Filling and Packaging Industry Blog

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Talent management functions like the kidney that hires the good personnel and fires the bad ones.

Talent management and talent management functions: like the kidney that hires the good personnel and fires the bad ones.

The two kidneys are the vital organs in the body amongst other functions cleanse the blood of toxins and keep it chemically balanced. The kidneys are sophisticated reprocessing machines and process the blood to filter out the wastes and extra water. Similarly a good talent management system will hire the good personnel, retain them and remove the bad ones.

Good management is not just about recruiting the right people to do the right jobs. This is particularly important during challenging times when staff budgets are cut to the bone. A strong management team must also have the discipline and insight to identify the dead wood in the company, and to be able to take firm action to remove them. These executives are those who have being entrenched in the system because of their job security and seniority are just cruising along and marking time. They do not have active and productive contributions as well as add value to the company. Most managers acknowledge that the most difficult task is firing of employees, particularly somebody that they have worked with closely for several years.

Usually, the people that you did not fire are the ones that make your life miserable.
In many organisations, the decision-making power resides at the top. Empire-building by yes-men becomes the main preoccupation of the day. In the corporate intrigue of power struggle for status and position, the good personnel who may have differing views are stifled.

In talent management, the CEO has to look beyond himself and his abilities. He is smart if he hires the right people who may be better than he in those competencies to execute tasks that he himself is unable to do. He is then able to extend "his arms and legs" within the organisation to get things done in more efficient manner. This philosophy is shared by Jack Welch as he felt that smart people hire smart people.

He said: "Every time you hire someone that is not better than you, you have missed an opportunity, because if you got all the answers, who the hell needs anybody else." GE's core competence is the development of people and Welch's greatest legacy was to transform GE as the training ground of the world's top business honchos. For example, the other two candidates, namely Robert Nardelli and James McNerney who did not get Welch's job left GE to become CEO of The Home Depot and 3M respectively. Hiring the right person takes good skill in recruitment. Sometimes, even with good evaluation and hiring efforts, the employers do make the wrong hire. In such situation, you need to try to redeem the situation or live with it or fire the employee and start the recruitment process all over again.

However, in the situation of lean staff budget, you do not have the luxury of carrying "dead wood". It maybe necessary to fire the wrong recruit. Jack Welch saw nothing wrong in delayering and downsizing incompetent people. To him, downsizing and delayering were absolutely necessary, and not firing workers who were a part of a losing business would have been more heartless than letting them go past the age of 50. Welch the self-actualizer is also Welch the pragmatist and he sees these decisions as necessary threads in the fabric of business. . "That is business," added the GE Chairman. He also explained it this way: "I think the cruelest thing you can do to somebody is give them the head fake....nice appraisals....that's called false kindness. A removal should never be a surprise."

On the other hand too, retaining the people that you want to keep has become a key issue for organisations. When the key and talented people leave, there is a loss of experience and knowledge as well as continuity. Yet, companies would rather spend the valuable resources to recruit new talent from competitors than retaining the talent that they already have.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The 10 Key Steps in Developing an Enterprise-Wide ComplianceTraining Strategy

The 10 Key Steps in Developing an Enterprise-Wide
ComplianceTraining Strategy

by SumTotal Systems

Companies spend millions each year conducting mandatory training. Whether triggered by an audit, the risk of non-compliance, bad PR, or internal training requirements, achieving compliance can be difficult and costly. Enforcing compliance often meets with resistance.

Many organizations waste millions of dollars keeping up with training requirements and reporting training data. Even with all of the effort, manual processes typically have gaps and increase an organization's risk of non-compliance.

Furthermore, organizations often uncover redundant processes that manage separate compliance needs. These could be leveraged with better planning.

So how can your organization reduce the costs and compliance risks of mandatory training?
Here are 10 steps for developing an enterprise-wide compliance training strategy.

Read Complete Article

This entry is a guest blog entry posted by SumTotal Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: SUMT). They are one of the largest providers of talent, learning and business performance technologies and services. SumTotal deploys mission-critical solutions that align learning, talent and knowledge with organizational processes and business goals to generate significant bottom-line results.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Packsys Global Packaging Systems announces opening of Representation in North America

Packsys Global Packaging Systems is opening North America Representation.

PackSys Global is pleased to announce the opening of it´s new representation office in North America. The new packaging company representation is set up to serve PackSys growing activities and cutomer needs in the United States and Canadian packaging industry market.

PackSys Global is a world wide operating packaging machinery manufacturer They provide equipment for manufacturing aluminium, laminate and plastic tubes, aerosal cans as well as metal and plastic caps and closures.

Their in depth understanding of the specific market and customer demands and their commitment to state-of-the-art technology enables their customers to produce better quality at reduced cost. The company is customer orientated, innovative and has a passion for precision and perfection, a spokesman of the packaging machinery supplier said.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Amcor PET Packaging -- Custom PET-Bottle Expansion in North America

Amcor PET-Packaging -- Custom PET bottle expansion in North America

The Australian packaging giant Amcor has announced, that it´s PET packaging operation in North America is constructing a new custom PET blowmoulding plant, dedicated to the supply of PepsiCo heat set containers, primarily for the Gatorade beverage product range.

The new blowmoulding plant will be located in Wytheville, Virginia and will be adjacent to a recently constructied PepsiCo facility. Amcor´s new PET blowmoulding factory is scheduled to be ready for production and operative by March 2007. The initial annual capacity of the plant is said to excess one billion PET bottle units. The overall project cost is about 80 million US Dollar.

Amcor´s managing director and CEO, Mr. Ken MacKenzie said that this project woutld be a strong fit with Amcor´s strategy of investing in the custom PET bottle and PET container sector. He mentioned that Amcor PET Packaging brings excellent PET blow moulding and production technology to the fast grwoing hot filled beverage segment.

This is a large world class scale plant that is going to be co-located side by side with the bottling and filling plant of one of our key customers, the PepsiCo corporation, who is the leader in the hotfill market segment of energy and power drinks. The plant´s profitability is backed by a long term agreement that reflects the value this new operation provides to both Amcor and it´s key client Pepsi.

It may be acceptable to raise the question if in the long run the Hotfill PET Bottle production will stand up with market needs of bottlers, as presently the worldwide trend goes more to cold aseptic filling ( ACF ) technology with it´s advantages to beverage quality, energy consumption as well as the far less expensive cold fill PET bottles in comparison to the comparably expensive hotfill PET bottles Amcor is intending to procuce in it´s new plant.

Any thoughts and comments on the subject are wellcome.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Tetra Pack Beverage Packaging plans a 100 Million Euro Investment in Russia

Tetra Pack Beverage Packaging plans a
100 Million Euro Investment in Russia

Sweden´s Tetra Pak plans an investment of roughly 100 Million Euros for the constructin of a packaging material plant for it´s tetra pack packages in Russia. The plant is to be installed in Lobnya near Moscow this year, according to Natalya Sorokina, a spokeswoman of Tetra Pak Russia.

With its annual production capacity of 4 billion packaging units, the plant will be the largest in Russia and in countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, she said.
Tetra Pak was established in Sweden in 1952. Tetra Pak's Russian and Belarusian subsidiary ZAO Tetra Pak was opened in 1994. The subsidiary is headquartered in Moscow and has offices in Minsk, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg.

In 2004 ZAO Tetra Pak sold over 4.5 billion packaging units.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

New Monitoring System for PET CSD Bottle Production

New Monitoring System for PET Bottle Poduction

There is a new monitring system for PET bottles blown for carbonated softdrinks (CSD) available on the market. ALPS (Air Logic Power Systems, LLC), the leading North American manufacturer of leak testing equipment for plastic container producers, is pleased to announce a new product introduction that will be on display at NPE Booth #8508.

The ALPS LeakMonitor is a valuable production monitoring tool designed for integration within two-step PET container blow molders. Proven applications include installations on Sidel, Krones and SIG blow molding machines.

The LeakMonitor uses a specially tuned ultrasonic sensor and acoustic waveguide to detect blow molder leakage during the molding process. The system is set up to track the position of each mold and eject corresponding bottles using the molder's internal reject mechanism.

The device doubles as an inspection system and predictive maintenance tool. Potentially leaking bottles are rejected, and personnel are alerted when mold-specific leakage is occurring during the blow molding process that may result in out-of-specification bottles.

The system has proven especially useful to monitor Carbonated Soft Drink (CSD) production with increased usage of Post Consumer Resin (PCR).

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Is Six Sigma Quality Worth The Price to Your Business?

Is Six Sigma Quality Worth the Price to Your Business?
by Tony Jacowski

The last few years have done wonders for demonstrating the power and potential offered by Six Sigma Quality, Motorola's now famous revolutionary business design strategy.

It is clear that it has become quite popular among many businesses who have undertaken the massive re-training and re-thinking of their policies and procedures in order to implement the whole new Six Sigma Quality way of functioning. What may be unclear to you is whether or not this sacrifice is worth it to your business. After all, it does take a great deal of time, effort, and often money in order to properly take on this new way of doing business.

The main issue that seems to be debated among businesspeople considering the implementation of Six Sigma Quality isn't whether or not it will work for them, but is rather whether it is a true long-term strategy or simply a fad that will soon be forgotten by those who did not use it, and loathed by those who made the change.

To assuage those fears, it is important to recognize that Six Sigma Quality is not like other business processes and strategies. In fact, when you really get down to it, it isn't truly anything new. What it is, is a capable, practical, and logical combination of many existing business and quality techniques that have withstood the test of time and shown themselves to be the leading methods for success. When properly combined, they become a new way of thinking, using existing individual elements whose structure and discipline have proven to obtain extremely desirable results.

Naturally, this is not to say that employing Six Sigma Quality will guarantee success for any business, however, when properly implemented with black belt training Six Sigma Quality has an exemplary track record for effective project resolutions in large and small companies alike.

If you are considering Six Sigma Quality for your business, you need to understand that it is not an easy or overnight implementation. It can be quite lengthy, but is considered by most to be well worth the effort once everything is in place and its potential starts to show its face. You'll add value to your existing initiatives with the knowledge that all of the necessary steps are in place for your business to reach its financial targets.

In the end, it is your decision to make. Six Sigma Quality is, after all, an extremely large step for a company to take, and only you know how, when, if, and in what way your business may adopt it. Your first step is to read as much as you can about Six Sigma - including information both for and against it - and to speak to a professional you trust to give you an honest opinion.

Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Achieving Cash Flow Management Through Accounts Receivable Factoring

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Achieving Cash Flow Management Through Accounts Receivable Factoring
by Henry Byers

Accounts receivable factoring is another mode of receivables management and working capital funding to eventually increase the cash flow. Accounts receivable factoring involves buying and selling of accounts receivables in order to obtain immediate cash or working capital.

Accounts receivable factoring helps in acquiring cash for the product or the services rendered. It results in immediate cash inflow without creating any debt or transferring the business ownership. Accounts receivables are the most values assets for any company. It is one of the mode for increasing sales and expanding business. The payment is done of the 80% of the invoice value. The 20% of the value is kept as reserved and is paid after deducting the fee once the amount on the invoice is due.

This practice if accounts receivable factoring is most suitable for small and medium business owners. Due to accounts receivable factoring small and medium business owners are able to generate cash and avoid the debt trap. It also helps in representing string financial status and avoids interest on any loans if otherwise taken.

Accounts receivable factoring also results in increased working capital as receivables are conditional on customer's creditworthiness and not the business owners. It helps to avoid loan repayment, transferring business equity, engaging the assets, and also avoid yearly loan review process.

For a small business owner accounts receivable factoring represents gaining working capital without overtaking any debt or loan. It is also a mode to increase sales without any repayment tensions for any loans etc. Thus business is able to meet demands and the circle keeps on auto-rotating as accounts receivable factoring increases sales and increased sales asks for more money to complete more orders.

Accounts receivable factoring also provides relief from non-paying clients or slow paying clients. It generates more sales due to increased orders. It also offers flexible funding program to help heighten the sales graph and take vendor discounts due to availability of cash.

This practice of accounts receivable factoring generates cash to fund the payrolls and taxes due. The funds thus generated also help to increase the inventory or buy new equipments, tools, etc to flourish the business.

The availability of cash helps small business owners to negotiate for discounts from their vendors and suppliers. It also helps to reduce book keeping, depositing checks, monitoring collection process, and preparing reports for collections. Brokers or agencies also provide their services for accounts receivable factoring. They help the business owners to manage their collections, payments, generating more cash and managing their cash inflow process.

Henry Byers, Business Factoring advisor - focusing on Factoring Services and Accounts Receivable Factoring

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Defining Supply Chain Management

Defining Supply Chain Management
by James Hunt

Companies that deal with inventory will have to have some sort of system in place to effectively manage the supply chain that exists for any type of sales. A system of inventory needs to be as smooth running as possible so that a company is able to fulfill all its orders in a timely manner. If there is a shortage of inventory, sales fulfillment will fall behind and the company is in danger of losing both its reputation and credibility. More and more companies are using some type of supply chain management to keep track of what inventory they have, what is allotted for current sales invoices, what product has been ordered from the supplier, and what inventory is already on route from the supplier. Once this supply chain is running smoothly and efficiently there is little chance of lost sales or dissatisfied customers due to a problem with supply and demand.

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Many companies have some employees that are trained in supply chain management to ensure that someone with a working knowledge of the supply and demand process is in charge. This type of management ensures that someone is capable of making those decisions in an informed and proactive manner. Many times the person in charge of the supply and demand chain will also be responsible for the rest of the employees working in the inventory, shipping, and production area of the company. When someone with the training that is provided by supply chain management is in charge the inventory and production side of a company runs with efficiency and order. The entire company is counting on this efficiency to ensure profits, repeated sales, and future growth.

Supply chain management is becoming more and more popular among many companies as they realize the importance of controlling and managing the product that enters and leaves the company. The more attention that is paid to supply and demand the more success a company will achieve.

James Hunt has spent 15 years as a professional writer and researcher covering stories that cover a whole spectrum of interest. Read more at

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sales Activity Report for Management

Sales Activity Report for Management
by Adam Smith

Managing one's sales division can be a daunting task. This task can be even more daunting when you are expected to manage a large number of sales representatives. Since their success is your number one responsibility, it is important that you understand the conditions they are working under, the issues they face, and how to interpret the sales reports they produce. There are many different tools to assist you in trying to understand your employee's sales activity reports, but perhaps the best tools are sales dashboards.

As you well know a sales report covers an array of important quantifiable aspects that drive the company. For instance, with the help of a sales report you can immediately identify your most profitable sales representative. A sales activity report can also help you understand how the sales representative is performing in select areas.

Presumably the packages or services your company sells will vary in complexity and price. Some sales representatives may be better suited to selling the inexpensive packages while other sales reps make the most of their time by pushing large expensive packages, requiring a sales rep with lots of patience and a great understanding of how to finesse a client. As a manager, you want to make sure your employees are reaching their full sales potential so it is your responsibility to make sure they are in a position to succeed.

Understandably, trying to sift through a pile of individual sales reports to determine who is best suited to sell the companies top dollar items can be difficult. You need a better method which allows you to compare each sales activity report so that you can see how your employees compare to each other. This is where utilizing sales dashboards can provide you with the edge you need to get your job done well.

Sales dashboards allow you the ability to directly compare the sales production levels of individual sales representatives, which can be sorted by sales volume, sales revenue, product type and so forth. Using the unique features that the sales dashboard interface offers, identifying your high dollar sales representatives becomes a breeze.

Once you have relied on the sales dashboards to compare and contrast the sales report of each of your employees, you can organize your sales department in the most optimal manner. Sales reps that are good at closing deals fast can dedicate themselves to the low value packages, while other sales reps that are masters at closing the high value deal can dedicate themselves to pushing your company's most expensive products.

Thus by making the most of the tools available to you, such as sales dashboards, you can take some of the pressure off your own shoulders. Understanding and interpreting a sales report or a sales activity report can be simplified by employing powerful sales dashboards.

Adam Smith is an informational author for 10X Marketing. To learn more about digital dashboards please visit

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Your Leadership Style - How to Succeed as a Leader

Your Leadership Style - How to Succeed as a Leader
by Eric Garner

If you want to succeed as a leader, you need to be comfortable with moving around the spectrum of leadership styles. Sticking with just one style means that you become predictable and hence, as a leader, dispensable. It also means that your style of leading may not fit the needs of the team or task. So, learn what the 4 leadership styles are and develop yourself to become skilled in each of them.

1. The Directive Style. The directive leadership style is the style most people equate with "strong" leadership. When people say they want more leadership, they usually mean they want more direction. In military terms, this is leading from the front or by example. Although the directive, -- or command-and-tell -- style, is out of favour today, it is still the style you must use in new, unfamiliar, or critical situations when the team face a threat.

So, if the directive style is not your natural style, how do you become more effective at it?
Here are 7 quick clues:

1. put more effort into planning so that you look ready

2. look the part: dress confidently; make every move count; avoid hesitation

3. rehearse your performance so that you look authoritative in front of others

4. master assertive language: talk clearly and a little louder than normal

5. keep your communication short and to the point; cut out the use of descriptive adjectives.

6. get active; look busy; be a good time manager

7. be decisive; make up your mind and go with it.

One other useful pointer: it is easier to start with a hard impression and soften it later than to start with a soft impression and harden it later.

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2. The Consultative Style. If the directive style puts task before team, the consultative style puts team before task. This is the style you'll use when you need to talk to the team, hear what they have to say, understand them, and take them with you. If the directive style calls for a typically masculine approach, the consultative style calls for a typically feminine approach: hard versus soft.
To master the consultative style, you need to master team meetings. Use the following approaches:

1. get the team together, if necessary, off site

2. avoid too many meetings with individual team members or you will create mistrust and suspicion

3. involve the team in the planning of meetings

4. be prepared to hear things you don't like

5. decide where on the scale you want to be: at one end, the purely consultative in which you listen and then decide; or at the other end, the consensual where you and the team decide together

6. practise concentrated listening

7. give everyone a chance to talk. Notice who doesn't speak readily. Find a balance. Seek contrary views to the loudest.

3. The Problem-Solving Style. The problem-solving style of leadership goes under various names. Ken Blanchard calls it the "selling" style (in contrast to "telling"). Other writers call it the participative style or negotiating style or the win-win style. If the directive style is top-down (ie from you downwards) and the consultative style is bottom-up (ie from them upwards), then the problem-solving style is sideways: us together as equals working things out. The problem-solving style is the right style to use when there is conflict in the team.

Here are some techniques to use to make you a better problem-solving leader:

1. believe that in every conflict with the team, there is a solutionin which both sides (you and the team) can get what you want

2. state your own position clearly and consistently. Listen carefully to theirs.

3. focus on issues not personalities

4. find the emotional blocks such as their fears and anxieties. These often result in people playing games. Knock these down by building trust.

5. seek common ground

6. battle on to find a creative solution based on principles

7. summarise frequently.

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4. The Delegated Style. For those who are not used to the delegated style of leadership, it first looks like an abdication of leadership. It's the style where you take a back seat and appear to do nothing. In reality it is one of the hardest of styles to use. It means letting go of control so that the team can make their own decisions. You trust them and first time round that can be hard.

Here are some ways to develop your delegating style:

1. Make it safe for the team to try things out.

2. focus on them: "What would you do?" "What do you think?" "What do you feel we should do?"

3. resist the temptation to jump in and rescue them when things go wrong; they can learn so much more by sorting it out themselves.

4. move gradually. If people aren't used to this style, they may suspect your intentions.

5. praise every success

6. find the right distance: not too close that you are seen to be checking them, not too far away that they feel abandoned.

7. check back regularly that things are OK.

Your ability to move around these four styles, and the shades in-between, will tell others just how good a leader you really are. You won't always get it right. Sometimes, you'll call the team for a chat when they want decisiveness.

Sometimes, you'll try to sell your ideas when what they want is for you to leave them alone. But as you develop your reading of situations, you'll come to know instinctively just what your best action should be.

© Eric Garner,
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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Key Employees can and will leave your Business, are you prepared?

Key Employees can and will leave your Business, are you prepared?

Very few businesses can claim to be prepared for the loss of key employees. Quite often it is an unexpected and unplanned for event that causes quite a bit of disruption to 'business as usual'.

It is quite a gut wrenching experience to see an employee you have worked with over a period of time leaving your business. Even if the parting of ways is on good terms with a period of handover, you just know that there is so much information walking out the door with your former employee and there is nothing you can do about it. And this is only just the beginning...

While labouring through a period of being understaffed and overworked you are then faced with the task of recruiting a new employee to fill the vacant position. This is followed by the inevitable probation and training period where, hopefully the new employee comes up to speed and is able to pick up where the former employee left off. The problem is: What exactly was it that the former employee really did? They always seemed to be busy and on the rare occasion that they were absent due to illness, there were those problems that arose that were only truly resolved when they returned and took control and 'cleaned things up'. There has to be a better way...

Fortunately quite a bit can be done to minimize the impact of situations like this on our business. And like most truly worthwhile solutions the steps required to complete this part of your business development does take some effort on your part. There is an established path that you can follow to get your business in order and the benefits to you and your employees are much farther reaching than just minimizing the impact of key employees leaving you. The following is by no means a definitive list of what is required. But it does give you some idea of the steps required.

1) Create a flexible forward thinking Organization Chart defining the positions you require in your business.

2) Determine what the responsibilities are for the positions in your business.

3) Assign Employees to relevent positions in the Business.

4) Document key information that is critical to your business and make it available to your employees.

5) Work with your employees to define what it is they do, how they do it and most importantly how it could be done better.

6) Record, optimize then implement the business systems you have identified.

7) Assign the business systems to the relevant positions and monitor their use.

By consistently following these steps for all positions in your business you will insulate yourself from some of the problems that occur when key employees leave your business.

Justin Woolich has been involved with Innovative Business Software for over 10 years. He has experience managing and running businesses in various industries.
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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

KHS Metec provides filling level and cap monitoring for Underberg

KHS Metec provides filling level and cap monitoring for Underberg

Pleasant, agreeable, and quite unique in its appearance - this is an apt description of Underberg, the digestive herb beverage. It is a real personality with its attention-grabbing, single-serving bottle wrapped in straw paper. A personality with worldwide reputation. Today, about a million people around the globe enjoy the world's clear Number One in the single-serving bottle every day.

A unique taste experience

Like many interesting success stories, the Underberg story also began with a simple idea. In the early years, in the middle of the 19th century, company founder Hubert Underberg became acquainted with an herb elixir, which he particularly valued as a bitter cordial. Just one thing annoyed him: that pub owners diluted the mixer by eye with gin, as, due to the random mixture, neither the effect nor the taste were consistent. Underberg's clear objective was to create a beverage, which offered outstanding and consistent quality combined with the healing forces of the herbs, and which provided a successful symbiosis with modern production methods.

Herbs from 43 countries

The result of this was Underberg, which now as then contains selected and aromatic herbs from 43 countries that are carefully crushed just prior to manufacture. This much is known.

The Underberg recipe remains a secret

Underberg's recipe, on the other hand, is a closely guarded secret. Inventor Hubert Underberg set the standard, which has become a family legacy. Original quotation: "As the founder of the company Hubert Underberg, I look upon it as my first duty to keep the secret of the preparation of this renowned and beneficial drink to myself and my family." With Emil Underberg, Christiane Underberg and Hubertine Underberg-Ruder, the exact recipe of Underberg is today known exclusively to the fourth and fifth generations of the family concern, and to three Catholic priests. It is therefore also the family's task to select and mix the herbs to a harmonious blend personally.

The right amount of well-being

Underberg is made using the secret Semper Idem process. This special process guarantees gentle extraction of the active ingredients and aromatic substances from the herbs. Underberg then matures for many months in barrels made of Slovenian oak before being bottled in the special Underberg single-serving bottles, which have many advantages. The 20-ml single-serving bottle always provides the right amount of product for well-being. At the same time, the unique packaging provides protection against imitation. What is more, Underberg can also conveniently be enjoyed when traveling.

Development into an international, marketing-orientated beverage organization

Even though the Underberg brand has remained an important pillar for the company, the activities now extend well beyond the "original brand". The Underberg Group has developed over the years into an international, marketing-orientated liquor, wine, and sparkling wine organization. Underberg is today active both as a producer and as a trading organization. The group's activities are brought together in Underberg AG in Dietlikon, Switzerland from where the foreign business and quality management are handled. The group owns such resounding brands as Asbach, Xuxu, Riemerschmid fruit and bar syrups, sparkling wines Schlumberger and Blanc Foussy Unicum, as well as various fruit brandies (Freihof, Dettling, Zwack).

€500 million turnover realized with 1,000 employees

Including all its activities, the Underberg Group has worldwide sales of around €500 million per annum - with about 1,000 employees. A major part of this turnover can be attributed to Semper Idem Underberg AG, which incorporates all the German activities.

Berlin production facility - the "miniature bottle specialist"

German production facilities for the Underberg product range have been established in Berlin, Erding, and Rüdesheim. Foreign production facilities are located in Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, and France. In Germany, the main production concentration is orientated quite clearly towards the bottle size. While the "large bottle range" from the 0.2-liter size is bottled at the Rüdesheim location, Berlin is classed as the "miniature bottle specialist". The range of sizes bottled here extends from the 0.02-liter to the 0.2-liter bottle. The bottling of Underberg therefore quite clearly falls into the range undertaken in Berlin.

High-quality bottling equipment

In accordance with Underberg philosophy, equal importance is placed on the highest quality of bottling and packaging equipment at all production locations as on the best product quality. Thus, it was that shortly after an expansion of the production facility in Berlin and the associated move to a new site in the Heiligensee district in 1977, the decision was made in favor of three KHS bottling systems. This investment took the form of the first rotary fillers, which had a capacity that was very high at the time of 70,000 bottles/h. The fillers are running continuously in 2-shift operation to the present day and, according to Uwe Reisner, plant manager the Berlin site, provide "bottling results that are of just as high quality as on the first day, in spite of their age."

Revised single-serving bottle with new requirements for filling level and cap monitoring

Two of the bottling systems are used exclusively for filling the Underberg single-serving bottles. It was decided to invest in a new filling level and cap monitoring system, especially for these bottling systems. The reason for this was that the filling level and cap monitoring system previously practiced, which worked on the laser principle, was no longer suitable for the revised Underberg single-serving bottle shape, which is distinguished by the hexagonal shaped neck with integral Underberg logo instead of the cylindrical design.

Next to no error

Image processing had to be used in order to achieve precise monitoring. KHS Metec supplied the appropriate solution for this. Kirchner, Plant Manager, Berlin: "A solution, which impressed us from the very beginning." The KHS Metec Innocheck PROMECON 2000 system is connected downstream of each of the two "Underberg fillers", the capacity of which is 72,000 bottles/h, and, even with such a high capacity, it works with a nearly zero error rate.

Monitoring of up to 32 different bottle shapes and sizes

The Innocheck PROMECON 2000 is equipped with a PC base unit, camera, illumination field, and monitor. At present, the task is to check two Underberg portion-sized bottles, which differ slightly in the color of the glass. This can change on demand. A style memory allows the checking functions to be extended to up to 32 different shapes and sizes of bottle.

Maximum accuracy

Directly after the bottling and capping process, the Underberg single-serving bottles pass to the filling level and cap monitor. Here, the presence of each bottle is sensed, and only then is the appropriate picture of the bottle taken. In the Innocheck PROMECON 2000, a diode lighting field in conjunction with the camera recording provides information on the exact filling level by averaging three measuring points. This method neutralizes the effects of splashing. This results in the highest level of accuracy. The permissible variation range is set according to the appropriate specification. Everything is possible - regardless of whether the permissible filling level tolerance is one, two, or three millimeters.

One image, several tasks. As well as monitoring the filling level, the correct seating of the cap must also be determined with one image per bottle. The wall of the bottle below the thread is defined as the starting point for the exact measurement of the cap. All the necessary measurements are taken starting from this as a basis, and the cap height, as well as other characteristics of the fitted cap, are checked automatically.

After the checking process, "faulty bottles" are rejected by means of a special air nozzle. A special feature of the system, which was chosen mainly because of the high capacity. The bottles have to be removed from the production line quickly and accurately. The air pulse guarantees this.

Exact rejection of faulty bottles

A factor, which plays an important part in exact rejection, is the extremely precise forwarding of information from the image processing station to the reject station. Maximum accuracy when rejecting the bottles is achieved within the system by the so-called tracking of the reject signal by means of a pulse generator, which is mounted on the conveyor. This means that this pulse generator records the speed of the conveyor and passes this on as pulses to the control unit. Consequently, it is possible to say that each checked bottle reaches the reject station after x number of pulses. This is stored in the system.

Ready for integration into the production data acquisition system

Underfilling, overfilling, cap faults, separated-out units - all this information is registered and can be called up at the push of a button. If required, the details can also be transmitted to a production data acquisition (PDA) monitoring system without any problems via simple interfaces.

Modular design for maximum flexibility

A further important benefit of the Innocheck PROMECON 2000 is the modular design of the system. This means that the system can be expanded to provide even higher-capacity filling level and cap monitoring, and thus to the capacity of the Innocheck PROMECON 3000 or Innocheck PROMECON 4000 product lines. This is no problem for Underberg's requirements, which are currently limited to filling level and cap monitoring for just two types of bottle. If the circumstances should change, Underberg is on the safe side, however.

If it should be required to change to the Innocheck PROMECON 3000 or Innocheck PROMECON 4000, the inspection station, and thus the greatest part of the system, would remain, while other units, such as the evaluation unit and monitor, would be changed. The advantage of converting the system is the increased capacity, more memory, and communication via an ISDN line, which simultaneously provides the option of using ReDiS mobile.

Direct online help

ReDiS means Remote Diagnostic Service mobile and offers not only detailed analyses of machine and line components from KHS headquarters but also immediate online support if desired. ReDiS mobile consists of an easily transportable high-tech diagnostics case, which is equipped with a notebook, handy video camera, headset, and the necessary adapters for connecting the electronic machine components to the service case. Machine data can be transmitted to the KHS ReDiS Service Center using ReDiS mobile where extensive remote analyses are carried out. In a best-case scenario, a machine problem can be solved solely by accessing the electronic system components online.

ReDiS mobile components such as headsets and video cameras are used if mechanical components are involved. An employee on site picks up the camera system integrated in the case and aims it directly at the individual machine components. This enables the staff at the ReDiS Service Center to determine the mechanical condition of the machine. The customer technician receives instructions over the headset based on these image files regarding the necessary mechanical actions to be taken.

Comprehensive information

Examples of further options that are open if the system is expanded: Filling level checks can be associated directly with a particular filling valve. It is thus possible to detect which filling valve is associated with overfilling or underfilling. Likewise feasible: Filler productivity statistics, automated laboratory samples, and so forth.

Maximum reliability, simple operation

Ulf Kirchner, manager of the Berlin plant: "We expressly decided on a filling level and cap monitoring system, which includes high flexibility and leaves options open for the future. What is of prime importance to us today, however, is the high reliability of the system. We are so pleased with the reliability that we have decided to equip other bottling machines in the plant with KHS Metec filling level and cap monitoring systems." According to Uwe Reisner, an important additional criterion in support of this decision was also the simple operation of the system. Reisner: "A brief period of instruction is sufficient. The employees are favorably impressed by the simple handling of this high-performance unit."

A thriving culture of enjoyment and consumer safety is priority number one

Consumer safety is priority number one - with the KHS Metec filling level and cap monitoring system, Underberg is remaining true to a company philosophy, which has applied since the birth of the Underberg herb digestive, and from which consumers worldwide have profited. Today, people in more than a hundred countries appreciate the pleasant effect of Underberg. Distribution is concentrated on the areas of Western and Eastern Europe. Close trading relationships also exist with Asia, Australia, South Africa, and with North, Central, and South America. In all these places, there is quite a special culture of Underberg enjoyment. The stylish Underberg glass was developed as long ago as the 19th-century for this special culture of enjoyment, which, with a height of 24 cm, stands head and shoulders above all other glasses on a festive table. Which once again shows that an Underberg cultivates the appearance accorded by the uniqueness of its personality at every opportunity.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pulp Mills and the Clean Technology Debate - Paper Industry Challenge

Pulp Mills and the Clean Technology Debate
Written by Raúl Pierri

The construction of two pulp mills in Uruguay has put this small South American country at the centre of the global debate among environmentalists, scientific researchers and large corporations on what is the most effective and cleanest technique for producing paper.

The first step in the manufacturing of paper is the production of wood pulp, a process that uses a number of chemicals and large quantities of water. Pulpwood is reduced to small chips that are processed into pulp to free up the fibres, which are dried and used to produce paper.

The sulphate, or kraft process, which involves boiling wood chips with caustic soda, is used to obtain 95 per cent of the pulp traded on the open market. It produces a strong pulp which, although dark brown at first, becomes white through a bleaching process.

The chemicals used in the bleaching process needed to remove the lignin, which gives the pulp its brown colour, include chlorine or chlorine dioxide, caustic soda, oxygen peroxide and sodium hypochloride.

Although the chemicals as well as the organic waste products generated in the process of producing wood pulp each have their own harmful effect on the environment, the biggest villain is chlorine and its derivatives.

The traditional bleaching process releases large quantities of organochlorines (dioxins and furans), which are two of the 12 pollutants singled out in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

This international treaty is aimed at phasing out 12 specific POPs, which are highly toxic to animals and humans; are stable and persistent, lasting for years or decades before degrading into less dangerous forms; travel widely through the air and water; and accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms, which means they can be passed along the food chain.

Exposure to these 12 toxins has been shown to weaken the immune system and increase the risk of cancer, hormonal imbalances, neurological disorders, infertility and diabetes.

Under pressure from local communities and environmentalists, the wood pulp industry developed a system based on chlorine dioxide, which releases smaller amounts of organochlorines.

The technique, known as Elemental Chlorine-Free (ECF), is currently the most widely employed, and is the one that two European companies - from Finland and Spain - plan to use in Uruguay in pulp mills that are scheduled to begin operating in 2007.

But Uruguayan biologist Oscar Galli, one of 60 scientists who signed an open letter of protest addressed to Uruguay's leftist Broad Front government, said "Scientific studies have clearly demonstrated that the pulp mills will have serious effects on the local ecosystems."

"The few advances that have been achieved are due to the heavy pressure people have mounted against this kind of factory," he told IPS.

"Our rejection of the plants is not only based on recent experiences in other countries that were unfortunate enough to have this industry, but also on current scientific knowledge. This empirical and theoretical experience allows us to state that the installation of the pulp mills will definitely bring pollution," says the open letter.

After the appearance of ECF, the Totally Chlorine-Free (TCF) technique was developed, which uses no chlorine-containing compounds.

Approximately 20 percent of the wood pulp produced worldwide is obtained by the traditional chlorine-based bleaching process, 75 percent is produced using the ECF method, and five percent by the TCF method, according to figures from 2002 cited by the World Rainforest Movement (WRM).

Researchers and environmentalists say companies have failed to adopt the TCF technique because of the higher costs involved.

But agricultural engineer Carlos Faroppa, a spokesman for the Finnish company Botnia in Uruguay, told IPS that it is a problem of quality and effectiveness.

"TCF is hardly used around the world because the technique has not continued to advance. The fibres it produces cannot be used to manufacture quality paper. Efforts to improve the ECF technique have been continuing for 12 years, and it is the most advanced ECF method that will be used in Uruguay," he said.

The controversy broke out in March, when the government of socialist President Tabaré Vázquez, who took office that month, confirmed that plans were going ahead for the installation of two pulp mills by Botnia and Spain's Empresa Nacional de Celulosa de España (ENCE) in the western city of Fray Bentos, along the Argentine border.

The pulp mill projects had been authorised by the previous government.

Local residents and authorities in the neighbouring Argentine province of Entre Ríos and in Fray Bentos, environmentalists from both countries, and even the centre-left government of Néstor Kirchner in Argentina have launched a crusade against the two plants.

The Uruguayan government, meanwhile, ensures that the environmental impact will be minimal, and underlines that the pulp mills will generate jobs and draw more than 1.8 billion dollars in investment.

The ENCE plant will have a production capacity of half a million tons a year, while Botnia's will produce one million tons.

According to Faroppa, the pulp mills that have been most recently installed around the world use the ECF method.

But the Argentine chapter of the international environmental watchdog Greenpeace stated in a communique that ECF plants are the biggest sources of pollution from organochlorine compounds in waterways.

Greenpeace Argentina maintains that it is possible to manufacture paper without polluting the environment, by using sustainable forestry management techniques, non-toxic processes and effluent-free technology (through the reuse of water), and maximising the recycling of paper products while reducing consumption, particularly in the world's industrialised countries.

Pointing to the pollution that the Fray Bentos mills will cause by dumping liquid waste into the Uruguay River, which forms part of the border between Uruguay and Argentina, Galli said the river was already at its limit in terms of oxygen problems for fish, which would be aggravated by the new plants.

Dissolved wood, chemical residues and subproducts of the reactions of chemical and organic substances reduce oxygen in the waterways, killing off fish.

"Botnia admits that it will dump 200 tons a year of nitrogen and 20 tons of phosphorus into the river, which is equivalent to the sewage produced by a city of 65,000 people," said Galli. "That will seriously jeopardise the survival of fish. Algae is the first link in the chain to be affected."

The disappearance of a small waterweed that served as the main food source for black-necked swans in a lake in southern Chile that received liquid waste flows from the Valdivia pulp mill led to the death of hundreds of swans and forced thousands of surviving birds to leave the area, which is a nature reserve.

Faroppa, however, said the water taken from the Uruguay river would be thoroughly treated before it was dumped back in, and that it would be even cleaner than it was in the first place.

According to Galli, the mills will spew into the air large amounts of reduced sulphur compounds and hydrogen sulfide, which can cause a strong "odour of rotten eggs" for several kilometres around the plants.

Epidemiological studies have shown that prolonged exposure to these smelly sulphur compounds increases the risk of acute respiratory infections.

Although it assigns low importance to the effect of the offensive odour, Botnia's own environmental impact study acknowledges that many people "will stop engaging in outdoor activities in the area around the plant," and that the smell could discourage the use of public spaces.

But Faroppa said the plant's emissions will have the lowest possible level of pollutants thanks to strict controls in keeping with European Union guidelines, which he noted are more stringent than those of the United States, and will be enforced by municipal and central government authorities and experts from the company and the University of the Republic.

Uruguayan Deputy Minister of the Environment Jaime Igorra announced last week that the two pulp mills will use lignin as a fuel, which means they will be self-sufficient in energy and will even be able to sell the surplus to the Uruguayan state power utility UTE.

Around 35,000 people from Uruguay and Argentina blocked the international bridge linking Fray Bentos with the city of Gualeguaychú across the border on Apr. 30 to protest the installation of the pulp mills. And last week, demonstrations were staged by thousands of schoolchildren in the Argentine province of Entre Rios.

The controversy thus continues to rage on both sides of the border as construction of the plants moves ahead as planned. (END/2005)

River Pulp Polution by Paper Industry. Double Standards on Pulp Mills?

Paper Pulp Polution on Rivers. Double Standards on Pulp Mills?

The ongoing pollution of Argentina's Paraná River by the pulp and paper mills along its banks seems as irreversible as it is invisible. But plans to build two similar plants on the Uruguay River, which flows along the border between the two countries, has thrust the issue into the spotlight, sparking growing awareness and increasingly vocal protest.

Nearly a dozen mills producing both wood pulp - used to manufacture paper - and paper itself are located along the Paraná River, and have a total combined output of some 850,000 tons a year. Some of these mills have been in operation for 50 years, and dump toxic waste directly into the river.

"It's true that we have these kinds of plants in Argentina, and it's also true that they are not harmless," admitted Juan Carlos Villalonga, head of the Argentine chapter of the international environmental watchdog Greenpeace.

"But the volume of production of these two new plants (to be built across the border in Uruguay) is substantially greater, as is the potential for pollution," he commented to IPS.

Given the green light by the previous Uruguayan government of neoliberal president Jorge Batlle (2000-2005), two foreign companies - Empresa Nacional de Celulosa de España (ENCE) of Spain and Botnia of Finland - each began to build pulp mills on the banks of the Uruguay River near the western Uruguayan town of Fray Bentos, with less than 10 km separating the sites of the two mills.

The projects drew harsh criticism from environmentalists and protests from area residents, especially on the Argentine side of the river, where opposition was led up by Jorge Busti, the governor of the eastern province of Entre Ríos.

Contrary to the expectations of many environmentalists, the change in government in Uruguay earlier this year did nothing to modify the situation. Socialist President Tabaré Vázquez, who took office in March at the head of the leftist Broad Front government, announced that both projects would be moving ahead as planned, and welcomed the 1.8 billion dollars in investment that the mills would bring.

The Argentine government of centre-left President Néstor Kirchner, meanwhile, conditioned its acceptance of the projects on the results of an environmental impact study conducted with the participation of experts from both countries.

But the increasingly vocal protests on the Argentine side of the river has led many in Uruguay to question why their neighbours are so staunchly opposed to the plans for the ENCE and Botnia mills across the border, while they silently accept the presence of plants that are equally or even more polluting on their own turf.

Environmental activists stress that many of the mills in Argentina were built before a sense of environmental awareness had developed among the general public. But today, they add, residents of the area are determined not only to oppose the new projects, but also to demand changes in the way pulp and paper are currently produced in their own country.

For the moment, opposition is focused in the eastern Argentine city of Gualeguaychú, across the river from Fray Bentos. Local residents are opposed to the new mills because they will dump their waste into the waterway shared by the two countries, releasing highly toxic and persistent pollutants like dioxins and furans.

The ENCE and Botnia mills combined will produce 1.5 million tons of wood pulp annually, which is double the output of the nearly one dozen pulp mills currently in operation in Argentina.
Although the plants in Argentina are not equipped with the cleaner technologies developed in recent years, up until now they have only been targeted by sporadic, isolated complaints from environmental groups. The local residents affected by the pollution have remained silent, either out of a lack of awareness or the fear of losing a source of employment.

However, the resistance mounted against the installation of the new pulp mills in Uruguay has dramatically raised the awareness of the Argentine public and opened its eyes to the existing problems in its own backyard, say activists.

"This is not a matter of inconsistency, of people accepting mills on one side and opposing them on the other side," stressed Villalonga. "What has happened here is that the public finally reached the point where they said, enough is enough, and the (Argentine) authorities have been forced to take the lead in these protests."

The turning point was marked by a massive Apr. 30 demonstration on the international bridge across the Uruguay River linking Gualeguaychú and Fray Bentos. Some 35,000 protesters came out to oppose the installation of the pulp mills, which they believe will irreparably damage fishing and tourism activities in the region.

But environmentalists have already been working for many years to raise awareness of the harm caused by pulp and paper mills in Argentina, Villalonga emphasised.

In the late 1990s, for example, Greenpeace and Taller Ecologista, an environmental organisation based in the city of Rosario in the eastern province of Santa Fe, released a joint study that was highly critical of the Argentine company Celulosa Argentina.

Celulosa Argentina owns the Capitán Bermúdez mill in Santa Fe, which borders on the province of Entre Ríos. The mill's effluents are dumped into the Paraná River, which joins the Uruguay River to form the Río de la Plata estuary, after flowing 4,000 km from its source in Brazil and crossing a large stretch of northeastern Argentina.

Water samples sent for analysis by the Taller Ecologista revealed the presence of numerous pollutants, many of them persistent pollutants associated with the use of chlorine in the pulp production process.

The organisation launched complaints against the company, but did not succeed in bringing about changes in the production process. Sergio Rinaldi, the coordinator of Taller Ecologista, commented to IPS that some of these mills were built several decades ago, when the general public was largely unaware of environmental issues.

In the province of Entre Ríos, where the most active opposition to the Uruguayan mills has emerged, one of the groups spearheading the movement is the Paraná Environmental Forum, an organisation originally founded to block the building of a dam, fight deforestation, curb overfishing in the area's rivers, and raise environmental consciousness among the public at large.
A study conducted in the northeastern Argentine province of Misiones by Ricardo Carrere of the Uruguayan environmental group Guayubira indicated that there are three large mills that control almost all local activity related to the forestry industry - the economic mainstay of the region - from the planting of the pine trees used to produce pulp to the production of paper.

One of them is the Alto Paraná mill, owned by Celulosa Arauco y Constitución SA (Celco), a Chilean company. Celco is under fire in Chile for a mill that has seriously polluted a lake in Valdivia, causing the death of hundreds of swans in a nearby nature sanctuary. In Argentina, the company produces 400,000 tons of paper a year using an elemental-chlorine free (ECF) bleaching process.

This technology, which is also to be used by the two foreign companies building the mills on the Uruguay River, releases smaller quantities of organocholorines like dioxins and furans, but does not completely eliminate emissions of the harmful pollutants. Carrere's research in Misiones revealed that residents living near the plant feel the impact of this pollution, but are largely afraid to speak out.

Numerous respondents, who insisted on remaining anonymous, told Carrere they suffered from severe headaches, allergic reactions and respiratory ailments apparently triggered by the sulphur compounds that the mill spews into the air. Carrere also discovered that a number of legal suits have been filed for cases of cancer and birth defects attributed to the pollution caused by the mill.

The first protests against the two new mills in Uruguay date back to 2002, when environmental activists and area residents unsuccessfully called on the government to halt the projects, given the lack of reliable studies measuring the combined impact of both operations. "The Kirchner administration didn't think the conflict would heat up and gave Uruguay a wink and a nod to carry on with the two projects," said Villalonga.

But the residents of Entre Ríos responded with a degree of awareness and organisation that caught everyone off guard, he added.

This unexpected reaction forced the national and provincial authorities to drop their former complacency and take on a leading role in the opposition to the projects. "It's this sudden shift that makes Uruguay angry," Villalonga remarked.

"For a long time, the two governments assumed that the controversy would eventually die down. That seems to be the most popular environmental policy in these parts: just sit back and hope that people don't find out what's going on, and don't protest, or eventually get tired and back down," he said.

The main task for the environmental movement now is to closely monitor the Argentine government's stance, to ensure that its opposition to the Uruguayan mills was not simply an "act" designed to win votes in the mid-term legislative elections earlier this month, but rather a genuine reflection of greater environmental awareness and commitment.

"If it's the latter, then perhaps now the government will shift its sights towards what's happening here in Argentina with pulp and paper production, and finally start working towards ending the use of chlorine-based processes, which are so heavily polluting," Villalonga concluded.