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    Filling cans a premiere for Krombacher
    Filling cans a premiere for Krombacher

      The Krombacher Brewery has commissioned a canning line filling 0.33-litre and 0.5-litre cans – a first in the brewery’s history.

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      Following some intensive preliminary talks and a phase of meticulously detailed planning extending over one year, Krombacher placed the order for the new line with Krones. The brewery has had a long-standing relationship with us: seven out of eight returnable-glass lines installed at its facility in Kreuztal-Krombach are “Made by Krones”, and the brewhouse is from our Steinecker brand. “Single-sourcing a line from a complete-system vendor has proved its worth and will definitely pay off,” says Ulrich Stiebeling, Head of Plant Engineering. About eight months then elapsed from order placement to commissioning in March 2018, during which time the requisite infrastructure and process technology, plus the line itself, were put in place. Another insight that Krombacher gained in this project was this: buying a new line is one thing – operating it professionally is something else again, because this latter requires additional well-trained and experienced staff who were simply not available on the market.

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      “Cooperation with the project team was excellent, deployment of the fitters worked well, and the time schedule agreed was met,” explains Frank Pauli, the Senior Manager of the Filling Department (left), seen here together with Rainer Bub, the Plant Engineering Project Manager.

      Training plan for the new recruits

      This is why an exciting new approach was adopted, headed by Frank Pauli, the Senior Manager of the Filling Department. Together with the Krones Academy, he drew up a training plan for a two-shift team comprising ten operators, whom Krombacher hired from the region’s labour market. While he was doing this, Frank Pauli paid particular attention to the new colleagues’ possessing a good basic knowledge of the mechanics, electronics and technologies involved. The new recruits then acquired the requisite know-how for their future work in a canning line during a training course at Krones’ facilities in Neutraubling, Rosenheim and Flensburg lasting almost four months, at the seamer manufacturer’s plant, and finally during a two-week spell in an actual canning operation at two helpful canning companies. “It’s true that we are highly technology-focused, but for this project the paramount priority was the people without whom any line simply won’t work. At the end of the day, you see, this investment in staff training will be reflected in high filling performance,” is the firm conviction of Frank Pauli. This aspect is also emphasized by Rainer Bub, the Plant Engineering Project Manager: “That training had already paid for itself during commissioning. The ramp-up phase was extremely short.” The staff’s high qualifications were also lauded during the external acceptance-test by the inspectors from the TUM University in Weihenstephan.

      During the acceptance-test, by the way, an overall equipment effectiveness of 96.6 per cent was achieved for the 0.5-litre can, “an excellent result,” as Frank Pauli comments. The new canning line fills not only Krombacher Pils but also shandy, non-alcoholic beer, wheat beer, Vitamalz and a soft drink called Krombacher’s Fassbrause, which has since the line’s commissioning been available on the market in the 0.33-litre can in two different flavours.

      New modularised can filler

      For installing the new line, Krombacher used the two-storey hall that had already been erected in 2002. As from December 2017, the machines were ingressed here through an aperture in the roof. The complete line is accommodated on the first floor, with only the bulk-can infeed and the pallet discharge being located on the ground floor and linked to the upper floor by means of elevators. The new line is rated at 50,000 cans per hour. For the wet end, Krones’ scope of delivery included a Modulfill VFS-C filler and a LinaFlex Pro pasteuriser, and for the dry end two Variopac Pro packers and a Modulpal Pro palletiser with a Robobox T-GS grouping system.

      The new line, which was commissioned in March 2018, is anything but a standard canning line. On the contrary: Krones has translated a whole series of Krombacher’s individual specifications into hands-on reality while also incorporating some newly developed kit of its own. When it came to the filler, for example, Krones transferred its tried-and-tested modularised system from the bottle to the can filler, whose features now also include a concept with Monotec starwheel columns, thus rendering a front table superfluous.

      New generation

      The current Modulfill VFS-C can filler is no longer driven by the seamer via a mechanical interface; rather the machine itself is fitted with energy-efficient servo-drive motors, with the main drive located inside a grease-free oil bath, which means that the oil is circulating and thus automatically filtered. The big advantage here is this: grease lubrication is no longer necessary, which firstly improves the hygiene levels involved and secondly requires less maintenance.

      Nor is the new filling valve any longer mechanically controlled by means of a lifting cam but electro-pneumatically instead. Since this obviates the need for any mechanical components, the filling valve’s hygiene is enhanced, as is its flexibility because it is now user-programmable. During filling, an inductive flow meter monitors the amount of liquid flowing in. A format-flexible pressing-on unit in the filler, moreover, enables more than one can format to be handled without having to fit a different set of change parts. “The things that have proved particularly persuasive for us are the valve’s high filling accuracy and the low oxygen pick-up during filling,” says Frank Pauli.

      And Ulrich Stiebeling adds: “Another great advantage is the machine’s very good accessibility, which has a beneficial effect on automatic exterior cleaning with hot-water flushing, and thus on the hygiene levels, too.”

      Yet another special feature is the use of the Robobox T-GS grouping system with tripod technology, premiered at the drinktec 2017, upstream of the palletiser. It is thanks to this system that the line output stipulated (50,000 cans an hour) could be achieved with only one module in a compact configuration. For the predecessor model, two modules would have been required. Further advantages: with its upsized working area and any desired swivel range, the Robobox T-GS grouping system is able to form the layers with even greater flexibility. What’s more, the lightweight and nonetheless sturdy machine’s operating functions are maximally gentle on the product “because the Robobox guides the trays, it doesn’t push them,” explains Rainer Bub. “There are no malfunctions with this machine.”

      Keep your flexibility

      “When it comes to the line’s layout, in our opinion it’s the line’s owner who calls the shots. After all, we’re the ones who’ll be working with the line for the next 15, 20 years,” is Ulrich Stiebeling’s firm conviction. And Frank Pauli backs him up: “So it’s all the more important to specify exactly what you want and need well in advance. After all, a contract should be designed to preclude contradictions, contraventions and controversies. What we did was liaise closely with all the departments involved at Krones, inputting highly meticulous groundwork, and discussing every single part of the project. When you record everything in painstaking detail, that helps to avoid difficulties later on. And this is how it turned out: cooperation with the project team was excellent, deployment of the fitters worked well, and the time schedule agreed was met. Our maxim has always been this: we build a line – with special emphasis placed on ‘WE’ as the common denominator of Krombacher and Krones.”

      Selected machines and solutions