From crispy cobs to delicate braid to Weggli, the epitome of the classic breakfast roll: JOWA AG products probably mean something to everyone in Switzerland. The company, based in Volketswil in the Canton of Zürich, is the country’s leading bakery and part of M-Industry, supplying bread, cakes, pastries and pasta products to all Migros stores, as well as many other businesses and catering facilities.
Gottlieb Duttweiler, the Swiss visionary and man behind Migros, founded the present-day JOWA in 1931, as one of many industrial enterprises producing goods directly for the distributor. This was in response to mounting opposition to the increasingly successful Migros from some manufacturers of branded goods, who even resorted to a sales ban. The young company grew quickly and opened a number of sites as well as in-store bakeries in Migros stores, which have now developed into a comprehensive network employing more than 3,000 people. The range also became more extensive over time and today includes around 3,000 different products.
Mouthwatering aromas and impressive logistics
Production is mostly centred in JOWA’s eleven regional bakeries. One of them is located in Gossau, a suburb of St. Gallen. On a tour of the factory, you are immediately spellbound by the mouthwatering aroma. Which is hardly surprising, as everywhere you look, you are surrounded by delicacies such as cream slices, butter croissants, or Biberli sweet gingerbread. But the logistics of the site are also impressive: it is not just a matter of making all the items, they also have to be packaged, temporarily stored, picked for orders and sent to numerous outlets throughout the country. In the order picking halls, a fleet of nine electrically-powered forklift trucks ensures the fast and emission-free transport of goods. As JOWA works six days a week, twenty-four hours a day, the forklift trucks are equipped with back-up batteries, so that they are ready for use at all times. “Constant availability is particularly important for our Christmas trade, because this time of year sees an increase in utilisation of around 20% compared to other periods,” reports Daniel Lendi, supply manager at JOWA AG in Gossau. “All the manufacturing and logistics processes must therefore engage seamlessly with one another.”
Previous charging technology no longer up-to-date
Until recently, JOWA relied on chargers using 50 Hz transformer technology as the power supply for their lead-acid batteries. But this did have some disadvantages, remembers Lendi: “The huge devices simply rested on the hall floor and took up a great deal of valuable space. With traction batteries weighing almost 400 kilos, changing them also took a vast amount of effort and always involved two members of staff. Yet the safety risk remained considerable, as the batteries could easily topple over and injure employees.”
The technology also showed clear weaknesses in terms of energy efficiency. The outdated charging process caused overcharging, in turn leading to high energy consumption and harmful warming of the battery. The devices did not have any charging status indication either, so batteries were often changed unnecessarily. “The forklift trucks and batteries were specifically matched, and the battery was often changed simply at the end of a shift, regardless of how full or empty the battery being used actually was,” explains Daniel Lendi. Not only did this take time, it also had a negative impact on the service life of the expensive batteries.
Sustainability is an important factor
Like all companies in the M-Industry Group, JOWA also follows an ambitious sustainability strategy. One of its objectives is using sustainably produced raw materials and renewable energy as efficiently as possible. This is why a close eye was kept on the charging technology of the forklift fleet – and the decision made to replace devices that were showing their age with a modern and more economical solution. “Our colleagues in Volketswil had already found working with Fronius to be an extremely positive experience,” remarks Daniel Lendi appreciatively. “Which is why the manufacturer was our first port of call for this project too.”
Fronius and its Business Unit Perfect Charging specialise in providing an efficient and sustainable energy supply for electric forklift trucks. The company is based in Pettenbach in Austria and has had a subsidiary in Switzerland for many years, providing optimum support for its Swiss customers. “Intensive and individual advice is vital if we are to provide the best solution for every user,” explains sales expert Reto Baumgartner, who managed the project for Fronius. Together with JOWA, he designed a system that was perfectly tailored to the food manufacturer’s needs.
Space-saving installation and safe handling
Instead of the huge 50 Hz chargers, there is now a compact charging station with eight 2 kW Fronius Selectiva devices installed in the finished goods store. These are mounted close together on a stand, with the back-up batteries immediately below them – saving valuable space in the hall. Standing in front of the individual charging stations is a transfer trolley fitted with castors, which can easily be raised by hand to the desired height. “Changing the battery has never been easier,” says a delighted Daniel Lendi. “Forklift operators merely have to stop in front of the station and the transfer trolley takes all the effort out of changing the heavy batteries – it does not take much time, nor does it need the assistance of a second person.” The trolley has a surround at the side to ensure that the batteries cannot topple over, improving on-the-job safety.
The Selectiva devices are also the only ones on the market to use the intelligent Ri charging process, which adapts each charging process individually to the condition of the connected battery. “Overcharging is therefore reduced to a minimum and we also save energy – by up to 30% compared with the 50 Hz technology,” explains Reto Baumgartner. This consumes less electricity and prolongs the service life of the batteries at the same time. The Ri charging process also greatly reduces gas formation during charging, as well as the water consumption of the lead batteries.
More even utilisation reduces operating costs
Fronius no longer specifically matches a forklift truck to a battery, instead it uses a so-called “chaotic battery pool”. This is controlled by the Cool Battery Guide Easy information and management system. An LED strip for each device indicates which battery has been connected the longest and is already fully charged. “So now, when an operator comes to the station to change the battery, they can see at a glance which battery is the next in line,” says Lendi. “This optimises the utilisation of our pool and also ensures an extended service life, as after they have been charged, the batteries always have enough time to cool down.” There is another positive effect: the introduction of the pool system means a saving of two back-up batteries, which also reduces operating costs.
Daniel Lendi is enthusiastic about the new Fronius charging technology. “The station has really simplified things for our employees,” he stresses. “It is now far easier, quicker and safer to change the battery than ever before.” The external start/stop function of the Selectiva devices also helps here. When changing the battery, the operator only needs to insert or remove the charging plug; there is no input required on the device itself. “The Ri charging process automatically identifies the ideal characteristic and the external start/stop prevents sparking when the charging cable is disconnected,” explains Fronius expert Baumgartner. This virtually rules out any incorrect operation that could endanger employees or damage batteries.
Solution also of interest to other sites
A total of 17 Fronius battery chargers are now in use at JOWA in Gossau and in addition to the charging station there are also several single charging points. The more even utilisation of the battery pool allowed the company to extend the charging time for the forklift batteries from eight to twelve hours. This further conserves battery power. The improved charging process also means that expensive spikes in current are a thing of the past. “Fronius helped us create far more energy-efficient and cost-effective intralogistics,” summarises Daniel Lendi. “Throughout the project, we also had our own expert partner, whom we could trust wholeheartedly.”