“We didn’t want an off-the-peg line”
When it came to the technical requirements, the issue of flexibility topped the list. The new line had to be able to run both hot and cold-filling, and also cope with the huge range of different formats in Niehoffs-Vaihinger’s portfolio: from the individual containers in disparate shapes and sizes, then the one-litre standard bottles all the way through to the small 0.2-litre twist-off bottles – in each case combined with different label variants and closure types. Like the machines, the conveyors, too, had to be flexibly conceived, and prepared to handle extremely disparate tasks. Top priority was attached to a high capacity in the sorting section, so as to handle the various types of mixed empties. But the client also stipulated a bypass route, enabling the cold-filled bottles to skip the recooler, plus sufficient buffering sections enabling a label change-over to be performed, for example, without the filler having to be halted. “All in all, definitely not an off-the-peg line,” emphasises Rainer Kressmann.
It was accommodated in a new 2,000-square-metre hall. The green light was given for the construction work in May 2017. Four months later, the first of 80 trucks in all arrived bringing line components. The first machines were erected and commissioned in next to no time. “The filler ran smoothly from the very first day,” says Rainer Kressmann. “Though some other things took longer than we’d anticipated.” The fact that the (literally, too!) hot phase of the project happened to coincide with the months of the 2018 record-breaking summer entailed plenty of challenges for the plant management and its staff, who performed heroically throughout – and now and again put the relationship with the vendor to the test. “Since this is not an off-the-peg line, you always have to allow for unexpected problems,” says Rainer Kressmann and adds: “In the end, though, they were all successfully mastered.” Thanks not least to Krones’ service team, who despite setbacks and delays on site were never blown off course. “There were times which proved a bit nerve-wracking,” recalls the Plant Manager. “At the same time, I was confident that Krones possesses the ambition and the aspiration to complete every project with meticulous success – and that’s precisely what happened.”
Carefully familiarised with the new technology
In order to avoid bottlenecks in the warehouse, the old line was also kept ready for operation during the relocation. But Niehoffs-Vaihinger Fruchtsaft GmbH didn’t have to activate this option – thanks to its careful preparations. Because in order to render the very challenging transition from the old line to the latest state of the art as easy as possible for its staff, it ordered a comprehensive training package in addition to the machinery involved. “Looking back, I have to say it was totally worthwhile that we brought our staff on board right from the start,” says Rainer Kressmann. “At the Krones Academy in Neutraubling, they were able to familiarise themselves in advance with the new machines. This meant they had a clear idea of what was in store for them later.” The last of the trepidation entailed by exposure to the new technology had already vanished during the commissioning phase, when the staff were trained directly at the machines. “A line like this is a living entity, you see, you get to know it a little bit better every day,” says Rainer Kressmann. “Meanwhile, working with it has long since become routine for us. What’s more, the new technology significantly reduces our workload.”
Production has been running continuously on the Krones glass line since May 2018. In three-shift operation, it fills 20,000 1.0-litre bottles or 30,000 0.2-litre bottles an hour. This investment was the right decision, concur Rainer Kressmann and Sven Frisch: “We don’t only pay lip service to sustainability, we also now have a state-of-the-art production line as proof,” says a gratified Marketing Manager.