Ivan Todd, ceo at TPZ
Founded in 1987, Tobacco Processors Zimbabwe (TPZ) is owned by Northern Tobacco Company Ltd, Inter-Continental Leaf Tobacco Company, and Tribac Ltd.
The company’s Harare plant is one of the largest and most modern leaf processing facilities in Africa. TPZ has the capacity to handle an average of 500 tons per day and wants to become a leading global service provider in the tobacco industry’s supply chain.
TPZ handles, stores, processes, and packs a wide range of tobacco products, namely threshed lamina, tobacco stem, bundle leaf, loose leaf, and hand strip.
Depending on the scale of production, the green leaf threshing (GLT) process, which is the mainstay of TPZ, is highly labor intensive and the company employs up to 1,800-strong seasonal workforces at peak production. It also has 148 permanent employees working three shifts, Monday to Saturday.
The factory is made up of two 10-tons-per-hour threshing lines plus one 3-tons-per-hour loose leaf/bundle line. In 2015, TPZ processed 75 million kg of tobacco, making it the largest GLT in Zimbabwe in terms of market share.
Processing Zimbabwe’s tobacco crop
TPZ is responsible for processing of over 42% of Zimbabwe’s annual tobacco crop and is proud to serve companies such as Tribac, Northern Tobacco, Inter- Continental Leaf Tobacco, Chidziva, Savanna, Mashona- land Tobacco Company, Deplaat Investments, and Tianze Tobacco.
These tobacco merchants in turn export their products to cigarette manufacturers around the globe, including Africa, Middle East, India, Indonesia, China, Japan, Russia, United States of America, and Europe.
“TPZ is a dedicated tobacco processing company committed to quality excellence on all its services to shareholders and business partners,” said Ivan Todd, TPZ’s c.e.o. “That’s why we pursue technological advances that enable continual enhancement of product quality.”
“We wanted to increase the efficiency and consistency of our manual traditional picking tables, since there was still room for improvement. Manual removal of NTRM [non-tobacco related material] such as plastic, stones, metal, cocoon, feathers, and grass from traditional picking tables is not entirely efficient and consistent due to human error, so we had to search for a new solution. That’s when we ended up with TOMRA’s Stratus.”
Commenting on his market research, Todd says: “TOMRA is well-established and has experience with GLT processes. We had the opportunity to watch a Stratus sorter in action at another GLT where it had been performing well.
“And since we were already using one of TOMRA’s sorters, the Helius laser sorter, which was delivering to our expectations, this helped in building trust and confidence when it came to embracing new offered technology. On top of that, the service and support rendered ensured smooth business operations.
Todd continues: “TOMRA’s Helius laser sorter complemented manual NTRM removal on picking tables before threshing. The Helius sorter handles through half inch product from the threshing line before final screening.
Reduced risk of contaminated product
“Prior to threshing, NTRM pieces present in the green infeed can statistically be split in mainly two categories: >1/2” (relatively large and easier to detect and extract) representing around 10-40% of all NTRM, and <1/2” represent- ing around 60-90% of all NTRM present in the product.
That’s why there is a need for fractioning and a dedicated sorting solution for each of the individual fractions. After all, the efficiency of the sorter is influenced by the uniformity of the product – size, color etc.
“Enhanced NTRM removal before threshing, together with the use of the Helius laser sorter, reduces the risk of packing NTRM contaminated product,” explains Todd.
Todd says that TPZ has installed TOMRA’s Stratus sorter in their second processing line, which follows primary conditioning but is before secondary conditioning.
TOMRA’s Stratus is an in-air laser sorter that can remove NTRM in a product stream of big-leaf tobacco before threshing (the bigger the defect, the easier to remove it). After all, bigger NTRM being threshed into more and most importantly much smaller particles, negatively affects the ability for an end of line sorting solution (before redrier) to remove these smaller NTRM’s.
On the Stratus, an optimal single spread of product (good quality leaves, off-grades and NTRM) is obtained by the combined effect of the different elements within the infeed arrangement.
When entering the customized Mini Swan Classifier (MSC), a hovering effect is generated, lifting and accelerating the leaves into high speed laminar air flow, presenting a mono- layer of big leaf to the scanning area. A variable number of lasers inspect the product within milliseconds, a rejection device responds, rejecting the undesired elements.
The MSC design ensures that heavies such as stones, bundles, hands and tobacco pads are pneumatically classified and removed before entering into the product stream.
As a bundle buster is never a 100% efficient, the ability to classify tied bundles, send them through a dedicated opener and avoid these go to the threshers as a bundle, the overall yield of the threshing process increases.
The optical sorting platform is based upon the industry proven Helius sorting technology, ensuring high sorting efficiency with low error rejection.
Todd explains: “To be presented with the opportunity for an initial machine trial and optimization at no cost, and to be the first GLT in the region employing such advanced technology in the detection and extraction of NTRM in tobacco, was the decisive factor to purchasing TOMRA’s Stratus.”