Many legends surround Kazakh Switzerland. One claims that when God distributed the mountains, forests, fields, rivers and lakes throughout the world he only had endless steppe and desert left for Kazakhstan. The offended Kazakhs demanded compensation and as a result were rewarded with some of the most picturesque scenery in Asia. It’s up to the individual to decide how much truth is in this story; the outstanding beauty of this area is undisputed, however. The region is now known – quite rightly – as the “pearl of Kazakhstan”. With fourteen crystal-clear lakes it has long been popular with vacationers. One of these stretches of water is Lake Borovoe. Encircled by expanses of birch forest and the Kokshetau Massif, with peaks climbing up to 1,000 meters, Borovoe has lent its name to an entire region – also because this is where bubbling natural springs can be found which are famous for their quality and healing powers far beyond their place of origin.
Very close to here in the city of Kokshetau, with a population of 150,000, beverage bottler Kokshetauminwody or KMW was founded in 1991, the same year the Soviet Union was dissolved and Kazakhstan gained independence. Over the past 25 years its mineral and curative waters, drawn from three springs in Borovoe, have been certified by international institutions and won many medals and prizes.
Production started with Kulager-Arasan curative water which was originally only intended to satisfy local demand; the company’s portfolio, which has since gained a number of mineral waters and soft drinks, is now enjoying increasing popularity beyond the region and even nationally, in particular the products sold under the Turan brand name. Alcoholic beverages were added to the range of products in 1997, among them Haoma vodka. The company is therefore growing fast: after having to repeatedly install extra filling lines at its production sites in the last few years, in 2010 KMW doubled its capacities in one fell swoop. A few years later the company again reached its limits. With the help of Dortmund systems supplier KHS its production volume was considerably enlarged and adapted to satisfy up-to-the-minute requirements. On premises measuring over 14 hectares about 1,500 people now produce around 120 million liters of non-alcoholic and almost 15 million liters of alcoholic beverages per year.
Murat Nurmukhambetov, head of the KHS office in Kazakhstan, proudly states that the Kazakhs placed not one but three orders with Dortmund. “One of the orders is for a PET line which will fill still and sparkling water into 0.5-, 1.0- and 1.5-liter bottles and for which a completely new production shop has been built. This line has a capacity of up to 26,400 bottles an hour – almost twice that of the most powerful of the company’s lines to date. The next order is for a syrup room for an existing line which has been converted from water bottling to the production of soft drinks.
The third contract is for a five-liter line with an output of 4,800 bottles per hour maximum which has been installed and commissioned by KHS. It’s one of the fastest lines of its kind in the Commonwealth of Independent States – if not worldwide.” In the Russian Commonwealth five-liter bottles are in common use for mineral water; this is drunk in place of tap water which in many places is of poor quality.
The main investment, the ‘big’ water line, not only features a stretch blow molder and filling system but also a labeling machine and shrink packer. Besides the higher output of the line plant manager Stanislav Maksimets praises three aspects in particular. “Firstly, the new line is much more compact, taking up much less space than our existing lines,” he explains. “Secondly, we appreciate the fact that the audits and technical diagnostics are included in the complete package in the initial period following commissioning. The third plus point is that we can procure spare parts directly from KHS without having to go through a distributor. This saves us about 20% in costs.”
On course for growth
The vast expansion of the company’s technology, to the total of approximately €11 million, is just part of the investment the new owner of Kokshetauminwody, the Asia Waters Company, has planned since the takeover last year. Under its auspices the bottler is to dedicate itself more intensively to the future issues of digitization and automation, resource efficiency, sustainability and working conditions. In addition to meeting the demand in Kazakhstan the company aims to also profit from growing markets in Russia and especially China. In order to achieve all of these ambitious objectives, Asia Waters has invested a further €74 million – not just in buying up shares but also in creating a new image for KMW’s product brands, launching new beverages, establishing further distribution sites and intensifying sales activities.
With its upgraded plant engineering KWM considers itself well prepared for the future. “In further developing our capacities using high-tech equipment from KHS we’ve built a solid foundation for our plans for growth for the next five years,” says Stanislav Maksimets happily. The plant manager has the next stages in development firmly in his sights: “In the short term we’re going to change our packaging section over from manual to automatic palletizing. We also want to create a setup which enables us to dress our premium mineral water with self-adhesive labels.”
When asked what he appreciates most about his cooperation with KHS, Maksimets doesn’t take long to produce an answer, summing the partnership up in three words: “Flexibility. Professionalism. Service.”
Maksimets sees yet another advantage in working with the Dortmund company, one which he finds particularly important, illustrating just how progressive KMW is. “For us, one of the determinative factors in awarding the contract to KHS was that their line used much less energy in the form of electricity and compressed air than similar systems – despite it being about 10% more powerful than its competitors.” With these words he demonstrates that sustainable production and future proofing are valued in Kazakhstan. Accordingly, he’s also very impressed by the use of innovative, cutting-edge technology and the degree of automation of the production processes in the machinery.
Regarding the mixing of their soft drinks, during the planning phase the Kazakhs soon realized that a completely new syrup room from KHS would be less cost-intensive than adding a mixer to and carrying out the necessary conversions on their existing water line as originally planned. The decision thus was not too difficult. “With our new syrup room we can efficiently produce all of our innovations in alcohol-free beverages with their natural ingredients in the high quality we require,” smiles production manager Nuraly Mirzaliyev. “Here, the pasteurization of the finished products prior to filling is just as beneficial to us as the high level of automation and the use of modern information and communication technology.” Maksimets adds, “With our new syrup room we’ve doubled our capacity for soft drinks, bringing it up to a maximum of 42,000 liters per hour. We plan on reaching this output in the next five years.”
“What we appreciate about our cooperation with KHS is flexibility, professionalism and service.”