For over half a century, AZO has played a pioneering role in the automation of raw materials in the foodstuffs, pharmaceutical, plastics and chemicals sectors. Trailblazing developments have been brought into being over this period.
Through all our endeavours to create new technical solutions, AZO never loses sight of the pivotal importance of the people involved: many company inventions were devised to avoid the need for, or to limit the repercussions of, heavy physical work.
1949 – a spirit of renewal in Osterburken. In a former sheep shed, Adolf Zimmermann and his wife Marianne opened a mill construction business. After close of play, the enthusiastic handyman devised machines for use in mills and bakeries. From this early time, he was working on plans for what later became world famous as the cyclone screening machine.
In 1951, Adolf Zimmermann built his “Pyramidal“ grain cleaning machine. A master baker provided the final prompt for building the first ever centrifugal flour sieving machine. This was launched on the market in 1952 under the name of “Triumpf” and was the prototype of the modern cyclone screening machine.
The trade fair for bakers and confectioners held that year in Stuttgart delivered the first sales and highlighted customer requirements. Produced up to that time in wood, these machines were now to be constructed entirely of metal, a major challenge for the young business and its workforce.
By the mid-fifties, AZO was already supplying the bakery trade and the bread-making industry with complete systems for flour, screening, leavening and temperature control with mechanical - and even in some cases pneumatic - fan conveying.
The number of employees had risen to 50 by 1957.
Together with an active sales partner, AZO opened up new markets for its products in the Benelux countries, especially Holland. Demand for this machinery and equipment became so great that the business soon outgrew its original building. In 1962, Adolf Zimmermann laid the foundation stone for the new building in the industrial estate on the east side of town.
In 1963, the company moved its 80 highly-motivated employees into its new building, with a total floor area of 2500 square metres.
The development of pneumatic suction weighing systems for feeding kneading units and mixers proved to be a trailblazing success.
On the sales front, AZO teamed up with a major supplier to the bakery trade. This supplier’s capable sales team sold large numbers of AZO units. By virtue of their standard modular system, AZO shell-type silos proved a major success, giving the company market leadership position within just a few years.
In 1966, with its new production range of pneumatic vacuum conveying systems, AZO presented new ways of feeding processing and plastics machines. The challenging requirements of the foodstuffs and chemicals industry necessitated the extension of the stainless steel production facility. By 1969, a total of 270 staff were employed on the factory site, by now extending over an area of 60 000 square metres.
The turbulent Seventies had AZO engaged in the development of suction weighing and conveying systems. The conveying, dosing and weighing of predominantly horizontal material flows do not require much space, making it possible to use existing space within buildings in an optimum manner. These systems constituted a major step forward for high-volume automation. Small quantities such as ingredients and additives were still being weighed by hand at this time, something of a challenge for the development specialists at AZO.
In 1975, AZO scaled up its sales activities and established a highly-effective nationwide field service in Germany. For the export market, contracts were concluded with agents all over the world, and licenses were issued to Japan. AZO even started supplying its equipment to South-East Asia.
This intensive sales effort rapidly delivered results: Orders started flooding in from all over the world, initially for machines and small units, but then increasingly for large units as well.
The first ever company subsidiary was established in the USA in 1978, based in Memphis, Tennessee.
By 1979, AZO was planning and producing complex control units on a proprietary basis. Some of these electronic control units for silo and weighing systems were sourced by renowned suppliers.
The company management team soon recognized that it is a great deal better all round to supply process and control technology from a single source. This realization was the trigger for developing special software and for building control units for electronic weighing equipment.
At the 1983 plastics trade fair, AZO became the first company to present a screen display version of process control for material handling. A major order from the spice industry followed later that same year, involving the development and practical implementation of fully-automatic dosing container systems.
To mark the occasion of the company’s 35th anniversary, a new production area was opened, featuring a range of new equipment including a laser and plasma sheet-cutting machining centre.
An exhibition centre was opened for customers.
In the Eighties, development of the AZO COMPONENTER® reached volume production status. This effectively marked an end to the processes known as “pre-mixing”. It now became possible to achieve full integration of all components in a single automation process. Different receptacles, e.g. bags, big bags and containers require great flexibility from an automation system. AZO also rose to meet this challenge by developing special handling systems for these different types of receptacle. As a consequence, seamless integration was achieved in these automated processing operations. The tiniest components, for which fully-automatic integration is not always economically viable, can be incorporated in the process reliably using operator-controlled manual weighing stations. Convenient process control and display systems make the material flow more reliable than ever before.
In the early Nineties, the DOSITAINER® development was perfected, a system which originated in the mid-eighties. Other developments such as the BATCHTAINER® and MIXTAINER® were then added. This culminated in 1996 with AZO becoming the first company in the bulk goods handling sector to use AGVs for collecting and weighing components. This involved the use of automatic transport systems. The inclusion of a container mixer in the product range rounded off the containment range.
Parallel to this development, in the early Nineties increasingly widespread use was being made of the big bag form of container. AZO developed dust-tight discharge and filling systems for this type of container. The increasingly popular solutions which AZO now offers to this sector are as flexible as the fabric of the big bags themselves.
In 1997, AZO, the inventor of cyclone screening technology, launched the twin-drive Type DA screening machine with self-metering: this constituted an absolute highlight in the cyclone screening system sector. Since that time, a patent has been granted for this new system and this further underlines the victorious progress of AZO cyclone screening technology in this sector.
In 1998 a vibration bottom was developed for the pharmaceuticals industry. This dispenses entirely with a sleeve, thus making it a great deal easier to clean. This development has now also been patented.
As we entered the new millennium, AZO is intensifying its efforts with continuous, gravimetric dosing systems: this has given rise to the AZOGRAV® and AZODOS®. The AZODOS® has now developed into a family of equipment which covers almost the entire range of continuous dosing processes. This system is being employed very successfully in the extraction weighing sector.
In 2003, following the invention of the DosiBox® and in conjunction with the DOSINENTER® and the DosiLogistic®, AZO successfully developed a low-cost automation system for small components. This system has made it possible to integrate all components in the automation process. Following on from the AZO COMPONENTER®, this trailblazing development delivers another impulse for minor ingredient automation
By establishing the AZO subsidiary hsh-systeme für prozess-IT GmbH in early 2004, the company demonstrated its genuine commitment to process control and display technology. This new company grouped resources for ongoing further development in this sector. This promotes the development of innovative process IT, linked by synergy to process technology to deliver optimum customer benefits.