The firm's latest generation of technical solutions include the SBO Universal blow-moulding machine range, which Sidel claims delivers a 20 per cent reduction in plastic bottle blowing costs and guarantees a yield of 97 per cent.
And with raw material prices remaining high, many manufacturers have cost-effectiveness at the very top of their list of priorities.
"It is a very competitive market, and the purpose of the SBO Universal range is to provide a solution that is cheaper and requires less maintenance," communication vice president Bertrand Guillet told www.foodproductiondaily.com. "It can also help manufacturers use less energy."
Sidel claims that a reduction in low levels in the perform infeed system improves the blowing machine's yield by at least 2 per cent. The recycling belt keeps performs from getting jammed inside one another, and if performs are too numerous, they are automatically ejected onto orienting rollers and returned to the hopper.
And with 27 per cent less dead space in the blowing air circuits, air consumption shrinks making it possible to reduce the size and, consequently, the cost of the compressor. The company also claims that an optional air recycling system combined with a flow meter delivers additional savings of at least 15 per cent.
The launch of the SBO Universal comes after the completion of a huge three-year programme of R&D. Guillet claims that four per cent of Sidel's annual turnover is devoted to this aspect of the business, a rate that is impressive for the industry.
Such investment though is probably necessary if Sidel hopes to stimulate a European market that is proving rather tricky at the moment. World demand for packaging machinery may be projected to rise over 4 per cent a year through 2008 to over $31 billion according to analyst Freedonia, but most of this growth is expected to be seen in the developing world.
"It is a very competitive market," agrees Guillet. "What we try and do is offer a complete solution. When we design blowmoulders, we look at every cost aspect, from the footprint to the raw material."
Indeed, Sidel even designs the bottles to be used in its packaging machines. "There is a trend at the moment towards lightweight bottles, with companies concerned about raw material costs," said Guillet.
The SBO Universal range can be specially configured to accommodate packages as large as five or six litres. The equipment can also be used to produce both PET and PP packages without modifying the machine's configuration, and both can be manufactured at similar output rates.
In addition to the SBO Universal, Sidel is also launching two new fillers. The flowmeter filler has been developed from its aseptic base, and is designed to meet the growing demand for bottled water. Similarly, the gravimetric weigher, originally used by the edible oil industry, has been adapted for use in other sectors such as dairy and fruit juice.
"The trend we are seeing is that products are getting more and more complex," said Guillet. "You now get milk products without such-and-such because consumers are demanding this. Flavoured water is a growing segment. Everyone is fighting against becoming a commodity."
It is Sidel's aim therefore not only to help products manufacturers cut costs but also to have the flexibility to expand and develop new product ranges.
According to the Freedonia report, Western Europe comprises mature markets for packaging machinery. And although the machinery markets in the US, Japan and Western Europe will all register below average gains through 2008, all three will also see an improvement in their respective markets over the performance of the 1998-2003 period.
Among product groups, labelling and coding machinery will remain the fastest growing product. Advances will result from the increasing number of labelling regulations in many parts of the world, as well as from shippers' need to track product.
Filling and form/fill/seal equipment will remain the largest product group, due to their widespread use across a range of industries. And new product development activity will continue in all product categories, with packaging machinery manufacturers continuing to introduce smarter, faster and more flexible units, according to Freedonia.
Sidel is a leading manufacturer of systems for packaging liquid foods in PET. Sidel employs 3,700 people in 25 countries and is a subsidiary of Tetra Laval.