More than 300 years of brewing culture lie just outside the gates of Regensburg, where Schlossbrauerei Eichhofen has been celebrating the cultural heritage of beer for four generations. With eight different types and an output of over 28,000 hectolitres, the traditional company has been supplying the Upper Palatinate and Lower Bavaria region for many years. 17 employees put their heart and soul into the products day after day. Just as important “employees” are the Krones lines that wash the empties, bottle the beer, and label the bottles.
A nightmare for Schlossbrauerei Eichhofen: Their bottle washing system, almost 40 years old, suffered gear damage just before the summer rush. The high-season business was threatened – but Krones subsidiary ecomac and a fortunate coincidence proved to be a knight in shining armour.
Saturday morning shock
It's full steam ahead in the summer season especially if demand is to be met. This year, though, there was an almighty shock when the washing machine suffered a crash on 29 April. Michel Schönharting, owner of the brewery, entered the event on his calendar: “10 a.m., filling at a standstill.”
“On this Saturday we actually wanted to fill our warehouse. We had even carried out maintenance from Wednesday through to Friday so that we could get the season off to a good start. It was just preventative maintenance,” says Schönharting. On Saturday morning, though, they discovered gear damage on the bottle washer – a system that had been made by Steinecker back in 1986. “We immediately asked ourselves: ‘what can we do?’ It quickly became clear that this was something big. We somehow had to find a replacement for the gear unit, which was obviously destroyed,” the brewery owner recalls.
In the hope of getting spare parts for the gear unit, Michel Schönharting turned to ecomac, used machines supplier and subsidiary of Krones. Given the great age of the machine, however, there were no longer any suitable parts in stock. The situation already seemed hopeless – until ecomac hit upon an idea: Hadn’t a similar machine just been sold recently when a brewery had been broken up? “We knew where this machine was. We then had a look at the drawings and thought this might just possibly work,” recalls Martin Heinrich, Senior Sales Manager at ecomac.
What sounded like good news was initially another shock for Michel Schönharting, though: Replace a whole machine? However, it soon became clear that there was no real alternative due to time constraints. In the meantime, Krones specialists had already taken a look at the replacement machine in situ and decided that it would be ideal for Eichhofener. On 16 May, ecomac finally bought the machine before immediately releasing it for the further process and selling it to the brewery.
“A huge thing for our small firm”
While Krones and ecomac were preparing everything for the swap, Michel Schönharting had plenty to do in his brewery. “A lot of factors came into play. On the one hand there were the organisational tasks with the ‘new’ machine, but at the same time we had to come up with a temporary direct solution, i. e. find a contract bottler so that production would not come to a complete halt.” Eichhofen thus concentrated only on the brewing and storage, while the beer was transported to a contract bottler for filling. “That was a stressful time and a huge thing for our small firm,” says Schönharting. “Everything happened incredibly fast all the same, and we were all pulling in the same direction.” The new machine was delivered as early as 26 May, almost exactly four weeks after the crash.
Delivering the bottle washer, a Krones Lavatec KEK dating from 2002, was another adventure: “Our yard isn’t actually laid out for anything like that. The machine weighs about 40 tonnes, and there were plenty of low loaders and cranes on site. Our architect, the electrician – everyone was really tense, it was a matter of millimetres,” the brewery owner recalls. Finally, though, the machine was put in position with the utmost precision, with just about 1.5 centimetres of leeway on each side. The line also came with around 80 cables for steam, power and water, all of which had to be laid.
Then came the moment of truth: the commissioning process. After having been out of operation for the previous one and a half years, the washer was restarted again in Eichhofen. The first water was filled at the start of June – and everything went smoothly. “It's such a weight off our minds. Looking back, it’s crazy just how quickly it all happened,” Michel Schönharting continues. What’s more, the new bottle washer even offers some technical advantages, because the energy and water consumption, the controller and occupational safety aspects are better than those of its predecessor. In addition, there won’t be any problem supplying all the spare parts. A happy ending worth raising a glass to!