MAF Roda China

"Quality control and standardisation drive change in China"

“The challenge of operating in China is to convince the grower of the advantages of having more modern, advanced lines installed. Price is an important factor, and efficiency and accuracy are not always valued. These factors are becoming more important prerequisites in this industry. For example, a company that is exporting needs to be able to deliver products at a stable weight, sugar level and calibre. That is where efficiency and accuracy gain importance,” explains Jean-Christophe Couzin, general manager of MAF Roda China.

Cooperation with the Qifeng Fruit Group
“We work closely together with our clients in order to understand their needs. One of our clients is Qifeng Fruit, a large kiwi producer. A couple of years ago they decided to increase their capacity. At the time, they wanted to install five smaller machines to boost their capacity. We explained that it would be in their best interest to, instead of having five smaller ones, have one large machine installed. One machine has the advantage that it works with the entire crop in one central place. From there, the quality of the total crop is monitored, which makes the weighting and sorting process more accurate. Production can also be sped up more efficiently. This has helped Qifeng to strengthen their position on the market and they managed to improve the quality of their product at a stable rate. All of our electronic systems are designed and manufactured in Europe, and we can guarantee weighting and sorting qualities.”

Mr Qi Feng, General Manager of Qifeng Fruit, together with Jean-Christophe Couzin, General Manager of MAF Roda China

MAF Roda's four-line kiwi sizer installed at the site of Qifeng Fruit

“Generally, customers start with investing in a smaller, basic machine. This is a way to get to know the equipment and start to understand the technology and its applications. After that, companies expand. Typically, the first investments are weighting devices, followed by camera’s for external quality control, sugar level monitors, and devices to register internal defects. All our machines are easy to upgrade and to add additional functions to. We have a number of customers in Shandong province. They start with a base machine that sorts fruits on size. After that, they add colour control, our Global Scan 3D scanning device which registers external effects and instruments that monitor sugar levels. There is no need to install everything at once, and we do not push our clients in this direction either.”

Word of mouth
“We also do smaller machines. However, for customers, the differences between our machines and locally manufactured machines are not always clear. In Sichuan Province we sold a number of machines to the local lemon industry. When people compare our machines to local competitors they can witness the difference and understand the difference in price. Our machines are stronger and work more accurately. Word of mouth is very important to us. We signed new lemon lines because our customers saw our machines at a neighbouring company. For the lemon industry, we developed a special programme which is called the LemonScan. The LemonScan is less expensive than our Global Scan system and is specifically designed to monitor lemons. Now, all our clients in Sichuan province have invested in the LemonScan. Generally, half of our machines are standardised and the other half are customised to meet client specific needs.”

A two lane apple sizer with MAF Roda's Global Scan 3D scanning system and sugar level monitors installed in Shanxi Province

Drivers of change and cooperation with Nongfu Spring

“There are a number of factors that are driving change in the industry. Wages have gone up and manual labour is becoming more expensive. Some companies face a lack of manpower. Especially for difficult, or heavy tasks, this can be a problem. Tasks such as palletising and destacking, for example, require heavy manual labour, which is why companies are willing to invest in automation. Another driver is the move towards quality control and product standardisation. Nongfu Spring, a well-known citrus and beverage producer, guarantees acidity and sweetness levels at a ratio of 17.5. Decision sugar level measurements are needed to ground this claim. Last year, we installed a test machine at Nongfu Spring. They ran trials with different companies, but found our machines worked most accurately and efficiently. Our machines now sort the citrus based on taste and calibration. In total, we have worked with Nongfu for over 10 years, helping them build a premium quality, branded product.” The new line will be able to handle 1,000 tonnes of oranges a day.

A ten lane orange sizer with the Global Scan 3D scanning system and sugar level monitors installed at Nongfu Spring

“Not all of our customers are large companies. The majority are small to medium sized firms. For those, weighting devices are often important. Supermarkets in China have problems with calibration, and perhaps refuse the product if it does not meet their standards. Our machines help the growers to meet the demands of their customers.”

“China is a huge country, and our team needs to travel a lot. The local fresh product industry has gone through some difficult times. The apple and orange industry have been confronted this year by overproduction and low market prices. There is increased competition from imported fruits. Branding is becoming increasingly important. However, the industry started to develop only recently, and from a low starting point. For foreign companies, it is hard to utilise an internationally established brand within China. The market is so completely different. In order to grow, one needs to be with the people, understand the industry and be close with ones clients.”

For more information:

Jean-Christophe Couzin, General Manager
MAF Roda China
Telephone: +86 535 6758 388

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