Established in 1929, BOH Plantations is the market-leading tea grower in Malaysia and accounts for 70% of all tea produced in Malaysia. With four tea gardens encompassing 1,200 hectares, the company's annual production is in the region of 4 million kilograms, translating to about 5.5 million cups per day.
Being one of the few vertically-integrated tea companies in the world, BOH Plantations has operations ranging the entire spectrum of tea manufacture - from cultivation and processing to the packaging and marketing of its wide range of black teas.
BOH is accredited with ISO 22000 certification for complying to the worldwide food safety standard. Apparently BOH was the first tea company in the world awarded with the ISO 22000 certification. In order to maintain its prime position in the domestic retail market and expand into overseas niche markets, BOH Plantations realised that investment in its manufacturing process was required.
When the project began, BOH outlined the key performance requirements:
- Product quality: the processing systems were to be state-of-the-art, with exemplary hygienic manufacturing and quality standards (homogeneity, product safety, cleaning ability)
- Production flexibility: the manufacturing operation was to be designed to allow multiple recipe production simultaneously - this technique is sometimes known as 'parallel processing'; quick recipe changeover and clean-down (where necessary) also had to be considered
- Space utilisation: BOH wanted to utilise existing floor space for the new production area, which should allow for future expansion both in capacity and number of recipes being produced
BOH has fully adopted Matcon's 'lean manufacturing' philosophy of parallel processing in its new production facility. By installing a Matcon cone valve intermediate bulk container (IBC) system, BOH has a flexible manufacturing facility, maximising throughput with minimum equipment investment. By operating independent 'process modules' and using the IBC as the 'vehicle' to move the product, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) can be optimised, lowering the cost per kg produced.
Automated recipe formulation
The Matcon formulation bay (housing four major ingredient IBCs), doses the major ingredients automatically using cone valve technology in a gain-in-weight manner into the receiving batch IBC at floor level. The major ingredient IBCs on the formulation bay can hold a combination of several recipes without the need for changeover. Due to the quick and accurate discharge achieved with revolutionary Matcon 'Vari-Stroke' discharge technology, there is no requirement for a secondary feeder. This makes the system extremely easy to clean and allows for minimal down time when ingredients need to be changed.
Minor ingredients are pre-weighed manually and added into the batch IBC. Keeping this task manual provides very high flexibility as there are many variations of minor ingredients. Formulation of the batch time is also shortened as this operation is done in parallel to the major ingredient batching.
BOH selected a Matcon IBC blender as it achieves homogenous blends for a wide range of recipes using its 360° tumbling action. Many factors were evaluated including flexibility and product quality. As the IBC is the blending vessel, no cleaning of the blender unit is required (the IBC is cleaned off line), therefore the blender can mix several recipes without the need for cleaning and with zero contamination risk. This blender allows BOH to increase product quality, mix multiple recipes without any downtime and utilise minimal floor space.
Feeding packing machines
A Matcon discharge station is installed above each packing line, ensuring a controlled discharge without product segregation, maintaining the homogeneity of the blended product. This is again achieved with the use of Matcon cone valve technology. To meet the demands of today's volumetric fillers, the powder handling (refilling of the infeed hopper) become even more important. If refilling is not reliable and 'steady', the product bulk density will change (head load in the infeed hopper), effecting the accuracy of the filled sachet and speed of the machine. By using Matcon cone valve technology, BOH achieves the desired throughput rate of the packer whilst maintaining good product quality.
The system was installed in March 2011 and is now operational, and furthermore meets all of BOH Plantations' performance requirements.
"We chose Matcon as our powder processing partner as their lean powder handling solutions and unique technology will help us assure the highest product quality yet full flexibility for our increasing range of products and help us grow in the years to come," says BPS's Mehmet Alguel, chief technical officer.