“Not just optical sorting but complete work floor automation”


During the Fruit Logistica, MSP announced an investment in a 12-tracked optical onion sorting machine from Eqraft. “We are hoping that more processors join our participation project in the coming period. 

We need each other to advance. We have all the ingredients, from advice, design and assembly to complete mechanisation and automation to build the factory of the future,” says commercial director Rutger Keurhorst from Eqraft.

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Rutger emphasises that Eqraft – a new company that was created with the merger of ERC, Qreenno and Propak – doesn’t just devote itself to optical sorting technology. “We want to be a complete project supplier, driven by what is needed to make maximum use of a factory in the field of efficiency, effectivity and planned output. 

Being a reliable partner and being able to closely listen to the interests of the customers, that’s what it’s about. Skill and innovation are tools for that to translate it into actual performance. And that’s exactly what we selected our partners for within the Onion Tech Alliance (OTA) from the various professions in the past period. 

We offer a complete solution for onion processing companies, from receiving, cleaning, suctioning, sorting, buffering, weighing packing and palletising. Each of the participating parties adds their own specialism: Eqraft (project engineering  and production technique for sorting, processing and packaging), Deprez Handling Solutions (internal transport and storage technique), Modesta (separating and dust extractions technique) and Symach (palletising). Besides, we have a close cooperation with Tomra for pre-sorting.”

“You can no longer look at processing and packaging as a series of loose components. The different machines in the production supply chain barely communicate with each other even today, but because of far-reaching mutual dependency, an integral approach is necessary. OTA now offers one open conversation partner and a solution for the entire process,” Rutger continues. “Although it’s barely applied in the Netherlands, we are technically far enough to couple all machines in an intelligent manner. This is done through an additional layer of software (WorkFloorAutomation, or WFA), which communicates with both the direct line management and with the ERP pack. An operator can load an order on his tablet, and the system will choose the most efficient product order with the fewest readjustment times. All machines in one line communicate with each other, so that a complete line can be rebuilt with just one push of the button.”

Indeed: the factory of the future is operating much more autonomically than current companies. The factory adapts its production when demand changes, and when there’s a power outage, the system will think of an alternative route. Only when the system cannot figure it out at all, will manual action be required. People will therefore not become completely superfluous. An added advantage of that autonomy is that custom work and small quantities can be realised much easier and cheaper, because the machines can set up themselves. Besides, autonomy means that a factory is no longer a static arrangement of components. Analysts therefore compare Industry 4.0 factories to Lego kits, a company – depending on supply and demand – can add and remove modules. That all sounds great, of course, but to realise an Internet of Things, much openness is needed in the production supply chain. This often results in areas of tensions in the field of mechanics, causing blockades in the total flow. This is precisely why a choice was made by the members of OTA to operate in an Alliance to achieve this openness and coordination. “Only then will you have smart factories that seamlessly meet the ‘Industry 4.0 principle’. The equivalent of the Internet of Things that should ensure that all machines, products and services are part of one network and share information – both within and outside of the factory gates – to achieve optimum production, predictable maintenance and customer specific custom work.”

“Our aim is to offer our customers a complete solution. The time of building and selling loose machines that barely communicate is over, as far as we’re concerned. Because we personally design, produce and programme our machines within Eqraft, we also have a grip on the further development and mutual coordination. This is much more than just buying machines from third parties as a kind of project coordinator, to put together a processing line. We have carefully positioned Eqraft on the market in recent months, and it’s now up to customers to join us in this process. The customer isn’t bound to every OTA supplier, but it’s up to us to show that the combination offers a direct added value. With a number of large orders recently, including the one from MSP, the first steps have been taken, and that obviously energises us and confirms the road taken. When I look at what we currently have on our drawing tables, this will no doubt be copied in coming time. For that, the target isn’t just the large factories. Smaller projects and customers are dealing with an increasingly more expensive workforce and fewer available (foreign) workers who are willing to face the dust, noise, and long hours of the onion sheds!”

Rutger Keurhorst

Director Commerce

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