MARKET ANALYSIS OF TOBACCO SORTING TECHNOLOGIES
In 2008, JT Group decided to execute a detailed market analysis on the latest technologies used in optical Foreign Material Detection (FMD) systems. During this process, the JT Group learned that the technology had greatly evolved since their existing laser-based FMD equipments were implemented, making it impossible to further upgrade them with the latest technologies available.
In order to compare the current units with the latest sorting technology, a long-term evaluation test was required. The main focus was to increase NTRM removal and sorting efficiency by decreasing error rejection levels, while looking into the new and enhanced sorting criteria available, such as biological characteristics of tobacco.
Following this, a series of short-term tests was executed. Further tests in a real production environment were organised at the JTI Trier GmbH facility. These evaluations took the full year of 2009 to complete.
TOMRA Sorting provided its latest laser technology for sorting tobacco. Both its Helius free fall laser sorter and its TB5 high capacity belt laser sorter (with a Helius hardware processing platform) were put to the stand for six months on-site evaluation. Each unit was integrated into the primary tobacco expansion-processing line and evaluated in real production conditions by the facility team.
The Japan Tobacco International (JTI) Global Engineering team also led several offline tests on PMD-conditioned tobacco lamina (tobacco blends incl. Virginia, Burley, Oriental and/or reconditioned tobaccos) in different percentages.
The tobacco industry evaluation test-protocol was used (seeded tests) as JT Group’s specific targets were set forward. Criteria such as ease of maintenance, operatability, blend management/blend changes, line integration complexity, user-friendliness, and stability of sorting were considered during the evaluation.
Tests with the Helius free-fall laser sorter and the TB5 belt laser sorter were successful. Both the sorters complied with the high standards set forward for this evaluation.
JT GROUP CHOOSES TOMRA FOR A LONG-TERM PARTNERSHIP
The foundation for a long-term partnership was set as the JT Group decided, after careful analyses of the parameters set forward during the evaluation, to approve TOMRA’s laser-based FMD-systems. As a result, the JT Group committed to purchasing multiple TOMRA sorting machines for various processing plants.
Tatsuya Shimada, JTI Global Engineering FMD-evaluation project leader, said that he became convinced of the quality of TOMRA’s laser sorters after rigorous testing. “Both laser sorters satisfied the criteria we set forward, and the product range they cover will ensure that the implementation meets the specifics of our production lines.” Furthermore, Shimada commented upon TOMRA’s professionalism: “If any observation was made, TOMRA’s responsiveness and the actions they undertook to overcome issues gave JT Group a good feeling about the kind of commitment TOMRA was ready to make and of the resourceful solutions TOMRA was able to offer.”
For example, when asked if a local service team could be available for Japan Tobacco Inc. facilities in Japan, TOMRA committed to setting up a specific operation and hiring competent service engineers to comply with the very specifics towards minimal intervention time. TOMRA also agreed to make local spare parts available.
Steven Van Geel, TOMRA’s Market Manager Tobacco, commented: “We would like to thank the JT Group for this opportunity and the time they have dedicated to the evaluation.” Furthermore, Van Geel added that TOMRA is pleased to work with the different JT Group affiliates, while maintaining a close relationship with the different primary processing equipment integrators with which JT Group has established a relationship with in terms of equipment supply. “Together with the expertise of the JT Group, its integration partner(s) and TOMRA, we will make sure that all the installed sorters keep performing in the most optimal conditions, striving for a consistent NTRM free product.”