Interview with Aviko Rixona
Written on 17-03-2016
With regard to the development and commissioning of the largest single potato steamer in the world.
Interviewee: Andries Broekhuizen
Company: Rixona bv, Warffum. Subsidiary of the Aviko group.
Perspective: Co-creation, innovation and development.
Recently, I talked with Andries Broekhuizen, Maintenance manager at Rixona in Warffum. The reason for our conversation was the collaboration between Rixona and DTS on the development and commissioning of a new potato steamer. It was the largest of its type in the world and has the largest volume ever built by DTS. A memorable fact that prompted a discussion between both parties in the form of an interview. Because how does such an idea originate and how does the cooperation between experienced players such as Aviko and DTS work during this type of project? Who is the customer? What makes them unique? And how does this type of project get off the ground? What can combining strength and knowledge mean for both companies?
I drove to the far north of the Netherlands in order to find out...
As always, I was given a friendly reception at Aviko, this time by Andries himself.
We then started our conversation.
Can you say something about the origin of Rixona? And the function of the company in the Aviko Group?
Our company was started by the Willemsen brothers here in Warffum 80 years ago. At that time, this was a factory where they processed not only potatoes but also other types of vegetable into conserves, fruit drinks and other vegetable products. They soon saw the potential of granulate production and were the first in Europe to process potatoes into granulate. In 1985, the company was taken over, and it has been a 100% subsidiary of Aviko since that time.
Rixona consists of 2 companies, one of which is located in Warffum and the other in Venray. Venray is the head office and houses the Board and the sales department. Rixona is geared primarily to the production and sale of dried potato products such as granulate and flakes.
What is the function of the Warffum branch within Rixona?
Warffum is really a production site. Only production takes place here.
It mainly serves the industrial market. For example, the snack industry. We exclusively produce potato granulate here. This product is used a great deal in the production of "shaped chips”. The manufacturer uses extrusion, punches the shapes and then cooks them. The granulate is shipped all over the world.
It is clear to me that Rixona is a company with a rich history and its own vision. What actually distinguishes Rixona/Aviko from other companies? What is it that makes Rixona unique?
Rixona is a company that has always sought innovation and is not scared to move with the times. What makes us especially unique is that we are an extremely efficient company. One of the most efficient granulate factories in the world is run here by an extremely small group of people. This is unique in the industry, and we are very progressive in this field.
Our business operations are geared to constant improvement, automation and making the process more efficient. This makes it possible for almost the entire production process to take place without the use of human labour. The entire process is completely automated. In terms of organisation we have set it up so that all of the work that must be done is carried out during the day shift. For example, we plan all of the intake of raw materials, the technical service and packaging during the day shift. The fact that the process itself is fully automated means that only a few people are needed to run the entire factory at night. Efficiency is therefore what really distinguishes us.
How are technical innovation and process development handled at Rixona?
TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) is used to constantly search for innovation and improvements in efficiency.
We use "Kaizens”, which are small interdisciplinary group activities that involve representatives from every department. For example, there will be someone from process, someone from the technical department, someone from packaging, etc.
This enables us to see problems from different perspectives and to seek solutions in different ways.
A 14-step method is used to thoroughly study the problem, its origin and its solution. Constantly asking ourselves why, why, why? This eventually produces the correct solution.
A structure improvement system allows us to deal with problem-solving effectively. This bears fruit in the form of good results and statistical improvements that are achieved year after year.
The methods have ensured that up-time of 99.8 % is achieved and machine stoppage only takes place for a number of hours per year. Figures that are unparalleled in the industry.
What does the use and application of steam look like in the Rixona production process?
Steam boilers supply steam to the processes and machines that require it. We mainly work with low-pressure steam. The steam pressure in our process is approximately 5-6 bar. This is sufficient for us. We do not make use of, for example, steam peeling techniques.
How is the peeling process carried out now that you no longer use steam peeling techniques?
The product is not peeled traditionally. That is one of the innovations.
The washing installation has been managed so effectively that sand is no longer taken in. The potatoes go into the process unpeeled and we eventually sieve the peels out completely.
Naturally, this is a much more efficient way to separate the peel from the product. You prevent losing the quantity of peel that you normally lose with peeling techniques and thereby the loss of a significant quantity of dry matter, which, of course, has a direct effect on the yield.
How was the requirement for steam technology met previously?
The steam process used previously was known as a Twin-cooker.
This is a steamer in which 2 screws rotate. Of course, this is now done with a DTS single steamer, which is fitted with a smart steam meter, has no chimney and is more efficient than our old system.
What was the motivation to choose a single DTS steamer?
We used to steam the potatoes with a Twin cooker of the old type. In this type of twin cooker the screw blades are interwoven, as it were. This does involve a risk of mechanical damage in the case of faults or an unequal driving force. We then decided to look at alternative techniques and eventually opted for DTS.
We looked at both a twin cooker of the current DTS type and a single cooker. In the current DTS twin cooker the screws are placed next to each other. After conducting research and in consultation with DTS we sought the simplest version and decided that a single cooker would be the best solution for us.
We like to find the solution in simplicity. With a single cooker you have just one drive unit, no cogs, just 2 bearings and the lowest possible number of moving parts.
Aviko is "simply the best” and this technique is absolutely appropriate for this motto.
Can you describe the relationship between Rixona and Dutch Tec Source?
There has been a connection between Dutch Tec Source and Rixona for a long time. Our factory in Venray has several DTS machines and has had good experiences with DTS.
I can also be found there regularly. I see what machines look like and how business is done with my own eyes. That was also the reason why we approached DTS for their input on this project.
Which factors were the reason for the creation of the machine in question, namely the largest of its type?
We have applied a great many calculations and conducted studies on, for example, layer thickness in this steamer. We executed tests and calculations with the given parameters in order to formulate a correct prediction.
DTS indicated that it was prepared to build and provide a guarantee in relation to the strength of the construction and materials. The conjunction of these two expertises created a joint venture.
In Warffum we have never been scared of modernisation and have always been prepared to innovate. We are not a company that wants to limit itself to a proven technology that has already been on the market for 15 years per se. We dare to think out of the box and are open to new ideas and developments. We have done this in the past with several projects and I believe that this attitude is the key to our success.
In this instance, both parties dared to take the challenge, and cooperation created something special.
With this machine, we have purchased a steamer with a capacity of 13,500 kilograms per hour. The old steamer had a capacity of 10,500 kilograms per hour. Capacity expansion was therefore also an important motivation for the creation of this machine and cooperation.
What did the cooperation between Rixona and Dutch tec source mean for the development of this machine?
You can see it this way – we shared our technical product knowledge and know-how and DTS shared its knowledge of technical construction and materials. Combining these strengths ensured that we dared to jointly take a new step towards building the largest steamer in the world. A special fact.
What do you believe are the important advantages of screw technology in this process?
For our industry, namely the potato processing industry, I see a number of extremely important and obvious advantages. The alternative to screw technology is belt technology.
A belt steamer in this specific case. They have the great disadvantage that they are enormously big and require a very large area of floor space. In contrast to a screw steamer, which can be produced in a reasonably compact format, even for the large capacities with which we work. In addition, belt steamers are absolutely not maintenance-friendly. There are a great many moving parts and wearing parts that are also extremely expensive and difficult to replace. A screw steamer is fairly easy to monitor. A rotation safety feature on the back ensures that the screw stops immediately if something goes wrong or breaks in order to prevent further damage.
A screw steamer is just much simpler and more practical to use. The strength is in the simplicity.
In my opinion, the same principle applies for other, similar heat processes, such as blanching and cooling.
What, in your opinion, distinguishes DTS from other machine builders?
There are a number of important aspects of DTS that were decisive in our choice for them. Firstly, the construction speed is an important advantage. DTS Works quickly and efficiently, which is an advantage in relation to the competition. Robustness is also an important aspect. DTS has a lead on its competitors in terms of build quality. This finish level is just higher in every way. There is attention to detail in both the construction and the finishing.
It can sometimes occur that the screw can move a little during the commissioning of a machine with such small margins of play. However, in this case the machine was finished neatly. It was installed and worked immediately without any problem. This shows that the machine was built extremely accurately.
In addition, the more hygienic construction is very important to us as a company operating in the food industry. Naturally, we strive to create the most hygienic processing process possible.
It is the small details that make the difference, such as angled surfaces in the construction where dirt cannot accumulate and the neat finishing of weld seams, corners and holes. The entire construction is also easily accessible and easy to clean.
How did you experience the cooperation between Rixona and Dutch tec Source?
I think that the collaboration was very good. It was a purely positive experience for me. DTS made accurate calculations in relation to construction. A good product was delivered, and contact was maintained and business was done in a pleasant manner. It was just good.
How did sharing knowledge and expertise and the co-creation contribute to the success of this technique?
Sharing knowledge and expertise was the core of the success. Two parties with sufficient know-how who put their heads together. Aviko is not too miserly to share its knowledge for this type of project, and thereby dares to seek new applications. Fortunately, DTS also has this kind of conviction and courage, and that is the reason for the success. During this type of development process it is also important that there is transparency and honesty between both parties. This enable you to learn from each other and use shared knowledge to create a wonderful result.
How do you see the cooperation between Rixona and Dutch tec Source developing in the future?
This project went perfectly, so DTS will certainly be a player in the future that we continue to involve in the improvement and modernisation of our process technologies. I foresee a strong partnership and see more applications in which the sharing of knowledge and expertise could be useful. For example, in a follow-up project for a blancher, cooler or steamer, DTS is absolutely the player that we would approach.
Are there obstacles or negative experiences that you have had during the development process? Due to both Rixona and DTS?
I have not seen any negative points. On the contrary even. I experienced the cooperation and the development process as extremely positive. I also, for example, really appreciate the finishing. For example, if a motor ran a little too fast, a new one was sent and everything was neatly resolved without a problem. That gives you a great deal of confidence.
What recommendation can your company make to us for the future?
The only thing I can say is ‘stay yourself’. Keep doing the good things that you are doing.
The things that you are good in. I can also especially recommend continuing to search for cooperation and never being afraid of innovation. This is a recommendation that I base on the Aviko philosophy.
After our conversation, Andries gave me a complete guided tour of the factory so that I was able to see with my own eyes how the steamer that had been under construction at DTS several weeks earlier had now been taken into operation. What struck me immediately was the almost clinical clean state of the production room. I have been in a great many potato processing factories around the world and I have never seen such a clean and tidy processing room. There is not a single crumb on the ground, and there is not a drop on the ground even in the ‘wet’ section. My surprise at this seemed to fill Andries with pride.
After this visit and the conversation with Andries I can conclude several things. Andries is someone with a passion for the business and his profession. His passion for the process is infectious and I believe that his perfectionist view of the production process was at the heart of the creation of this special joint venture.
For me, Aviko live up to the reputation that it projects. A traditionally Dutch company, with pragmatism, efficiency and innovation as its priorities. A company that has involvement of the staff as a high priority. In contrast to a great many other companies they are not scared to share their knowledge and enforce an extremely modern transparent policy.
The embodiment of the proud Dutch entrepreneurial spirit. A company that is on the move and is certainly not scared to innovate. A company with a rich history that has been active for many decades, but is not showing any signs of ageing. Young in spirit, with a wealth of experience and knowledge. As they themselves say "simply the best”.
For me, the enthusiasm and the perfectionism that I have seen and experienced in Andries and the other members of staff explain the success of this cooperation.
An unlimited love for the profession, attention to detail, passion for the business and striving only for the very best. Shared values that connect DTS and Rixona.
A solid foundation for, hopefully, a great many fruitful joint ventures in the future.
Cause if it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much.
Dutch tec Source