The Colombo Ice Company Limited (CICL) in Sri Lanka, today part of the Elephant House Group, which belongs to the John Keells Holding, can trace its history back more than 150 years. The company manufactures a wide range of soft drinks that have earned Elephant House a reputation for excellence and is well known for its ice cream, which it claims is the best tasting in the country.

CICL Ice Cream factory in Avissawella, Sri Lanka
CICL Ice Cream factory in Avissawella, Sri Lanka.

Elephant House used to supply its legendary ice cream only in bulk containers. In 2016, the company decided to expand its range to include impulse products - such as ice cream lollies, tubs and cones - by setting up a new manufacturing line at CICL. GEA was chosen to supply the complete refrigeration system for the new greenfield factory in Avissawella as a turnkey project. The system is environmentally friendly as it uses the natural refrigerant ammonia. Since opening in May 2018, the GEA refrigeration system has been running faultlessly. CICL is very satisfied with the GEA solution and is now discussing further cooperation for its factory expansion.

Why GEA?

GEA Refrigeration Plant installed at CICL Ice Cream Factory
GEA Refrigeration Plant installed at CICL Ice Cream Factory, Sri Lanka.

 “GEA provided us with a good technical solution at a competitive price,” said Dilan Piyarathna, factory engineer with CICL, “The critical components are all manufactured in Europe so we knew they would be high quality. Also, I had seen the GEA Grasso compressors working at a reference site in Sri Lanka, so I knew they performed well. The other important factor is the GEA people, Jacob and his team are very knowledgeable and responsible, they helped analyze our ice cream plant and provided us with good and practical suggestions. We know we can trust them.”

A time for simplicity

GEA Screw Compressor Package partial
GEA Screw Compressor Package partial view.

Jacob Groenenboom, GEA Refrigeration technical sales & project manager based in Bangkok, Thailand, in cooperation with GEA Refrigeration’s international team, led the sales effort with CICL. From the start he was sure that simplicity would be the key to success for CICL. “The refrigeration system was for a new product line for CICL,” he explained. “Customers always want the most advanced systems available, but in this case I thought it was more important to supply a practical, robust system that was easy to operate, would require little maintenance and would guarantee the desired outcome. In phase one, we needed to keep it simple.”

Jacob came to this conclusion because of the remote location of the factory which he knew would mean CICL would need to handle routine maintenance in house. “But it’s good practice anyway to build these plants in two phases: a basic system to start while the market is being established, then upgrade to a more advanced system later, for maximum efficiency when volumes increase,” said Jacob. “We kept it simple to make sure it would be reliable and so that any maintenance could be handled in house or with the assistance of our very capable local contractor in Sri Lanka."

Dilan Piyarathna and Jacob Groenenboom
Dilan Piyarathna (left)) and Jacob Groenenboom (right).

Every customer is different, so I had to look at what CICL needed not necessarily what they thought they wanted. I knew that this was the right system for CICL to develop this new product range.”–Jacob Groenenboom, GEA technical sales & project manager

Being flexible and responsive

GEA was able to offer CICL a reliable system featuring GEA’s high-quality Grasso screw compressors. But as well as providing his expertise to advise his customer, it was necessary for Jacob to be both flexible and responsive. “I remember being called to a meeting to finalize the technical design and commercial conditions between Christmas and New Year 2016. I could have asked to wait until the following week, but I knew it was important for the customer to have the details completed.”

It was important for us to have a premium supplier for the refrigeration plant. Right from the start of the project we had confidence in Jacob and the GEA team. We issued the Request for Proposal in August 2016 and received the plant from GEA on 9 May 2018. It’s been running faultlessly since then.”–Sanjeewa Jayasundera, head of supply chain, vice president of John Keells Holdings

Proven success

Just more than a year after the new plant was commissioned the venture has proved to be a success. “We had our opening ceremony on 23rd May 2018 and, since then, we have not had any refrigeration issues,” Dilan explained that when the refrigeration line was installed GEA had included key efficiency features that help to reduce costs and maintain sustainability. “Our top management is also happy with the performance.”