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    The return of the can – Coca-Cola Dorsten upsizing its capacities

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    Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Germany has once again chosen filling technology from Krones and installed a new canning line at its Dorsten facility.
    • Within the matrix of Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Deutschland GmbH, the Dorsten production facility has a proven track record as a canning specialist.

    The Dorsten production facility has made a name for itself as a canning and digitalization specialist not only within the matrix of Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Deutschland GmbH (CCEP DE) but throughout the German beverage industry. And quite recently the plant has once again lived up to its reputation. Demand for soft drinks in cans has been rising across the board, a trend that has not gone unnoticed at CCEP DE. Thus the company has taken timely precautions, substantially upsizing its canning capacities with a high-speed canning line from Krones.

    The beverage can is on the up again in Germany, boasting vigorous growth rates. According to a survey conducted by Global Data, in 2020 its market share increased by 11.8 per cent over the preceding year’s figure in the soft-drinks, beer and cider segments and came to nine per cent of all beverage packaging materials. (By way of comparison: In Europe, the can already accounts for 24 per cent of the total.) A gratifying development, especially when you look back at what it was like about 18 years ago. After Germany had introduced the mandatory deposit on non-returnable containers in 2003, the beverage can vanished almost completely from the supermarket shelves. Now, nearly two decades later, the can is back!

    Can offers persuasive sustainability pluses

    The can scores highly in terms of sustainability, an issue that has meanwhile gained substantially in importance. According to Forum Getränkedose (Beverage Can Forum), its recycling rate comes to 99 per cent. What’s more, its low weight – of which only three per cent is accounted for by the can and 97 per cent by its content – shows up favourably in transportation costs. And the can boasts persuasive pluses in terms of quality as well: It is impervious to light, thus protecting its content from UV radiation.

    The mandatory deposit on cans in Germany hit Coca-Cola very hard indeed. While the company sold around 100 million unit cases (5.678 litres each) in 2002, sales slumped when the mandatory deposit came into force on 1 January 2003, falling to a mere four million unit cases a year. At the time, five Coca-Cola facilities in Germany filled cans – today only two are left: Karlsruhe and Dorsten. The latter covers 90 per cent of the production volume for Germany and is also Coca-Cola’s oldest canning facility in this country.

    In 2020, production volume in Dorsten had again risen to 23 million unit cases of cans for Germany, nearly a quarter of total sales in 2002 and almost six times as much as in 2003.

    Article 26429
    The Dorsten facility produces around 23 million unit cases in cans for Germany.

    “Come to Dorsten and have fun!”

    The Dorsten plant is CCEP DE’s biggest German facility, producing just under a fifth of the country’s volume. In 2020, it sold nearly five million hectolitres of CSDs, loaded on one million europallets. 

    CCEP DE likewise operates three non-refillable-PET lines here. The PET containers handled on them are deposit-bearing, returned and completely recycled. The small 0.33-litre bottles are already made of 100% recycled PET, whereas rPET accounts for as much as 35 per cent in the large containers (up to 2.25 litres). The main machines for all three lines were supplied by Krones. “When PET containers were launched on the market in 1990, Coca-Cola installed in Dorsten one of the first blow-moulders and a unit for internal coating from Krones. Since then, a long-standing cooperation with Krones has evolved,” says Plant Manager Ralf Schmalenbeck. “For me as the client, it is important that Krones keeps on working on something until it functions properly. That’s what I particularly appreciate about Krones.”

    It’s important to us to have a close relationship with our partners based on mutual trust. And that is most definitely the case with Krones. Erwin HächlRalf SchmalenbeckPlant Manager

    “Come to Dorsten and have fun!” That’s the facility’s credo. Ralf Schmalenbeck with his profound sense of humour, who joined Coca-Cola 26 years ago, has embraced this motto better than anyone else, as he vividly demonstrates in his talk with the Krones magazine. “You see, what we sell to consumers is not just a soft drink but a moment of fun when they’re enjoying it,” is how he explains the idea behind this slogan. “And we also want to have fun when we’re working. That’s why it’s important to us to have a close relationship with our partners based on mutual trust. And that is most definitely the case with Krones.”

    One of the fastest Krones canning lines in Europe

    This attitude resulted in Krones being chosen to supply not only a 100,000-cph canning line in 2015, which is still doing reliable service today, but also the second, almost identical line ordered now. The difference is that the new line has been dimensioned for an impressive output of up to 120,000 cans per hour – which makes it one of the fastest Krones canning lines in Europe. The general rise in demand for canned drinks necessitated this capacity upsize. “Our targets were higher efficiency levels and short change-over times, both of which we’ve achieved,” explains Ralf Schmalenbeck.

    Article 26424
    One of the fastest Krones canning lines in Europe

    “Placing the order as a turnkey job has significantly facilitated installation,” says Ralf Schmalenbeck. “We shouldn’t forget that it was done under pandemic constraints. For this purpose, we had a special Corona Officer on site, and separate entrance gates for the installation crew. The around 70-strong erection team from Krones and third-party companies didn’t come into contact with the ongoing filling operations at all,” he recalls, appreciative of the inherent advantages of a turnkey partner. “Since we were organising everything through Krones as our single point of contact, it was possible to complete erection and commissioning as scheduled, within less than two months.” 

    Article 26423
    “Our targets were higher efficiency levels and short change-over times, both of which we’ve achieved,” explains Ralf Schmalenbeck.

    Schmalenbeck once more highlights what in his eyes is “a mind-boggling speed” of both filler and line: “A rated output of 120,000 cans per hour, that’s 2,000 cans per minute or three 24-can packs every two seconds. Seeing this in action is simply fascinating.” But that is not all: “We set the filler’s speed to 120,001 cans per hour as a joke. That makes us the fastest can-filling company in Germany,” says Ralf Schmalenbeck, once more underlining the facility’s motto “Come to Dorsten and have fun!” He enumerates the maths: “In the first 18 months since its commissioning, the line has filled more than 600 million cans.” It is easy to roughly estimate the value added involved, especially as the hospitality industry accounts for about half of the facility’s sales.

    Automated quality-monitoring section integrated 

    In April 2020, commissioning of the entire 120,000-cph line was successfully completed. The line handles standard, sleek and slim cans in sizes ranging between 0.15 and 0.5 litres. Coca-Cola Dorsten uses Europe’s lightest aluminium cans, each with an empty weight of 9.4 grams.

    The line in detail

    The two grouping systems each work with a gap-free infeed, thus achieving a higher output with just one module.

    To ensure perfect hygienic safety for the filling zone, the bulk-can sweep-off depalletiser and the palletising block are installed in a separate part of the hall. The size of the hall’s production section is big enough to permit the installation of three packers. Just one Variopac Pro TFS is currently up and running, which produces 18-can and 24-can film-wrapped tray packs. The plan is to now install a second machine for six-packs, and later on a third one for carton packs if there is a demand for those on the market.

    One of the line’s special features is an integrated measuring section where

    • the seam of each can is measured and assigned to a seaming element; 
    • every full can is weighed, so that the corresponding filling valve can be traced, in order to comply with the German Finished Packaging Regulations;
    • beverage parameters, such as Brix, CO2, acid and caffeine content are determined. 

    All of that is done fully automatically, no need for the staff to intervene. The Dorsten facility even received the CCEP Quality Award 2021 for this automated quality-monitoring section.

    Article 26416
    In the first 18 months since its commissioning, the line has filled more than 600 million cans”, explains Ralf Schmalenbeck.

    Yet another special feature: The facility does entirely without an empties store. “Instead, we’re working with a sophisticated just-in-time system, which far outmatches that of the automotive industry,” says the plant manager with visible pride. “That’s why the line’s reliable performance is so extremely important; otherwise, there would be marked time-lags for truck deliveries,” emphasises Ralf Schmalenbeck. 

    Digitalisation centre and Krones’ pilot partner

    The Dorsten facility, however, is not only CCEP’s canning specialist but also its digitalization centre. “For us this means we’re also permitted to experiment a bit,” says a gratified Ralf Schmalenbeck. “For instance, we’ve been using Krones’ Augmented Reality Remote Support for our maintenance (see box; editors’ note) and since early 2021 we’ve been using a 3D printer for manufacturing plastic spares, handling parts and adjusting devices together with Krones. When you look at the current supply bottleneck in the UK since there are not enough truck drivers, you can really appreciate what it means to be able to manufacture spares here on the spot.” 

    Unbeatable: Augmented Reality service support

    When you are watching something with unremitting attention, keeping a close eye on it all the time, then you may be likened to Argus Panoptes (or Argus “all-eyes”), a giant with a hundred eyes in Greek mythology. And that is the perfect image for describing what the Augmented Reality Remote Support Argos from Krones does. It forms part of the product portfolio covered by LCS Support in order to assist a plant’s service and maintenance staff directly on the spot. Live transmission using smart glasses based on augmented reality enables Krones specialists to see a situation as if they were there in person and to give the operators right-on-target assistance with trouble-shooting and remedying faults. The smart glasses can likewise display instructions or error markings superimposed by the Krones support expert directly in the wearer’s field of vision. 

    Krones developed this concept together with Coca-Cola’s Dorsten facility as its pilot partner. “The idea behind it was that the Krones specialist in Neutraubling sees exactly what our operator at the machine sees, obviating the expert’s need to travel there,” explains Ralf Schmalenbeck.

    Article 26414
    The biggest advantage of Argos is immediate assistance, thanks to an audio-visual connection with Krones, just as if the expert were directly there on the spot, without having to travel there first. In this way, a production line can be started up again as quickly as possible after a standstill.

    Supplying the canning line automatically with films and cartons via automated guided vehicles (AGVs) will be the next digitalisation step tackled. The company is currently working on the relevant concept together with Krones’ subsidiary System Logistics.

    Right at the forefront of sustainability as well

    As far as sustainability is concerned, Dorsten is also leading the field in the CCEP matrix. For example, the plant boasts the lowest energy consumption per litre of product in Europe and in terms of labour productivity, too. Furthermore, Dorsten will in late 2021 kick off a pilot project together with Krones, aiming at processing PET bottles with tethered caps, which will be required in the EU as from July 2024. 

    Another project is targeting the first canning line installed in Dorsten. The intention is to relocate this line to a different hall section in mid-2022 while simultaneously also refurbishing its dry end. The line already features a filler and a mixer from Krones. The filling hall does in fact offer space for accommodating three lines side by side. And who knows? There may well be demand for another line in the not-too-distant future because the new line is already running full-throttle round the clock on six days a week. And market demand for canned beverages keeps on rising …!

    About CCEP DE

    With its 14 production facilities and an annual sales volume of over 3.5 billion litres (in 2020), Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Deutschland (CCEP DE) is Germany’s biggest beverage company. It is part of Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP), which has been the largest independent bottler of The Coca-Cola Company since it took over Coca-Cola Amatil in mid-2021.

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