GEA sets up production of Nestlé’s ready-to-drink coffee line in Japan virtually

Start of production in Nestlé’s Shimada Factory supplied by GEA: The Japanese team’s take on the project work during the pandemic. Physical work can be done faster and more sustainably with digital support (Image: Nestlé)

GEA has remotely put into operation a ready-to-drink coffee production line in Shimada, Japan, for Nestlé, the world’s largest food company. Due to the pandemic, the the most critical phase of commissioning was done remotely. This opened up new and more sustainable ways of collaboration between globally dispersed project teams.

“We have already completed a few projects for Nestlé in Japan. Getting the entire production completely up and running virtually and on schedule was where our partnership really came into its own. We’re proud of this joint effort, which has proven its worth in the six months since production began,” said Takayuki Miyazaki, managing director of GEA in Japan. “The extreme conditions we faced due to the COVID-19 restrictions forced us to be exceedingly flexible and enabled us to leverage digitisation opportunities more effectively. Ultimately, we are glad we had this experience, which exposed us to a new way of working on projects: We are becoming more agile and adaptable.”

COVID-19 alters the course of the project implementation

To protect the workforce and avoid jeopardising the project, Nestlé and GEA moved the work to the digital sphere and changed process routines: Much of the equipment was pre-installed at GEA’s plants instead of on-site. In fact, the UHT (ultra-heat temperature) treatment system was transported from Germany to Japan in one piece after extensive factory acceptance testing in the workshop. Using digital tools like remote service desktops along with digital control rooms allowed GEA’s commissioning experts from Germany, Pakistan and Singapore to guide the team in Japan remotely as it did the actual hands-on work. Thus, GEA simulated and optimised operations in a virtual environment, making sure the commissioning went smoothly for Nestlé.