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Canned beer made in Switzerland

In Hochdorf in the Swiss canton of Lucerne, the Ramseier Suisse AG company operates the country’s largest independent brewery. This facility concentrates solely on the production and filling of dealer’s brands. To enable the rising demand for beer in aluminium cans to be met, Ramseier has now installed a canning line from Krones in Hochdorf next to the glass line. And it’s running like clockwork.

Switzerland’s biggest independent brewery

Nowadays, Ramseier Suisse AG’s brewing facility in Hochdorf is Switzerland biggest brewery that’s not dependent on a foreign conglomerate, and in 2014 achieved an output of 260,000 hectolitres. The brewery concentrates entirely on producing dealer’s brands. The customers include the LANDI and Volg retail chains, owned by the fenaco Group.

Hitherto, the plant in Hochdorf had been operating with a single bottling line: rated at 33,000 bottles per hour for returnable and non-returnable glass bottles and for PET containers in the 0.33-litre, 0.5-litre and 1.0-litre sizes, most of it installed by Krones in 2000.

Demand for canned beer in the retail sector has soared in recent years – meanwhile one in three beers on the shop shelves is being sold in cans. This is why Ramseier Suisse AG decided to progress its expansion thrust in the beer segment, and to further upgrade its value creation chain by installing a new canning line. “Competitors from abroad, particularly from Germany, constitute serious rivals when it comes to contract beer canning,” says Kurt Felder, Plant Manager in Hochdorf. Ramseier Suisse AG accordingly decided before the end of 2013 to invest in a canning operation of its own. By doing so, the company wanted to upgrade its perceived competence as a beverage specialist and production partner. With great success: from 2014 to 2015, Hochdorf increased its beer production output by around 30 per cent, from 200,000 to 260,000 hectolitres. “The aluminium beverage can was for years perceived by the public as an ‘environmental sinner’. Thanks to minimised energy consumption during production, and their reduced weight, however, nowadays beverage cans do very much better in life-cycle analyses than they did ten years ago. Meanwhile, cans exhibit figures of similar quality to those for PET bottles, and have long since surpassed non-returnable glass,” to quote the company. Switzerland, moreover, possesses a superbly organised, regionally networked recycling system: even without charging a deposit, the recycling rate for aluminium cans is running at over 90 per cent.

Turnkey order for the canning line’s wet end

In December 2013, Ramseier Suisse AG placed a turnkey order with Krones for the wet end of the canning line. The machines were delivered in May 2014, with commissioning completed in June. “We felt it was important to have the delivery capability in place before the peak season began,” explains Kurt Felder. “This was accomplished to perfection – Krones did a brilliant job.”

The company decided to use the dry end of the existing glass bottling line for both the glass line and the new canning line – alternately, of course. Because there was already an end-of-the-line packer integrated there for six-packs plus 18- and 24-bottle shrink-packs with and without trays. The space available would not have permitted separate end-of-the-line packaging and palletising for the canning line.

Can filler for ultra-accurate fill quantities

A Pressant Universal 1A sweep-off depalletiser feeds the bulk cans, which are delivered in stacks of 15 layers, into the line on a raised level. After a short conveyor section, an inclined rinser passes the cans down to the Volumetic VOC filler. Its filling principle, featuring metering chambers, guarantees ultra-accurate fill quantities: before the product enters the can, it first flows into a metering chamber, where the inflowing liquid is monitored by a probe with a magnetic float. Once the specified quantity has been reached, the inlet valve closes. While the can is entering the filler, the centring unit rises, and descends again as soon as the can has been placed underneath the filling valve. After pressurisation and flushing, the valve opens. As soon as the magnetic float in the metering chamber has descended to the specified switching point, the filling function ends. The Volumetic VOC can filler has no front table, and is erected with a free-standing glass enclosure. The protected area also accommodates a Ferrum can seamer, in the new hygienic design. A Checkmat FM-X then inspects the cans for the correct fill levels. Now a first Linadry dries the filled and seamed cans in single-file transport. After this, the containers are turned by 180 degrees, and passed through a second Linadry. The cans can now be reliably date-coded, and passed to the packer for end-of-the-line packaging.
The line currently handles 0.5-litre cans only. It can, however, in future also provide an option for handling 0.25-litre and 0.33-litre slim and sleek-cans. Lubricants from KIC Krones ensure optimum protection for the kit at Ramseier Suisse AG.

A persuasive overall concept

“It was Krones’ overall concept that we found so persuasive when reaching this decision,” explains Kurt Felder. “It wasn’t the cheapest quotation, that’s true, but if you look at the package as a whole, we thought it was definitely the most favourable for us. Ramseier has in the past been very satisfied with its Krones kit: not only in regard to layouts and specialised competences, but also in terms of professionalism, project management and cooperation, plus the entire service support provided by both Krones Switzerland and Krones AG in Germany.”

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