The GEA Group issued a multi-million dollar investment in a new vertical packaging technology center in Weert, Netherlands. The goal is to create further growth GEA tech centerfor the group and the segment by expanding the production site and increasing its capacity.

"We have experienced strong growth over the last few years," says Harrie Neijnens, vice president of technology and site manager. "We'd reached the limits of our capacity. At the same time, our technologies for the food industry hold a substantial growth potential. To be able to grow further as a company, we needed to create more space at our site, too."

At the heart of building operations is the construction of a new technology center with modern facilities, all of which can be shown to the customer as part of a live demonstration.

"The technology center is an integral part of our work," says Neijnens. "It's important to us that our customers can learn about and profit from our wealth of experience by coming into direct contact with our products. We allow them to get hands on with our machines and see them live in action—not simply on paper—so that they can get to know what equipment suits their needs before ordering. This is embodied by our motto, ‘Test before you invest.’ A fantastic way to fuse the GEA values of responsibility and excellence.”

The GEA SmartPacker will play a central role in the technology center and is targeting optimal results in the area of vertical flow packaging.

"Demand in this area is particularly strong," says Carla Verheijen, product manager for the GEA SmartPacker. "Initial requests came from the Benelux countries, then from across Europe and now they're coming in from across the globe. The market has grown considerably, given that the GEA SmartPacker can be used to pack a wide range of products such as fresh and deep-frozen meat, fish, vegetables, potatoes, cheese, salad and even confectionery."

The technology center will be supplemented by a new training center, with enough space for 50 square meters of state-of-the-art training rooms. The training center is affiliated with the GEA Academy, which holds training sessions for employees, customers and service providers of the segment and trains them to use GEA products. Other areas of the plant are also being expanded.

"Looking to the future, we'll be structuring renovation work in such a way that streamlines the production process, meaning we can produce higher quantities at a greater pace," says Neijnens. "What's more, everything happens under one roof now—from the development of a product right through its assembly—meaning we can make better use of our capacities. We'd like to pass on this efficiency to our customers by delivering products to them faster than ever before." Construction activities are scheduled to be completed by early May.