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    New returnable-glass line for Fachingen
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    New returnable-glass line for Fachingen

      “The secret behind our success is that we’re tightly focussed,” says Heiner Wolters, Managing Director at Fachingen. And there’s a variety of priorities that the company focuses on: three sorts of water, glass bottles, 100 per cent returnables, and the premium segment.

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      Since the commissioning of the new Krones bottling line in mid-2018 at the latest, there have now been two further aspects in the focus of corporate attention: “We’re just about to position ourselves as the most sustainable mineral water bottler in Europe, while also seeing our company as a pioneer of digitalisation in our chosen sector,” adds Heiner Wolters. Fachingen decided to invest in a line for filling returnable glass containers, rated at 36,000 bottles an hour.

      One notable special feature: it extends over three storeys.

      Ground floor
      On the ground floor, the empties are passed into the hall via a very large infeed table for 4 x 3 pallets, are distributed onto two track routes and first of all depalletised. Two sorting systems then distribute the crates. One special characteristic is that due to the low ceiling height it is not column palletisers but a total of four Robogrip 4A palletising robots that are working here: two for unloading the pallets, plus one each for palletising sorted crates of empties, and fulls.

      First floor
      On the first floor, a Smartpac unpacks the crates, a Rotomat removes the screw-caps, and two Sekamat sorting systems separate the containers into two types: one of green medicinal water bottles and one of white mineral water bottles. It is on this floor, too, that the containers are passed to the high-level infeed of the bottle washer.

      Second floor
      One storey higher up, the bottles are cleaned by a Lavatec E4, which is enclosed in a room where the air is changed 25 times in one hour. The rest of the topmost floor features a similar cleanroom structure, with F9 filtration, a slight overpressure, and the air being changed five times an hour. “In accordance with the EC’s GMP Guideline, this corresponds to Purity Class D for the production of sterile medicines and is comparable to the air atmosphere in an ICU,” explains Plant Manager Reinhard Stahl. To comply with the GMP criteria, moreover, all parts coming into contact with the product are in hygienic design and made of V4A stainless steel, and the conveyors right up to the filler are also enclosed. Downstream of the Linatronic empty-bottle inspector, the bottles are passed to a block comprising a Modulfill HES probe-controlled filler and an Ergomodul modularised labeller. After that, a Smartpac packs the filled bottles. The VarioClean CIP system and the Carboflow carbonator have likewise been accommodated on this floor in a separate room.

      Innovative heating concept

      And if all of these were not enough idiosyncracies for a returnable-glass line, the list of special features is continued below:

      • The Ergomodul labeller possesses a servo-controlled unit for bottle orientation, which ensures that the paper labels are invariably applied to the Gourmet bottles at precisely the same place. This is absolutely essential, since the containers have an applied ceramic label (ACL) on their shoulders. Furthermore, automatic label change magazines make sure that the operator has to top the machine up with fresh labels only once in an hour.
      • The Checkmat FEM-X installed downstream of the filler/labeller block works with an innovative 360-degree closure-detection function where the bottle is rotated while the camera checks it, thus making for an even more reliable inspection.
      • Semi-automatic change magazines for three different types have been assigned to the Smartpac packer. These, too, reduce the operator’s workload, thus playing their part in ensuring that all of the equipment on the second floor can be operated by just one employee.
      • The entire room is under video surveillance round the clock. This video system assists in guaranteeing compliance with the GMP standards.
      • The Lavatec E4 is run with an innovative heating concept, with features for direct gas heating and heat recovery. Its energy requirement is thus 30 per cent below that of the predecessor model. “This heating concept has enabled us to shut down the plant’s entire steam network,” emphasises Heiner Wolters. That makes this Lavatec the only bottle washer in the world with a combination of high-level infeed and direct gas heating.

      Tapping into the advantages of digitalisation

      To render its line fit for purpose in the production world of the future, the mineral water bottler had it digitalised in its entirety, opting here for a combination of various solutions from the Krones subsidiary Syskron:

      • SitePilot Line Diagnostics (monitoring system, cause identifier and analyser in filling plants)
      • Share2Act (Industrial-Internet-of-Things platform for production plants)
      • SitePilot Asset Management (maintenance and servicing system for plants, machines and equipment)

      “We aim to make effective use of the advantages offered by digitalisation, which is why all components have been interlinked. SitePilot Line Diagnostics permits us to track the performance of the line and of individual components in realtime. With Share2Act, we have networked all staff with each other and given each of them an iPad Mini for this purpose. The system is roughly comparable to an intra-company social-media platform. It promotes team spirit and breaks down hierarchies. And the maintenance software serves to provide predictive, continuous maintenance, thus avoiding lengthy standstills,” is how Heiner Wolters describes the software concerned.

      The mineral water bottler has not regretted its decision in favour of Krones: “Krones was the only vendor able to guarantee an efficiency of 90 per cent and to ensure low staffing levels, as well as offering the best solution for the cleanroom,” says Heiner Wolters. “All in all, thanks to the new line and the insulated, climate-neutral warehouse, we’ve managed to cut the plant’s heat requirement and water consumption by around 40 per cent. And even though power consumption is just as high as previously, the line’s output has now increased by roughly 30 per cent,” he explains, detailing the results of his aspiration for a sustainable operation.


      Selected machines and solutions
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