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Master plan

We’ve just happened upon an issue of the 1/17 magazine.  And there we found loads of interesting articles: like a report on the Farsons Brewery. And because we immediately started browsing, we want to share this rediscovery with others. Here, however, there’s space for only a brief summary; there’s more about the subject on the magazine article.
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It’s a special kind of line for a brewery in a special location: located on a small island in the Mediterranean, positioned roughly between the European and African mainlands, Simonds Farsons Cisk meets around two-thirds of total demand for beer in the mini-state of Malta. A new, highly complex line now combines filling and packaging of returnable glass, non-returnable glass, and cans.

For a long time, the island was a British colony. Even today, English is the standard language, alongside the native Maltese tongue, a mixture of Arabic, Italian and English that’s evolved over the centuries. In 2004, Malta joined the EU, with far-reaching consequences – not least for its beverage industry. Up to then, the country had to some extent been sealing itself off: by an import ban on soft drinks in non-returnable packages, for example, or high import duties on beer. Following a four-year transitional period, the market was then completely deregulated in 2008. Among the local beverage producers, there were growing fears that this would mean unwelcome exposure to international pressure. But these did not materialise – on the contrary: the situation in the market for soft drinks did admittedly change abruptly, with PET bottles and cans superseding the glass bottle almost completely within a mere three months. But the producers concerned were well prepared for this. And the Farsons Brewery, the top dog on Malta’s beer market, has since then been flourishing as never before – not least because it had made timely and foresightful investments in establishing its brands.

Rigorously modernised

Ray Sciberras, Chief Operations Officer, attributes Farsons’ impressive success on the beer market not least to the long-standing licensing agreements with Carlsberg and (back then) Anheuser-Busch: “Thanks to collaboration with these internationally experienced breweries, we have lastingly improved our own standard of quality.”
The group has purposefully modernised the entire brewery in recent years. A high-bay warehouse with 12,000 pallet slots, newly built only a few years ago, handles approximately 170 SKUs (stock-keeping units) on the first-in-first-out principle. It serves as an interface between the production hall and the distribution network, which Farsons manages in its entirety under its own aegis. In 2017, the warehouse will be expanded to incorporate another 4,000 slots.
In 2012, Farsons started operation with a new brewhouse from Steinecker. Besides a state-of-the-art standard of quality, it also scores highly in terms of other advantages: Farsons has significantly reduced its personnel costs, e.g. by automating the grain intake. Energy costs and water consumption, too, have been substantially downsized: the evaporation rate has been halved, while the boiling energy used is being recovered using a vapour condenser and an energy storage tank. At the same time, Farsons doubled its capacity to around 300,000 hectolitres: instead of six brews a day, the company now produces twelve – and this with well-nigh identical tank sizes.

Key project

After installation of the brewhouse had been successfully completed, Farsons began to plan its next modernisation project: now the filling capacities available were also to be matched to the market’s actual needs and modernised in their entirety. For Michael Farrugia, this was “a key project, embedded in a master plan. This was a crucial boost for the company’s further development.”

Farsons had previously been using two separate lines: a returnable-glass line rated at 30,000 bottles per hour, and a 14,000-cph canning line. But the machines had been operating for quite a few years already, and in recent years demand had been shifting towards cans. This is the reason why Farsons wanted firstly to upsize its capacities for cans, and secondly to acquire an option for filling and packaging of non-returnable glass bottles – with particular attention to exports and the corresponding packaging variants. Returnable glass bottles, non-returnable glass bottles and cans – so do we need three lines? No. Instead, Farsons opted for a single line with triple capabilities. “Exporting beverages in non-returnable bottles is only just getting started. A separate line for this would in this phase have been too much of a good thing,” says Ray Sciberras. “Bottling returnables is the basis for the local market, while cans have an auspicious future. That’s why we wanted to exhaust all the options available.” The entire order for this line was placed with Krones, with Farsons contributing only the can filler. Some machines, like the Linatronic empty-bottle inspector or a Sander Hansen tunnel pasteuriser, were still available from the old line, and could also be seamlessly integrated into the new one. “We’ve been working together with Krones for more than 40 years now. We knew the company right back in the times when all it made was labellers, and since then we’ve been observing its growth and its progress at close quarters,” says Louis Farrugia. “We don’t like half-measures, so we feel it’s important that we can rely on Krones 100 per cent.”

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