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    Four new PET lines for Britvic and a complete high-bay warehouse
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    Four new PET lines for Britvic and a complete high-bay warehouse

      Clive Hooper, Chief Supply Chain Officer at Britvic, has a clearly defined goal: “Britvic is already one of the leading soft-drinks producers in Europe. We want to progress, and play in the premier league on the global stage as well.” In order to achieve this, about five years ago the company decided to optimise its distribution chain and at the same time invest in its production capabilities.

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      The biggest changes were planned for the firm’s largest facility, in Rugby: thanks to its central location in the heart of England, it constitutes a perfect hub for the distribution operations, but the existing equipment no longer sufficed to meet future requirements: “The old lines were running slowly, and were not very efficient in terms of water and energy consumption. Which is why we decided to install a total of seven new lines and a high-bay warehouse,” says Clive Hooper. Krones supplied the four PET lines, while the fully automated high-bay warehouse came from its Italian subsidiary System Logistics.

      “When we chose Krones as the vendor for the PET lines, it was immediately clear that the high-bay warehouse, too, was going to be from System Logistics. This was because we wanted to single-source both production and logistics – and Krones with its House of Krones was offering the ideal complete package,” is how Clive Hooper sums up the situation.

       

      We wanted to single-source both production and logistics – and Krones with its House of Krones was offering the ideal complete package.

      Clive Hooper

       

      Greenfield project: high-bay warehouse

      The fully automated high-bay warehouse is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom – and is something new for System Logistics as well. This is because the company was responsible not only for the technology, but also for planning and constructing the entire peripherals, including an approximately 32-metre-high office building.

      The finished cases are stored fully automatically: four pallets at a time are loaded from the line onto a large laser-guided vehicle (LGV) and taken to the ingress point of the shuttle vehicle loop, which links the production zone to the logistics halls. Small vehicles then transport the pallets individually into the high-bay warehouse, where they are stored with the aid of cranes. The warehouse is 13 storeys high and provides space for a total of 33,000 pallet storage slots. Britvic both stores and retrieves up to 376 pallets an hour.

      The ‘fully automated’ attribute is reflected not only in the high output, but also in the comparatively low number of operators: only three to five staff are needed per shift for controlling and monitoring the ongoing process sequences. If a problem or a standstill occurs, the operators receive the relevant error message directly on a laptop or tablet, and can react to it directly via the mobile terminal. Only the final loading of the pallets onto trucks is handled semi-automatically, using PPT trucks.

      Opting deliberately for aseptics

      Further upstream in the production process, during filling and packaging, Britvic is now using state-of-the-art kit: within a single year, the company commissioned four new PET lines from Krones.

      • The most recent of these is a PET line for CSDs. Rated at 36,000 containers per hour, it handles large containers holding up to two litres. A Contiform Bloc produces and fills the PET bottles, which are then dressed in wrap-around labels by a Topmodul. To enable the product to be sold in supermarkets both individually and in packs, the dry end offers two options: either the bottle flow enters a Variopac Pro, and the cases created there are then palletised, or the containers are placed loosely in large trays, deposited on half-pallets and secured by a stretch-wrapper.
         
      • The heart of two other lines is in both cases a Contipure AseptBloc DA, capable of producing 54,000 PET containers per hour. In order to sterilise the bottles, the system uses a Contipure preform decontamination module. This means Britvic can in future bottle juice-based beverages without any preservatives. For the two aseptic lines, Krones also supplied the entire process technology, including a Contiflow mixer and a VarioStore buffer tank, plus a VarioAsept J, a system for thermal product treatment.
         
      • The construction of the two lines is identical not only in the wet end, but in the dry end as well: for labelling, each line features a Topmodul, while a Variopac Pro and a Modulpal Pro together with a Robobox T-GS grouping station handle packing and palletising. In order to save on material for secondary packaging, Britvic has an option for applying a thin layer of adhesive to the already-grouped cases instead of inserting layer pads. This ensures that the individual layers do not shift position.
         
      • In Rugby, Britvic also installed a full-aseptic line. This features a Contipure AseptBloc DN, in which, in contrast to the DA model, the blow module is likewise in a completely aseptic design. Rated at 48,000 containers per hour, the line primarily produces ice tea and juices. The filled bottles can either be dressed in sleeve or wrap-around-labels, while at the dry end the line resembles its other two aseptic counterparts.

      Long-term maintenance agreement

      The partnership between Britvic and Krones, however, did not end with the acceptance test for the line, but extends beyond the timeline of the projects: “We’ve concluded a long-term maintenance agreement, assuring us of continuing assistance from Krones in terms of on-site support and training. Because we see training as the key to success,” explains Bhupinder Khela, Site Operations Manager at the plant in Rugby.. “The lines are state-of-the-art, the settings have been precisely matched to each other. Only when our people can operate the lines in their sleep can the production operation run like clockwork. We not only had all the new operators trained by Krones, we also have our own training department here in Rugby, so as to ensure a continuous exchange of knowledge between Krones and all the staff at Britvic on the train-the-trainer principle. So our shared journey is far from over, in fact it’s only just beginning.”

       

      Partnership as the key to success

      The project in its entirety used up a lot of time and resources, and required considerable investment – but according to Clive Hooper the decision was the right one: “Lots of companies aren’t investing enough. The logical consequence is obsolete lines and processes that impede growth. We are happy we made the choice we did: it was quite definitely the right one for achieving our goal of being a top player on the global market,” is his verdict. In his opinion, the decision to place responsibility entirely in the hands of Krones also played a not-insignificant role in the project’s success: “For a project of this size, you need someone to take overall responsibility. Krones promised to go the whole way with us – and they kept their word,” to quote Clive Hooper. “If ever things got a bit tricky, then Krones immediately sent service support from Germany, and pulled out all the stops to promptly solve any problems.”


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