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Success story Tobacco Processors Zimbabwe (TPZ), Africa

Founded in 1987, Tobacco Processors Zimbabwe (TPZ) is now owned by Northern Tobacco Company Ltd., Inter-Continental Leaf Tobacco Company and Tribac Ltd. The company’s Harare plant is one of the largest and most modern leaf processing facilities in Africa. TPZ has the capacity to handle an average of 500 tons per day and wants to become a leading global service provider in the tobacco industry’s supply chain.

01 August 2016


TPZ handles, stores, processes and packs a wide range of tobacco products, namely threshed lamina, tobacco stem, bundle leaf, loose leaf and hand strip.

Depending on the scale of production, the Green Leaf Threshing (GLT) process, which is the mainstay of TPZ, is highly labor intensive, and the company employs up to 1,800 seasonal workforces at peak production. It also has 148 permanent employees working three shifts, Monday to Saturday.

The factory is made up of two 10 tons per hour threshing lines plus a 3 tons per hour loose leaf/bundle line. In 2015, TPZ processed 75 million kg of tobacco, making it the largest GLT in Zimbabwe in terms of market share.


TPZ is responsible for processing over 42 percent of Zimbabwe’s annual tobacco crop and is proud to serve companies such as Tribac, Northern Tobacco, Inter-Continental Leaf Tobacco, Chidziva, Savanna, Mashonaland Tobacco Company, Deplaat Investments and Tianze Tobacco.

These tobacco merchants in turn export their products to cigarette manufacturers around the globe, including Africa, the Middle East, India, Indonesia, China, Japan, Russia, United States of America and Europe.

Ivan Todd, CEO at TPZ, says: “TPZ is a dedicated tobacco processing company committed to quality excellence in all its services to shareholders and business partners. That’s why we pursue technological advances that enable continual enhancement of product quality.”

“We wanted to increase the efficiency and consistency of our manual traditional picking tables, since there was still room for improvement. Manual removal of non-tobacco related material (NTRM) such as plastic, stones, metal, cocoon, feathers and grass from traditional picking tables is not entirely efficient and consistent due to human error, so we had to search for a new solution. That’s when we ended up with TOMRA’s Stratus.”

Commenting on his market research, Todd says: “TOMRA is well-established and has experience with GLT processes. We had the opportunity to watch a Stratus sorter in action at another GLT where it had been performing well.”

“Since we were already using one of TOMRA’s sorters, the Helius laser sorter, which was delivering to our expectations, this helped in building trust and confidence when it came to embracing new offered technology. On top of that, the service and support given ensured smooth business operations.”

Todd continues: “TOMRA’s Helius laser sorter complemented manual NTRM removal on picking tables before threshing. The Helius sorter handles through half inch product from the threshing line before final screening.”


“Prior to threshing, the NTRM pieces present in the green infeed can statistically be split into (mainly) two categories: > 1/2 inch (relatively large and easier to detect and extract) representing around 10 - 40 percent of all NTRM, and < 1 inch representing around 60 - 90 percent.”

“That’s why there is a need for fractioning and a dedicated sorting solution for each of the individual fractions. After all, the efficiency of the sorter is influenced by the uniformity of the product, size, color etc. Enhanced NTRM removal before threshing, together with the use of the Helius laser sorter, reduces the risk of packing NTRM contaminated product.”

Todd says that TPZ has installed TOMRA’s Stratus sorter in their second processing line, which follows primary conditioning but is before secondary conditioning.

TOMRA’s Stratus is an in-air laser sorter that can remove NTRM in a product stream of big-leaf tobacco before threshing (the bigger the defect, the easier to remove it). After all, bigger NTRM being threshed into more and most importantly much smaller particles, negatively affects the ability for an end of line sorting solution (before redrier) to remove these smaller NTRM’s.

On the Stratus an optimal single spread of product (good quality leaves, off-grades and NTRM) is obtained by the combined effect of the different elements within the infeed arrangement.

When entering the customized Mini Swan Classifier (MSC), a hovering effect is generated, lifting and accelerating the leaves into high speed laminar air flow, presenting a monolayer of big leaf to the scanning area. A variable number of lasers inspect the product within milliseconds and a rejection device responds, rejecting the undesired elements.

The MSC design ensures that heavy objects, such as stones, bundles, hands and tobacco pads, are pneumatically classified and removed before entering into the product stream.

As a bundle buster is never 100 percent efficient, the ability to classify tied bundles, send them through a dedicated opener and avoid these go to the threshers as a bundle, increases the overall yield of the threshing process. The optical sorting platform is based upon the industry-proven Helius sorting technology, ensuring high sorting efficiency with low error rejection.

“TOMRA’s Stratus guarantees the detection and extraction of NTRM from tobacco whole leaves before threshing, and this NTRM extraction efficiency is higher than manual traditional picking tables. Next to that, the integrated HERS (High Efficiency Roller Sieve from VIT s.a. in Greece) efficiently removes small objects for the Helius laser sorting. Bundles and pads are also opened for efficient sorting and processing. It removes heavy objects such as stalks, stones and metals through the mini-swan.”

Todd explains: “To be presented with the opportunity for an initial machine trial and optimization at no cost, and to be the first GLT in the region employing such advanced technology in the detection and extraction of NTRM in tobacco, was the decisive factor to purchasing TOMRA’s Stratus.”

Ivan Tood


“You need to take into account that we have an incoming defect load of approximately 342 pieces per ton. TOMRA’s Stratus detects and segregates the main foreign defects as follows: category one being synthetic materials, category two being inorganic materials, category three being animal products and category four being organic materials.”

“TOMRA’s Stratus ensures a more efficient NTRM removal especially in category one and three, compared to traditional picking tables prior to threshing (category 2 items mainly drop out through rollers and PAL’s). The trial period confirmed the performance through test results and these highlighted that zero tolerance for all the above mentioned categories is required in the final packed product, reducing the contamination risk.”

Taking more than 540 samples over the 2015 processing season showed efficiencies over 95 percent on the first 3 categories and over 90 percent on category 4. At the same time, doing multiple Mass Balance Exercises, the overall yield seems to have improved since putting the Stratus in the processing line.

Todd explains that the benefits accrued mainly impact the quality of their customer’s final packed product: “Having TOMRA’s Helius and Stratus in our processing line enhances the acceptance of our product and the customer’s ability to market their own products.”

“TPZ is the only GLT with a Stratus sorter in the region. This obviously helps us be cutting-edge above the competition in delivering an NTRM free tobacco product.”

“The results give a positive outlook of the intended objectives. TOMRA’s Stratus ensures a continuous and consistent sorting, with very high efficiency in removing categories one and three.”

“The Stratus is user-friendly, making it easy to consistently identify and remove NTRM from high volume product lines opposed to the commonly used manual pickings. Being built using commonly used items in a GLT also facilitates the ability to maintain the unit during the season.”

Commenting on TOMRA’s service and support, Ivan says: “TOMRA’s service and support team have provided high quality operational training to the machine users and have continued to offer reliable and efficient technical support wherever needed.”

Lars Janssens, Market Manager Tobacco: “I would like to thank the TPZ team for believing in this concept from day one. The passion and persistence shown to turn this trial into a success is truly remarkable. Seeing TPZ and TOMRA teaming up as partners to bring new technology to this part of the industry has been an inspiration of how both customer and supplier can work together to achieve a common goal: remaining number 1 in our own domains.”


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