Complex refining process
Cargill operates worldwide and has sites in our country in Mouscron, Ghent, Antwerp, Vilvoorde and Izegem. The latter plant was taken over in 1998 from Vandemoortele, which became a customer of Cargill in the process. The new 'Factory of the Future' refines crude oil into different types of oil and fat in batch processes.
Customer Specific Recipes
This creates flexibility for quick product changes, but also entails great complexity for the internal logistics," says site manager Marco Moes. "Starting from the different types, we create unique, customer-specific recipes, tailored to the applications. We the oils to combine the right properties and thus obtain our end products."
Some of the production directly to Vandemoortele, and the rest is taken by truck to the many surrounding chip and snack producers, or to our neighbouring countries. "On a separate line, we also produce oil for baby food, for which there are very strict quality and food safety requirements", Mr Moes continues. "What does not go to food factories in bulk, we bottle and pack under various private labels for food service and retail. In addition to the 'food share' of our bottling production, a small part also goes to the non-food sector, such as the tyre industry."
Cargill Izegem in a nutshell
- Incorporation: 1998
- Activities: refining crude oil; packaging oils and fats
- Sales: industry, food service and retail in Belgium and neighbouring countries
- Workforce: 250 to 270
Numerous control instruments are built into the bottling and packaging line.
We see innovations not only in the products themselves, but also in the packaging for instance, prompted by social trends or changing legislation
"At the request of our retail customers, we now blow PET bottles on our filling lines, using preforms of recycled plastic. These are more sustainable, of course, but they have a major impact on the tuning of our machines. The chance of contaminants in the PET material is greater here, and so is the chance of leaks through miniscule holes. One option is to make the bottles thicker, but then they are more expensive and have a negative environmental impact. The other option is to build in the right control instruments to monitor quality throughout the process," Moes explains.
In concrete terms, high-speed cameras have been installed that constantly take comparative pictures. Marco Moes continues: "If a bottle does not meet the requirements after moulding, it is removed from the line at an early stage and returns to the recycling stream. Other cameras also check whether the cap is on properly and whether the label is correct before the bottles are put into boxes or trays. After filling, there is also a built-in checkweigher, so that we do not fill the bottles too empty or too full. The slightest deviation immediately triggers an adjustment in the filling systems. Furthermore, performance can be monitored in real time on large screens above the lines. All these digitalization measures have resulted in a reduction of customer complaints and costs. In this way, we also created a distinguishing capacity with regard to competitors."
In addition to the packaging material, studies are also being carried out into how the bottle shapes can be optimized. The aim to reduce the number of transport operations of finished products and thus reduce CO2 emissions also. Other sustainability efforts can be found in the actual production process. "For example, we recently invested in a new combined heat and power plant, which produces both electricity and steam for our processes -- good for a 20% reduction in CO2 on an annual basis. In a subsequent project, we want to investigate whether investing in solar panels is an option,” Mr Moes adds.
The new combined heat and power plant leads to a 20% reduction in CO2 on an annual basis.
Such innovations naturally require some innovation, not only in the processes, but also on the part of the employees.
The slogan and mascot were thought up by the employees themselves.
"We already had our own 'manufacturing excellence' programme here, in which we focused in particular on the objective and vision of our company. This had to be repeatable and recognisable for our employees: 'Filling Lives CLEVER Together'. Our activities, end products and operations are all contained in this slogan. CLEVER is also an acronym, which stands for continuous improvement, liveable planet, one goal, safety, enthusiastic and committed employees and result-oriented. We came up with this together with our own employees, just like the accompanying mascot. That way, you immediately increase involvement", Mr Moes explains.
The advantage? "During audits, every operator can now tell immediately what we stand for, whereas before they found that difficult. If you know why you do things, you are also motivated to perform those tasks. The 3Ps - purpose, process, people – are consequently inextricably linked and each part is equally important. When it comes to people, I also attach great importance to their development. I assess them in three areas: 'What are the results, how do you develop yourself and how do you develop your team?
In order for everyone to have an influence on the end result, some team shifts were operated, with closer cooperation by and between the different departments. "We have also created ownership of the production lines, which again benefits the results. In a certain sense, the operators are now responsible for the maintenance of the machines they are working on. If an alarm goes off, they themselves intervene immediately, instead of waiting until it breaks down before calling in the technical service. This frees up time for the maintenance crew to coach them and carry out preventive and predictive maintenance. So now they can do this specialist work themselves, whereas we used to outsource it," he continues.
Factory of the Future
To win the Factory of the Future award, a company has to score sufficiently on seven transformation axes. "We had already made great strides. Only digitalization and sustainability were missing from our own improvement programme, so we started to focus on those areas," says Marco Moes. "This audit is not to be underestimated, but it does provide a clear guideline. If you work towards it in small steps, you will get there", he believes. Competing for the award is certainly worthwhile, in his view.. "Cargill may be a large company with 150,000 employees worldwide, but its name does not appear on the packaging. The award has increased awareness for our brand, and this has been reflected in the applications."
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