Nothing like an interpack 2011 show to get the techie juices flowing, eh? Sure, the trains were a bit crowded thanks to the thousands of tourists that flocked into Dusseldorf, Germany, to attend the Eurovision contest, an annual pop music contest involving judges and fans voting for their favorite European performers.
And yes, the hotels were way overpriced, forcing many, including yours truly, to lodge outside of the city. (Thank you Deutsche Bahn for having ICE trains from Cologne to Dusseldorf).
But nothing can compare with this collection of confectionery and packaging equipment suppliers displaying the latest developments in automation and technology. At first glance, when you consider 19 halls occupying nearly 2 million sq. ft., the sheer size of the show can be overwhelming.
Luckily, suppliers to the confectionery industry realized early on that grouping their technologies together would help ease the foot pain of visitors to the show for ages to come.
As a result, most of the confectionery suppliers could be found in halls 1-4, with several within a stone’s throw in halls 5 and 6. Sure, there were a few in halls 15 and 17, but that’s still pretty manageable.
So what can I share with our loyal readers of Sweet & Healthy about the show? Without giving away details of my personal reporting of all the suppliers I visited, which will be featured in the July issue, I’ll throw out some first impressions.
Attendance was solid, although I don’t think it can compare to the most recent interpack held in 2008, the year that broke records for both suppliers and manufacturers.
Nevertheless, large and small confectionery supplier companies were genuinely upbeat about the quality of visitors coming to their booths. Mind you, although I was at the show only through its first four days (Thursday through Sunday); I had heard from several exhibitors that machines had been sold from the show floor.
And while that may have been the standard decades ago, most people today who exhibit at trade shows will tell you it’s a rarity these days. Of course, several of these sales stemmed from months of negotiations earlier. Still, nothing like someone coming into a booth and signing off on a contract to get everyone excited.
So what kind of trends should you readers expect to see from interpack regarding processing innovation? Not surprisingly, the four horsemen of efficient manufacturing rode herd in Dusseldorf: Flexibility, hygiene, energy saving and increased output.
Everyone knows today that unless you have some monster branded products ― and the multinationals do ― product versatility is the name of the game. Whether you’re producing a score of private-label or contract-manufacturing items, plant managers are on notice to reduce changeover period and down times.
Thus, changeovers, some of which have been completely eliminated through the use of extremely sophisticated breakthroughs in certain robotic operations and others minimized with the ability to easily accommodate size changes, could possibly shed their negative baggage with plant managers and operators.
Hygiene, what we call sanitation in the United States, also figures prominently in many developments. From using lasers to burn off wafer residues to engineering more efficient clean-in-place procedures, machines are being designed to incorporate sanitation from the first to last bolt or weld.
Energy savings ranked high amongst many of the suppliers. From tempering machines that reduce energy costs by half to roasters that capture exhaust heat and recycle it to improve flavor while reducing roast cycles, suppliers have designed their machines to save customers money.
But they haven’t forgotten about pumping product out. As confectionery consumption continues to expand within emerging markets, multinationals and regionals need high-volume machines to meet demand while containing costs. Throughputs, be they in processing and packaging, have never been higher.
Many of you haven’t forgotten that period during the Great Recession when most manufacturers postponed investing in equipment and/or new lines because they were unsure about the future. Well, confectionery processing and packaging suppliers quickly realized that this was the time to channel resources toward research and development.
As confectionery manufacturers visiting interpack this year found out ― and as readers will discover in Candy Industry’s July issue― it was time well spent.