As one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of certified organic, natural and vegetarian foods, Rapunzel Naturkost is an expert at predicting trends within the organic sector, and is already preparing for future market requirements. This kind of approach has allowed the company, which was founded in Augsburg, Germany, by Joseph Wilhelm and Jennifer Vermeulen in 1974 as a small natural foods corner shop, to grow into the now global brand - with approximately 350 employees.
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For Rapunzel, the key to its success lies in its corporate values: certified ingredients and the highest quality throughout the entire production process – without exception. Based on the current worldwide market volume of 80 billion dollars, the market share of organic food and drink has increased more than fivefold since 1999. Germany is Europe’s biggest market for organic products with total sales equating to 8.6 billion euros in 2015. For Rapunzel’s production site in the Bavarian municipality of Legau, the rising demand has resulted in business growth and opportunities for expansion, as well as presenting certain challenges along the way.
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Crunchy, creamy quality
Half of all Rapunzel’s products are manufactured in Legau. But, the production lines at the site were no longer able to keep up with the increasing order volumes and variation driven by ever-changing consumer demands. This prompted Rapunzel to extend its production in various stages, including the expansion of its site. Here, the company was looking for various secondary packaging solutions for the new lines. These lines would ideally be flexible enough to take care of packaging a broad range of products. The products in question include nut spreads and chocolate-nut crèmes, cereals and breakfast purées as well as nuts and dried fruits, which all require packaging of different sizes and formats. In order to keep pace with the growing trend for vegan and ayurvedic foods, the systems needed to pack the products, which are filled in glass jars and block-bottom and stand-up bags, both reliably and quickly ready for sale. The top priority for Rapunzel, therefore, was to ensure a consistently high product quality. The company was also very keen that the new machines should be simple and intuitive to use, coping well with the various properties of the products, such as the crèmes packed in glass jars, which require particularly careful handling. Nuts and cereals in bags needed to be treated gently and not exposed to pressure, which could lead to product damage.
Tried and trusted solutions complete the new line
The natural foods manufacturer installed the first vertical bagger from Bosch in early 2009. Rapunzel was impressed with the high quality, reliability and performance of the Bosch machines from the very beginning. Since 2014 an Elematic 3000 wrap-around case packer has also supported Rapunzel in packing various glass containers weighing 250, 450, 500 or 750 grams. Up to 50 tons of nut spread and chocolate-nut crème are filled and packed every day. Rapunzel was so enthusiastic about the wrap-around process and the flexibility of the Elematic 3000 WA - with its four different formats - that it placed further orders for Bosch’s Elematic case packers.
“The foundations for the project were laid when the first order was placed,” explains Alexander Karst, Head of Production at Rapunzel. “Bosch stands for quality – and once we got to the stage where the majority of the primary packaging machines in the new lines had been provided by Bosch, we decided to source the case packing solutions from Bosch as well to simplify the operation of the machines for our employees. By opting for Bosch once more, we were able to optimize interfaces and train employees more quickly and effectively. It is also a tremendous help to have one single point of contact for all machine components.”
The full package
The close proximity of the German Bosch sites at Waiblingen and Remshalden to Rapunzel's production site simplified matters during the design and implementation phase of the project, and also proved helpful in terms of training machine operators. “Our operators are in direct contact with Bosch employees. This speeds up response times and allows us to work together quickly to identify solutions,” enthuses Karst.
Bosch installed two further Elematic 3000 wrap-around case packers, which were ready to use as soon as the newly expanded site was reopened. Furthermore, two of the primary packaging machines were also supplied by Bosch: an SVE vertical bagger, which packs cereals, nuts and dried fruits into bags of various sizes using an auger filler, and another Bosch system that fills semolina and breakfast purée into block-bottom and stand-up pouches on a PME packing machine.
A clever plan
Each of the products – which are manufactured across three lines in total – is now automatically diverted to one of the integrated Elematic case packers. One of the case packers collects and packs glass containers, while the other two place the various types of pouches – ranging from 75 grams to 2 kilograms in weight – into cartons of different sizes, all on a single machine. To ensure gentle treatment of all products – especially the fragile glass products, servo drives and plastic machine parts are integrated into the design to provide maximum protection. This reduces the risk of downtime and minimizes packaging and product waste. It is easy to adjust the Elematic to the speed of the respective upstream machine, which increases the efficiency of the production line. In addition, the case packer can be fitted with modules for two-part tray-and-hood packaging and also for full wrap-around packaging. This allows a high degree of flexibility and provides the freedom necessary to satisfy marketing and retail requirements. Thanks to a clear labelling, naming and numbering of machine components, as well as structured processes, format changes can be done easily and simply up to two times per day. The Elematic is designed to be easily accessible at its maintenance points.
“More and more of our partners and customers want products to look good on the shelves, as well as being easy to tear open and shelf,” points out Karst.
“As such, we knew right from the start of the planning phase that we intend to offer packaging with trays and hoods in future, in addition to the wrap-around format.
“This option is already integrated, so we can introduce this pack style at any time. This gives us an enormous advantage when the market requires quick adjustments to meet new requirements. While we were hitting a bit of a wall with our previous systems, the new ones enable us to embrace the kinds of product innovations we were previously unable to accommodate.”
Well-trained is well-prepared
The higher degree of automation associated with the new systems has widened the range of duties that can be performed in the production area at Rapunzel, and offers employees the opportunity to improve their qualifications. Up to ten employees a year are being trained as machine operators.
“Here at Rapunzel our philosophy is driven by innovation and forward-thinking – we never stand still. Every day, every week and every task brings its own surprises,” expresses Karst. “With our partner Bosch by our side, and thanks to our new production lines, we are already looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead – because we know that we can handle them with the exact amount of efficiency and quality required.”