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    A lean and powerful line for Paulaner

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    Munich’s Paulaner Brewery has put into operation a new returnable-glass line in its now eight-year-old plant, marking the first time the company has chosen Krones filling technology.
    • Paulaner is a long-established Munich brewery that exports its products to over 80 countries around the world.

    The Paulaner Brewery Group has upsized its filling capacity with a new returnable-glass line rated at 50,000 bottles per hour. This order, for the Munich-Langwied plant that was built eight years ago, marks Krones’ first filling technology order from Paulaner. The returnables line is as compact as they come and nevertheless offers an operator-friendly layout – on just 1,400 square meters of floor space. 

    Around ten years ago, the world-famous Paulaner Brewery was bursting at the seams at its historic Nockherberg site in the heart of Munich. Churning out more than two million hectoliters per year, it had hit the limits of its production capacity – and further expansion was simply not possible at this location. Meanwhile, demand for the classic Bavarian brewery’s wide range of beers was booming. And so, the decision was made to move the brewery, which had been established on the Nockherberg site nearly four centuries earlier, in 1634. Of course, the Munich brewery’s new site would have to likewise fall within the city limits of Bavaria’s capital. The company found a perfect new location in the western reaches of Munich, in the Langwied neighborhood. With direct access to the junction of two major Autobahn highways, the new location offers outstanding logistics. 

    The cornerstone for the new brewery was laid in 2014. Although the brewery was initially laid out to produce 3.5 million hectoliters per year, a masterplan included the option of expansion at a later date. And it is precisely this option that the company is using now to add possibilities for filling. Last year, the brewery in Munich-Langwied had reached the limits of its capacity, operating three shifts six days a week. “We grew faster than we had expected,” says Rainer Kansy, head of operations technology at Paulaner. “But that’s a good thing, of course. It’s always nice when you get to worry about growth rather than stagnation.”

    Krones was responsible for production and process technology for the new brewery

    At the time, in 2014, Krones had won the contract for the entire beer production system. As general contractor, Krones was responsible for production and process technology, including the interfaces to power supply on the one hand and to the bright-beer cellar and filling on the other. The scope of supply awarded to Krones included all technology for two brewing lines, the yeast cellar and the integration of the fermentation and maturation cellar, filtration and the bright-beer cellar. Krones also installed a Hydronomic water treatment system rated at 550 cubic meters per hour. End-to-end automation of everything from malt intake to filling was covered by the Botec F1 process control system from Steinecker, the beer specialist within the Krones Group.

    Image 36653
    In 2014, Krones was responsible for production and process technology for the newly constructed brewery.

    By early 2016, the new brewing plant in Langwied was already operating at capacity and brewing operations at the Nockherberg plant could soon be shut down entirely. At the time the plant was built, the Paulaner Brewery Group had opted to award the contracts for filling technology and for the fermentation and maturation cellar to two other vendors. The kit initially supplied for filling included two returnable-glass lines, a combination returnable/non-returnable line, a non-returnable glass line, a canning line and two kegging lines.

    A smart layout was essential

    Now, the company wanted to increase its capacity by upsizing to a larger canning line and adding another returnable-glass line. “The bigger a brewery gets, the more complex it becomes,” concludes Rainer Kansy. There was just a single free spot available in the hall, which had been laid out for seven lines: “Area 6”. As a first step, Paulaner had a large 90,000-cph canning line erected on this site, thus rendering an existing 30,000-cph canning line at “Area 7” obsolete. The brewery dismantled that line itself and put it to use elsewhere within the group. The new returnable-glass line from Krones, rated at 50,000 bottles per hour, was to occupy the newly vacated space at Area 7. It would take an ingenious layout to make the returnable-glass line work. And that’s where Krones’ solution came in.

    As Krones project manager Kilian Levenig explains: “The available space was not exactly generously dimensioned. In particular, it was quite narrow. A 30,000-cph canning line requires considerably less space than a 50,000-bph returnable-glass line. Let’s not forget that a returnables line requires a rather voluminous bottle washer. Nevertheless, we were able to come up with a layout that fits within the very tight confines.” Rainer Kansy agrees: “It’s quite something to fit a 50,000-bph returnable-glass line onto 1,400 square meters. Usually, you’d have 1,000 square meters more space to work with. Krones’ layout absolutely won us over. It was meant to be a lean, powerful line, pared down to the essentials but to a very high standard.”

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    The very limited space available made for a challenging layout.

    The following were absolute prerequisites to fitting a line with this level of performance onto such a small footprint: 

    1. Paulaner opted for a single-end Lavatec E bottle washer.
    2. Because the products are heat-treated using a flash pasteurization system, a large-scale pasteurizer was unnecessary.
    3. The line itself doesn’t include upstream sorting. This step is covered for all lines by an external service provider on the brewery premises.

    Turnkey returnable-glass line for filling beer

    The line, which is rated at 50,000 bottles per hour, includes the following machines

    Low-oxygen filling, high-precision labelling

    The line is used primarily for filling a cola mix drink. It also fills wheat beer into 0.5-liter Vichy-style bottles and pale lager (“Helles”) into 0.5-liter Euro bottles. The filled bottles are packed in modular crates of 20. To prevent condensation forming when cartons are used as secondary packaging, the Modulfill HES fills the products at a temperature of 16 degrees Celsius. Thanks to its electronic filling system, which uses probes, the Modulfill HES is ideally suited for gentle filling of beer. Multiple pre-evacuation steps and CO2 flushing create a low-oxygen atmosphere in the bottle, and two different filling speeds ensure optimal flow characteristics.

    For labeling, Paulaner chose an Ergomatic Pro with no front table – that is, a labeler in which the labeling stations are permanently installed. Since the brewery dresses its returnable glass bottles exclusively in cold-glue labels, a modular machine with interchangeable labeling stations was not needed. In all, three labeling stations are installed, one each for body, shoulder and back labels. They ensure highly precise label placement. Label orientation and quality are contractually guaranteed by Krones – something that was especially important to Paulaner, to ensure the product conveys a consistently positive image. “It’s no secret that Krones is especially strong when it comes to labeling and offers a highly sophisticated combination of labeling and inspection technology,” says Paulaner’s head of engineering, Karl Kümpfbeck. “We use a microcode, a five-digit sequence of numbers to verify that the right label is applied to each bottle. This requires highly precise labeling and equally reliable detection by the inspector.”

    Filled bottles cross above the bottle washer

    Krones used a few really clever tricks to overcome the challenge of limited space: The general layout of the line resembles a comb, with access from a corridor that runs along the side of the line and with just about two meters separating it from the adjacent line. However, there is a central access point for the unpacker/packer to facilitate its operation. In the wet end, which includes the empty-bottle inspector, filler, labeler and flash pasteurization system, Krones used a small arena-type layout to facilitate access and operation. This area is covered by two employees.

    The bottle washer was placed more or less in the middle of the space, separating the wet and dry ends of the line. A third employee is responsible for operating the bottle washer. Meanwhile, a fourth takes care of the entire dry end. Immediately downstream of the labeler, where the wet end terminates, an ascending continuous conveyor moves the filled and labeled bottles to a level above head height. For this, Krones used the maximum incline of two percent, since the tilt angle of the bottles precludes any larger gradient. Thus, raised above the fray, the bottles pass right over the operator area of the bottle washer.

    Image 36660
    Paulaner opted for a relatively petite single-end Lavatec E bottle washer.

    At one point, as many as four conveyors run in a stacked formation: Crates with dirty bottles headed to the unpacker are at the bottom. Above that and running in the opposite direction are the unpacked bottles on their way to the bottle washer. On the third level, filled bottles make their way to the packer. And finally, above that, the empty crates travel to the crate washer. At another point, a spiral conveyor brings bulk glass as needed from the high-level sweep-off depalletizer to the level of the conveyors running from the unpacker. “Everything that isn’t critical from a conveyance standpoint was placed on a second level,” explains Karl Kümpfbeck.

    In addition, Krones put the VarioFlash B flash pasteurization system on a 2.80-meter-high platform in order to gain space below it. That presented a minor challenge for installation. Paulaner had made it quite clear that the company did not want the flash pasteurization system to be integrated into the Siemens Zenon control system that governs the Krones filling technology but rather that it be treated as process technology equipment and therefore outfitted with Steinecker’s Botec F1 process control system, just like the brewhouse and the cold block. For Paulaner, it was a matter of philosophy but also a decision based on positive past experience with Botec F1.

    Inspection using artificial intelligence

    When it came to the digital technology, Krones had to connect the filling line to an existing MES and define the interfaces, with corresponding storage space for production data acquisition and material requisition. Likewise, Krones had to coordinate the interfaces with the existing automated guided vehicle (AGV) system that serves all filling lines in terms of both supply and removal of items.

    “For empty-bottle inspection in the Linatronic, we used artificial intelligence (AI) for the first time in collaboration with Krones,” explains Karl Kümpfbeck, who was on the project from the very beginning. “The line is supposed to achieve annual outputs of 800,000 hectoliters. Our goal is to go as high as 900,000 hectoliters. Of course, for that to happen, a line has to run really well. From a cost perspective, it’s imperative that defective bottles are detected and removed, but at the same time the number of rejects has to be kept to a minimum. For example, the neck finish will sometimes show defects that are purely optical in nature but that would still cause a bottle to be rejected. The AI analyzes millions of photos of bottles and compares them with the bottle on hand, with the aim of making defects replicable. We exclusively use this AI as the data pool,” he explains.

    On schedule

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    “These days, it’s not a given that a returnable-glass line can be brought online this quickly,” says Karl Kümpfbeck.

    “Besides the ingenious layout, the biggest challenge was to install and start up the line on schedule. Let’s not forget that in mid-February 2022, when the machines began arriving on site, we were still feeling the effects of the coronavirus crisis. The entire industry was beset with supply bottlenecks, for instance for electrical components,” explains Karl Kümpfbeck. The tight quarters demanded that the individual machines be delivered and installed in a very specific sequence from the wet-end side. In May 2022, the first saleable product ran off the line. And by October of the same year, the new line successfully passed final acceptance testing, thus marking the project’s completion. “These days, it’s not a given that a returnable-glass line can be brought online this quickly. It was only possible because the site team did an outstanding job and Krones’ collaboration with Paulaner was highly professional, mutually respectful, transparent and sharply focused on the schedule,” stresses Karl Kümpfbeck. “We were able to very quickly achieve efficiency in the ramp-up phase.” 

    A classic Bavarian brewery offering a wide range of products

    “Good, better, Paulaner”. The brewery’s famous tagline is more than just a catchphrase. It’s a precept for everyone who works for the company. Since its beginnings as a monastic brewery in 1634, the name Paulaner has stood for the highest level of quality and for Munich’s own beer culture. Paulaner’s master brewers produce the diverse range that is typical of a traditional Bavarian brewery, from classics like wheat beer and pale lager to specialties like Salvator and Oktoberfest beer to brand new creations. Paulaner is a long-established, family-owned and operated enterprise in Munich, with around 900 employees, that now exports to more than 80 countries around the world and has developed into a globally minded, modern and successful brand. The Paulaner group meanwhile also includes a whole range of small- and mid-sized German breweries such as Fürstenberg, Schmucker, Hopf, Auer and Höpfner. The group’s most recent acquisition is the brewery site in Gotha, Germany.


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