Rich In Water Resources

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

The Romanian stock corporation, Perla Harghitei, just cannot seem to break the habit: over and over again, the mineral water bottlers invest in filling lines from Krones. 2017 saw the company commission what is already its seventh line in succession.

Demand in Romania for products and disparate container types is characterised by increasing differentiation and complexity: “Consumption of still water, in particular, exhibits over-proportional growth here. This was why we decided to install another PET line with a higher output and block technology,” explains Szilárd Dietrich, Assistant to the General Director and Proprietor, who proudly gave the Krones team a tour of the plant.
Dietrich starts the tour by giving some insights into Perla Harghitei’s history: “The mineral water company was founded back in 1974 as an enterprise owned by the Romanian state. In 1994, five years after the fall of the Ceaușescu regime, Árpád Kurkó, my father-in-law, succeeded in taking over the firm in a management buy-out. For the preceding eight years, he had himself been a Managing Director at the likewise state-owned water bottlers Borsec. At the time of his take-over, Perla Harghitei was operating four relatively small glass lines. From 1996 to 2003, the company was for the first time using a (pre-owned) PET line for filling carbonated mineral water in 0.5-litre and 1.5-litre containers. 2002 then saw the installation of the first Krones line, rated at 12,000 containers per hour.”


Flawless Installation

“Installation of the most recent line for water filling went off like clockwork,” says Dietrich. “First we completed the hall for it and laid the floor, then the machines were delivered and erected by our own staff in their correct places, after which the installation team from Krones arrived, linked up the individual machines to each other and commissioned the line.”

Even today, the machines and the water-blue floor are still gleaming like new, although the line—in its first year of operation—had already filled over 25 million bottles with still or carbonated water.


Two Significant Innovations

For Perla Harghitei, this line is something quite special in two respects, the first one being that the company has premiered a block-synchronised layout.


“Krones persuaded us to give it a try—and we haven’t regretted it,” says Dietrich. “We were afraid of losing too many preforms in the event of a filler standstill. But our fears proved to be unfounded, thanks to the ingenious electronic link installed. The block offers us a better standard of hygiene and high efficiency levels. Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is running at more than 70 per cent, which, in view of our greatly diversified product range, is very good. Fierce competitive pressure from the large multinational companies means we have to invest in innovative technologies of this kind, offering as they do both low consumption figures for energy and water and an enhanced level of hygiene. Block technology from Krones meets these expectations to consummate perfection.”


The second significant innovation was first-time use of a Contiroll wrap-around labeller. “We’re changing over step by step from paper to PE labels, mainly for reasons of cost. We’re sticking with paper only for exports because here it’s quite possible that legislators in the individual countries may change the specifications involved at short notice, and paper means we’re more flexible with smaller batches,” he explains. This was also the reason why in early 2018, Perla Harghitei had the existing Canmatic replaced by a Contiroll in the second PET line as well.


Also Appreciated Abroad

Although exports—accounting for roughly two percent—are rather marginal, they’re all the more exotic for mineral water. “The USA is in first place, followed by Hungary, Canada and China. The reason for this can be found in the extremely high emigration rate: an estimated 20 percent of Romanians left the country in search of better working conditions. In the US and Canada, especially, there is a downright diaspora of Romanian immigrants, who prefer natural mineral water from their homeland to the ubiquitous local treated spring water. In Chinese bars and restaurants, too, our Perla Harghitei in the 0.33-litre glass bottle is a much appreciated, high-priced beverage,” claims Dietrich.


He also attaches major importance to pointing out his company’s sustainability-focused philosophy: “For us, sustainability means more than just placing the slogan ‘Perla Harghitei—love nature!’ on our labels. We actually do something to achieve sustainability: in 2014, we changed over to Shorty closures with some help from Krones, enabling us to now use preforms with a lower weight. What’s more, we’re still selling some of our products in returnable bottles, accounting for 20 percent of our production capacities.”


German Affinities

“We have real affinities with Germany,” says Dietrich. This is reflected not only in close cooperation with Krones. When it comes to CSD production, too, Perla Harghitei is opting for German know-how. “We buy our basic ingredients from Döhler for the Allegria soft drinks with a fruit juice content. The fact that our waters are highly mineralised means it isn’t all that easy to produce carbonated soft drinks. So we need the knowledge of experienced specialists,” he explains. The elderflower flavour, by the way, is at the moment the absolute runaway bestseller in the firm’s highly diversified portfolio.

Exclusive Machinery Supplier

In his assessment of Krones, he goes one step further: “Krones is our exclusive machinery supplier, and that’s something we will definitely not be changing. Over the past years, Krones staff have repeatedly demonstrated just how effectively they are able to support us. They have put in place a can-do, fast-response service team here in Romania. We absolutely need this local service support.”


And his boss and father-in-law Árpád Kurkó, concurs: “We shall be sticking with German technology. I visit Krones in Neutraubling at least twice a year, and feel very much at home there,” says the 70-year-old, who despite his success has remained unassuming and down-to-earth. And things are going to stay that way in the future as well. Perla Harghitei is considering new pack variants and thinking about channelling further capital expenditure into its filling capacities. There are plans for installing another line for still water as early as in 2019—this one, too, from Krones.



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