Ultra-versatile beverage factory – an Australian healthy water

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What’s virgin territory for Healthy Water is canning. For this purpose, the company installed a Krones line rated at 20,000 cans an hour.

In mid-2017, Healthy Water’s new production facility started operation. Krones was responsible for large portions of the plant engineering involved, supplied new lines, and integrated new machines into existing ones. It is not least production under license of fruit drinks from the Austrian Rauch company that constitutes a significant guarantor of Healthy Water’s future-viability.

The small hamlet of Nabeghlavi in the west-Georgian region of Guria has no village centre you could recognise as such. The few houses and farmsteads are scattered over the hills, the village sign is the only indicator denoting that a settlement is actually located here. A wild stream has cut a small valley into the landscape, a valley so narrow that the architect who planned the new building for Healthy Water’s beverage factory had to opt for a multi-storey design. Surrounded by scenic beauty, the aluminium-encased block towers skywards. The kit is installed on two floors so as to utilise the entire height of the building, with the ground floor accommodating the warehouse, and the first floor the filling lines and utilities. The office buildings each comprise four storeys, with the building complex rounded off by a section featuring 14 guest rooms, both for visitors and the company’s own staff.

Healthy Water today produces more than 40 different beverages of various brands, primarily mineral and spring
water as before.

The company’s history started back in the early 1990s, when a Swiss privately invested 40,000 US-dollars. To tell the truth, he had only travelled to Georgia because he was interested in the local folk music. But the glaring poverty of the people living in this region made him want to help them on a sustainable basis. An opportunity to do so came up when in 1997, together with two Georgian families he had befriended, he was able to purchase the Nabeghlavi mineral water spring and plant, unused at that time. The water from this spring, discovered back in 1905, was most recently bottled during the Soviet era, from 1958 to 1990, and a majority of it was exported to Kazakhstan. It was not very popular among the locals, though, which is why the plant was closed down in 1990.

In terms of process technology, Krones planned and installed a complete syrup kitchen.

Breakthrough with the first Krones line

In 1997, the Swiss-Georgian group of investors revived the bottling operations, this time calling them JSC Healthy Water. In its first year, the firm filled 600 bottles by hand. But after that, things really took off: a mere three short years later, production output had risen to one million fills.

The actual breakthrough then came when the first glass line from Krones was installed in 2003. Another two years later, sales had already reached 15 million fills. The market share of Healthy Water in Georgia veritably soared, from its former six to over 50 per cent, with the Nabeghlavi brand evolving into the market leader.

In the following years, the company also channelled some capital into other sectors, but the Healthy Water mineral water operation remained the holding’s keystone. After consolidating its domestic sales, from 2010 on the mineral water division’s export grew strongly, and meanwhile supplies 28 different countries. The logistical conditions for this are not bad at all because, even though the plant is located right in the very heart of nature, in the foothills of the Caucasian mountains, it is only an hour’s drive away from the port of Poti on the Black Sea.

The Krones glass line from 2003 rated at 10,000 bottles an hour was merely supplemented by a new Pressant
Universal 1N palletiser.

A quantum leap in terms of engineering

So as to meet the rising levels of demand, the company decided to completely refurbish its existing plant and to build a new factory right next to it. This latter was inaugurated in June 2017. Erection of the lines went well-nigh without a hitch: installation work began in late 2016, by next April production had already started, and in September of that same year 2017 all the filling lines were up and running. Nearly all of the firm’s 150 staff come from the surrounding region, and are taken to the plant each day with the company’s own buses.

Plant Manager Vakhtang Megrelishvili is also from a small village in the vicinity, and has worked for Healthy Water since 2004 – i.e. almost since the first Krones line started operation. For him, the new factory is a dream and simultaneously an exciting project: “We used to work in three different buildings; planning and organisation used to be a lot more laborious. Both for organising work flows and for the technical options available, the new factory constitutes a quantum leap forward.”

In the soft-drink PET line, the Contiroll wrap-around labeller is interlinked with a Sleevematic labeller.

His colleague also shares his enthusiasm: “Thanks to the long years of cooperation with Krones, and the good experience and relationship that have evolved from this, it was quite obvious that we would again choose Krones as our partner in a project as large and extensive as this one,” says Irina Gaprindashvili, Head of Operations. “It was certainly not a mistake.”

With commissioning of the new plant, the number of SKUs (stock-keeping units) rose from twelve to way over 100. This is primarily attributable to the cooperative alliance the firm has entered into with the Austrian fruit-juice producer Rauch, coinciding with an expansion of its own portfolio: whereas the old plant was used to fill only water until 2017, Healthy Water today produces more than 40 different beverages of various brands. The portfolio includes:

  • Nabeghlavi: natural, carbonated mineral water and flavoured water, filled in green glass bottles, PET containers and cans
  • Bakhmaro: still spring water, since 2002 filled in blue glass bottles and PET containers
  • Buga: an energy drink in cans
  • Geo Natura (until the spring of 2018 known under the Shakara brand): flavoured carbonated soft drinks, filled in PET containers and glass bottles, plus non-alcoholic Mojito in cans
  • Licensed filling of products from Rauch: fruit juices, ice teas, flavoured carbonated soft drinks, plus other soft drinks, in PET containers, cartons and cans.
SynchroBloc comprising a KSB 6R blow-moulder and a Barifill filler.

Strategic location

“Our cooperative alliance with Rauch, one of Europe’s leading producers of fruit juices and other soft drinks, will make a significant contribution towards growing exports, and towards exerting a beneficial influence on our country’s economic development as well,” is Irina Gaprindashvili’s firm conviction. “Our aim is to supply these products, and our own, to the entire region comprising our neighbouring countries, and to the Near East.” This makes the new plant a strategic location as a regional producer for Rauch’s beverage portfolio and for the Nabeghlavi articles.

The second important aspect for Healthy Water was to be also able to fill dealer’s brands in the future. “Producing private labels in cans is a particularly attractive option. Some inquiries in this regard have already reached us from neighbouring countries,” explains Irina Gaprindashvili. The multiple options for filling available at Healthy Water and its closeness to the port can be expected to translate this concept into marketing reality quite soon. “The medium-term goal is to increase the number of fills from its present 76 million to 200 million by 2023,” she says. “And even that would not be the end of the story for us. We could erect the warehouse a bit further upstream, at the place where the old factory used to be, and accommodate further filling lines on the ground floor of the new plant.” These plans augur extremely well for a highly promising future at Healthy Water.

“Thanks to the long years of cooperation with Krones, and the good experience and relationship that have evolved from this, it was quite obvious that we would again choose Krones as our partner in a project as large and extensive as this one,” says Irina Gaprindashvili, Head of Operations, with Plant Manager Vakhtang Megrelishvili.

Capacity of 300 million fills
The plant has been generously dimensioned for an annual capacity of up to 300 million
fills. For this, Krones prepared the layout for and installed the following process-
engineering kit:

  A complete syrup kitchen with sugar preparation and CIP system
  Two Hydronomic water treatment systems: one Hydronomic MF (Micro
Filtration) (installed since 2010 in the old facility) for mineral water, and a new
Hydronomic UF (Ultra Filtration) for spring water

Six lines are available for filling:

1. The existing Krones glass line from 2003 was supplemented by a new Pressant
Universal 1N palletiser.
2. The Krones PET line from 2007, likewise originally installed in the old plant,
was equipped with new machines as from the labeller.
3. A new PET line for soft drinks is composed of machines from Kosme and
Krones:

Kosme
–  SynchroBloc comprising a KSB 6R blow-moulder and a Barifill filler’

Krones
– Contiroll wrap-around labeller interlinked with a Sleevematic labeller
– Pressant Universal 1N palletiser
– Contiflow mixer

4. What’s virgin territory for Healthy Water is canning. For this purpose, the
company installed a Krones line rated at 20,000 cans an hour, including:

– Volumetic filler
– LinaFlex pasteuriser
– Pressant Universal 1N palletiser
– Contiflow mixer

5. and 6. Last but not least: two aseptic cartoning lines, for which Krones prepared
a layout for their integration in the supply system

Four Krones lines in total
Container type Speed (containers per hour)
Glass bottles 10,000
PET containers 14,000
PET containers 8,000
Cans 20,000

It is not least production under license of fruit drinks from the Austrian Rauch company that constitutes a significant guarantor of Healthy Water’s future-viability.