-day operation, through consumable consumption and on to energy efficiency. We are also heavily involved in the development of auto changeover solutions with the absolute minimum need for human interaction. The idea being that the machine will prep itself for changeover using servo technology and the operators will only be involved where changes cannot be done automatically”.
The packaging design team to create quick packaging concepts
“Compared to the market average, we are offer quicker changeovers than most, but the market is demanding even more. Today we have managed to cut changeover in half – from 30 minutes to just 15. In coffee production, where production speed and output are so high, saving even 15 minutes per changeover is vital. If there are 10 production changes per day per day, which is not uncommon, this equates to 2.5 hours of additional up time! Payback for the additional technology is less than one month!”
Complementing the technology is a whole array of pre- and post-sales support services, including a packaging design team. “Cama really helped us,” Fawkes explains. “We knew the format we wanted, but at the time it did not exist. The packaging design team at Cama helped us with technical advice, even relating to the best types of cardboard, how it was folded and how it was manufactured. The Cama team also talked to our supply chain, helping us to bring it all together.” Cama also has a large format plotter/printer/cutter which can create packaging concepts incredibly quickly giving customers and engineers a real hands-on appreciation of their new concepts.
The training academy with efficiency and flexibility: all what a producer needs
A dedicated training academy is available to help customers with additional customisation training on machine and to train operators and maintenance personnel. Virtual consultancy is also in high demand, where the company delivers remote service support, using smart glasses and AR technology which can deliver scaled replicas of the customer’s machine onto a boardroom table. Then users can fly through models and simulate production runs from the comfort of their own chair.
“With anything new,” Fawkes tells us, “there’s always the fear that you don’t get what you ask for, but out of all of the various companies we approached, Cama actually got behind our needs – flexibility and reliability – which was so essential to us. Other companies wanted to talk technology, engineering and price, but in actual fact, our principal need was for someone to understand the flexibility we needed in production. Cama were the ones that listened properly and came back with a solution… not just a quote! One of the reasons we went with Cama was its experience and market knowhow. Cama ended up holding our hand throughout the entire process – from design through roll out and on to implementation. This was a huge comfort factor. Its engineers came onsite and worked with our guys to make sure the installation and commissioning went without a hitch. The training support was also very strong. Within four to five weeks we were very comfortable with the machines, and although we like talking to the Cama guys… we haven’t really had to, which is an ideal scenario.”
“If you ask me why we chose Cama,” Padelli concludes, “you only have to look at our packaging lines, where you will see the machines running without any stops for an entire shift. It is then that you appreciate what it is you have installed. Peace of mind coupled to efficiency and flexibility are the most important things a producer needs and that a machine builder can offer. Coming from another supplier, it was plain to see the differences in the way the two companies work, Cama understands what we need and more importantly why we need it.!”