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Bottling Line Automation Brings Flexibility With Reduced Cost

A bottling automation line was required by the client to handle a range of bottles from sample size to re-fill size. A new line would bring contract manufacturing products in-house, complimenting existing high speed lines with a flexible low-speed line able to expand bottle size offerings.

CLIENT: A Fortune 500 company

INDUSTRY: Consumer Products

KEY ENGINEERING FEATURES:

  • Bottling line automation designed for low speeds and flexibility
  • Integrated In-line filler
  • Automated conveying system with rapid rail adjustment
  • Manual capping/spray inserter station
  • Manual packing and bundling station
  • Automated case weighing
  • Manual palletizing

CORE CHALLENGES:

  • Restricted budget
  • Several types of products/bottles will run on the same line in a single day
  • Bottle sizes range from sample size to refill size
  • Solution must be flexible enough to handle bottles that have not yet been designed
  • Quick changeover required

AN EPIC SOLUTION

Front-end Engineering

EPIC first completed its front-end engineering approach. The client had several high-speed filling lines, but required a solution for unconventional bottle sizes that would be filled in short runs and bundled together in sets of two or packaged in various size cases. Adding capacity for new sizes would allow the client to offer more product sizes, move contract packing in-house and test new containers during development.

A line study was completed to determine the required number of line operators and their positions on the line based on the fill rate. The ergonomics of the hand packing operation were considered in detail. The line design team wanted to ensure that all bottles could be efficiently bundled/packed and that workers would not risk injury through repeated motion. Conveyor heights, line speed, and equipment layout were determined based on this study.

The increased flexibility and the lower demand for the bottle sizes led EPIC to make the following suggestions:

  • plc-automation-packagingInstall a low-speed bottle filling automation line with a high degree of flexibility.
  • An HMI with an easy-to-use “package builder” that allows line staff to quickly program the line settings for new packages. EPIC trained the plant operators how to build new packages independently so that our help was not required each time a new bottle size was introduced to the line
  • An automated in-line gravity filler was integrated within the line. Having an automated filler assured accurate filling and fast enough line speeds to make the investment worthwhile
  • Manual capping/sprayer insertion and hand-pack stations to provide extensive variability in the final packaging.
  • Automated case weighing to provide correct manual packing count

EPIC’s Proven Bottling Line Automation Solution
EPIC carefully designed and integrated the semi-automated line around the filler and hand-pack stations. Plant layout, equipment spacing, bottle pitch, and filling speed (for each size container) was taken into account when designing the line. Manual operational considerations included: the appropriate length of the packing station based on line speed, the best layout and size of the station and the appropriate number of packers.

The main project goal was to provide a low cost, multipurpose solution that can fill sample sizes and refill sizes on the same packaging line. It was determined early in the process that the line did not require an automated bottle orienter or automatic capper/spray inserter because the line speed didn’t require the extra automation and complexity.

In the final solution, two lanes of bottles are manually fed into a small in-line gravity filler. The bottles divert into one lane after leaving the filler. Caps or trigger sprayers, depending on the package type, are manually added.
Plant staff “build a new package” in the filler controls for new container sizes. Parameters such as package height, and fill are entered to adjust to varying container designs. Once a package is “built” in the HMI, the job is saved as a recipe. Operators simply press a button for future runs.

Capped bottles travel through conveyors to a hand pack station where line operators have the option of bundling the bottles or packing them into cases.  Bottles leave the hand pack station and cross over a case weigher, as either bundles or cases, to ensure the correct amount of product. After the case weigher, bundles or cases accumulate on a belt until they are manually stacked and stretch-wrapped on a pallet.

IMPACT:

    • Product offering increased for the client who is now able to run multiple container sizes on the line
    • Allowed client to cost effectively bundle pack products
    • Client was able to move contract manufacturing operations in-house and lower costs

Why EPIC Automation?

A good automation integrator helps you design a line and install a system that meets your production goals, your budget and prevents problems before they occur through careful line design. EPIC believes we can help you “Do It Better” when it comes to automation by:

    • Utilizing Front-End Engineering to ensure that the proper steps are taken during project scope development
    • Applying our plant engineering experience to assists you in identifying needs, pinpointing objectives and providing the most appropriate manufacturing equipment for the application
    • Maintaining an open door client policy to promote innovation. We invite clients to visit EPIC to experiment with new processes, technologies and techniques that push the limits of traditional engineering
    • Being accountable to responsibly manage our clients’ projects from start-to-finish and beyond
    • Imparting a transfer of knowledge (not just a basic training) for the systems and equipment we provide
    • Providing a single point of direct contact during the entirety of the project

Find a better automation solution. Contact EPIC and learn more about our automation services.  

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