Evoguard or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the pump
Even after eight years with Krones, I still find myself repeatedly noting with surprise: you often come across the most exciting stories where you least expect them. In Nittenau, for example, at Krones’ Evoguard subsidiary. That’s where I was recently headed to conduct an interview for our staff newspaper. The subject was the hygienically designed centrifugal pump that Evoguard had developed. “Ermmmm, a pump …? Doesn’t sound very exciting,” I was still thinking when I got into my car at Neutraubling. But back then I didn’t yet know what was in store for me at Nittenau. A torture chamber for example – but wait: I don’t want to get ahead of myself. So it’s best if I start at the beginning:
Welcome indeed to uncharted waters
It’s ten o’clock in the morning, and I’ve just arrived at the Evoguard plant, where I meet my two interviewees: Willi Wiedenmann and Stephan Mannl. Willi Wiedenmann has been a product manager at Evoguard right from the start, and probably knows more about valves and pumps than anybody else in the sector – even though he himself would never admit it. His colleague Stephan Mannl works in the development team, and as a project manager is the father of the hygienically designed centrifugal pump, so to speak. The two experts notice immediately that I am totally and utterly ignorant when it comes to pumps, but happily they pay no heed to my cluelessness and chat cheerfully away: the decision to develop a series of pumps in addition to the Evoguard valves was taken in 2012, explains Willi Wiedenmann. The reason he cites is the huge demand for them from Krones itself: in Krones’ process technology systems alone, thousands of pumps are installed every year; moreover, the requirements Krones stipulates for its machines are sometimes difficult to meet when using outsourced components. “But with pump technology, in particular, compromises may turn out to have fatal consequences,” adds Stephan Mannl: “If a pump fails at a client’s facility, the entire production operation comes to a halt!”
Gradually it begins to dawn on me that my thematic radar has this time let me down rather badly: on the way to Nittenau I had still thought that pumps were a trivial matter, but now I realise they are even the heart of every process technology installation! And for this heart to beat with healthy vigour, the development team swiftly decided that the impeller and the housing of the Evoguard pump must definitely be made of solid material. “This means, for example, that in the product compartment it exhibits no pores at all in which germs could settle,” says Stephan Mannl. Safety is in any case the overriding consideration at Evoguard – the determinant leitmotif for the entire product world involved. In the case of pumps, this means, for example, that there are no moving parts at all in the product compartment, that they can be cleaned completely without being dismantled, and (most importantly of all) conform throughout to the stipulations of the EHEDG. This latter is something Willi Wiedenmann is particularly proud of: “Because we really started development work from scratch, we were able to get everything correct right from the start – and we gratefully seized this opportunity.”
Each pump is a one-off
Part of it was that the development guys at Evoguard received welcome support from the R&D team at Krones. “When it comes to the properties of liquid media and products, of course, Krones has a whole lot of experience to draw on, and above all has also collected valid laboratory data,” explains Stephan Mannl. “So it was the obvious course to utilise this knowledge for our purposes as well.” For instance, the inventive minds at Krones wrote a program specially for their colleagues from Nittenau, enabling properties like temperature or viscosity to be factored into the pump design process. “Do you mean to tell me that you customise each and every pump individually for its subsequent job?” I ask incredulously. “Yeah, sure”, is the laconic answer from Stephan Mannl and Willi Wiedenmann. One-off pumps are seemingly the most normal thing in the world for these two.
Inside the torture chamber
The principle of customisation, I now learn, is not restricted solely to the actual design. “Every pump that leaves our plant has been individually tested here beforehand,” explains Willi Wiedenmann. And because I once again have an incredulous look on my face, Willi Wiedenmann gets up and without further ado leads me down into the production hall. He stops in front of a separate, square room and announces with a beaming smile: “Look, this is our torture chamber for valves and pumps!” The room’s interior does at first glance indeed look a bit intimidating: I see thick stainless steel pipes protruding from the walls, plus all sorts of tools and equipment whose function is a mystery to me. According to Willi Wiedenmann, the entire set-up serves to provide exhaustive and protracted testing for all the valves and pumps manufactured at Evoguard. “Only absolutely flawless products are released for dispatch to the client.”
A (Wieden-)Mann for all seasons
After I’ve marvelled at the torture chamber for a good long time, Willi Wiedenmann straight away shows me the rest of the production operation. As I had already noticed, he really does know everything about pumps and valves. But now, on our tour through the 3,200-square-metre hall, I also realise: if push came to shove, he could even execute each step in the production process himself. Not only is he familiar with each and every step in the manufacturing machinery process, he can also explain precisely what is being machined and how. Although the days’ cornucopia of information input is starting to prove a bit overwhelming: for me, the tour is nevertheless thoroughly enjoyable. Because the enthusiasm with which Willi Wiedenmann talks about “his” products proves irresistibly infectious for his listeners. And when we finally say goodbye and I’m back behind the steering wheel, my worries of the morning are long since forgotten. Instead, I’m wrestling with quite a different problem: how on earth am I going to accommodate all the exciting facts in a single article?