Like the process of homogenization - where two substances that won’t ordinarily come together to make a product - so is the success story of the GEA Homogenizer. This is a story of how a small-town Italian company merged with a German corporation to engineer for a better world.
It all started in 1947; a story that starts with a family
When the Italian Soavi family founded their high-pressure homogenizer business back in 1947, they probably had no idea of the impact their technology would have to this day, 75 years later. Homogenization is a vital part of milk processing. It basically ensures that two liquids that don’t usually mix together, like milk and fat, are processed in such a way to make the milk smoother so that there is no separation between the milk and the fat.
Starting with a high demand for dairy applications, the former company Soavi Bruno & Figli was located in the quaint area of Parma, a north Italian region known for its cheese and prosciutto. This Italian Food Valley is also the home of GEA Homogenizer BU Headquarters. Today, GEA homogenizers are used in more than seven different applications, they affect almost every part of our daily consumption from food to beverages, to medicine, nutraceuticals and other products that enhance our quality of life.
There is no growth without change
Originally located in a residential area of Parma, there were frequent time constraints imposed on the increased industrial activities. So, in 1972 Soavi relocated the company to its current location. And this how the new Headquarters came about, spanning a territory of over 10,000m2 in total. But it wasn’t just the physical expansion of the factory and office spaces that was a sign of growing success; in 1980 the machinery was re-designed with more sophisticated compression blocks and a new chain drive for higher flow rates. With new technology came the opportunity to tap into new markets like wax, inks, lotions, nail varnish, clay and sauces like ketchup and mayonnaise. The potential for more required more resources and talent.
From local to global
It was exciting times for the Italian company which was acquired by GEA Group in 1993. This acquisition made it possible for the company to be present on the international market. Consequently, the potential for global success, through expansion into additional industries, has now become a sure reality. The GEA Homogenizer BU grew from a team of 20 to nearly 200 people.
With hubs located in Singapore, Germany and USA, GEA could build a better relationship with customers all over the world. The family run business mindset developed and evolved to a more diverse and inclusive global culture, from engineers, to scientists, to sales personnel and even interns. More resources lead to more innovation for the Homogenization business unit.
In 1991, the PandaPLUS — one of the best-known homogenizers in the world — was launched. The unique selling point is its ability to perform tests with small sample quantities but also guaranteed quality results on a larger industrial scale for any kind of application: from milk to fruit juices, from biotech products to food, including products in the chemical industry.
Significant new technical improvements were introduced to the homogenizing valves during the ’90s. Pneumatic actuation was implemented while different valve designs were engineered to optimize the use of energy inside the valves. These new valves proved to be 30% more efficient than other homogenizing valves.
In 2010, the first skid-mounted homogenizer was sold to a pharmaceutical company that was looking for a plug-and-play homogenizer on wheels with a small footprint and the ability to reach 1.500 bar pressure. This sale led to the launch of the Pharma Skid product line. With its high-pressure, automated digital solutions offering, it was designed specifically to meet the needs of the biotech and pharmaceutical markets.
The technology only got better with time, and by 2018, The NiSoX-Valve introduced a complete change in high pressure homogenization technology. Its design was unprecedented, in that it could ensure the breakdown of particles in the micronization process in ways that other devices could not. Plus, it was energy efficient.
The reason for GEA Homogenizer's success lies in the combination of mindset, culture and ability to innovate that has been part of our DNA for the past 75 years. The atmosphere here in Parma is really positive and inspiring, and I believe it is mainly due to the strong team spirit and passion that everyone brings to their work on a daily basis. Today, as in the past, we are proud to say, we are GEA Homogenizer.- Domenico Gambarelli, Senior Vice President BU Homogenizer at GEA
Success is a moving goal
While the production site in Parma is a display of modern machinery, there is also a laboratory next to it, known as the GEA Process Technology Center for homogenization; where customers can have consultations and test products to fine-tune their homogenization process. Collaboration and synergy with customers are essential for the development of new products.
At GEA we innovate by following that curiosity to pursue new market trends, like New Food, plant-based beverages and milk, and nanomaterials. It is compelling see what the next 75 years will bring in this evolving industry.