For this purpose, the company adopted a strategic approach: first of all, it drew up a requirement catalogue of fifteen criteria, with the aspects of dependability, quality of construction, and machine and line design at the top of the list. Ocean Spray then used this to subject all major manufacturers of filling kit worldwide to intensive scrutiny, while also looking at reference projects. “This was by a long way our biggest technical project so far,” explains Erich A. Fritz, Vice President Research & Development, Quality and Technology. The decision taken was in favor of Krones – for quite a number of reasons, as Erich Fritz explains: “Following in-depth market analysis, we found that Krones offered the best platform for our future. The way Krones puts together its lines is unique worldwide. What’s more, the Executive Board gave us their personal guarantee of achieving a very high efficiency level, of 92.5 per cent, during the acceptance test. And together with Krones, we developed a master plan, covering all four PET lines, which was to be translated into tangible shop-floor reality step by step.”
First of all, Krones in 2011 integrated new machines for a PET line in the Henderson plant, and one year later in the facility at Kenosha as well. In late 2012, construction work on the new plant then started in the Lehigh Valley near Allentown, 150 kilometres to the west of New York City. On an area of 44 hectares, Ocean Spray erected their new factory here, which accommodates two cartoning lines and the two PET hotfill lines from Krones.
Hot water as the energy source
In contrast to what had originally been planned, the cooperative changed its mind right in the midst of the new construction phase, and took a far-reaching, future-oriented decision for a complete redesign of its energy system – in favour of hot water to be utilised as the energy source instead of steam. “Steam’s behaviour is chaotic, it’s trying like mad to get rid of its energy and return to a liquid state of aggregation. This phase change, meaning condensation, is ineffective,” Erich Fritz explains. Needless to say that the paramount goal pursued by this decision was to achieve maximised savings in energetic resources.
Energy savings of more than 30 per cent
For this to go ahead, Krones had to give its okay during the hot phase of machine manufacture still, confirming that it would be possible to run both the VarioFlash H pasteurisers and the LinaCool container cooling units with hot water instead of steam. For this purpose Krones increased the capacities of the VarioFlash H units. The product is now heated up in the shell-and-tube heat exchangers directly, using hot water in a counterflow configuration. “This means we have a pasteurisation process of higher stability without the intermittent ON-OFF operation we’d have with steam,” says Erich Fritz. The redesign of the cooling units was also spot-on. Ocean Spray is one of the first plants to use a heat-recovery system newly developed by Krones, in which a heat exchanger recycles more than 50 per cent of the thermal energy given off by the hot containers, and uses it for prewarming the juice products. “The willingness and capability displayed by Krones for redesigning the lines was impressive,” sums up Erich Fritz.
All in all, Ocean Spray was able to achieve energy savings of more than 30 per cent as compared to its old plant in Bordentown:
- by changing over from steam to hot water
- by harnessing the heat recovered in the bottle cooling units
- by using the hot-water recirculation system for room heating without needing any additional energy.
“Krones has played a crucial role in this context,” says Erich Fritz. “In each of the two PET lines, we’re saving 1,500 kilowatt-hours, which means five million BTUs of energy.”
Two bottling lines, each with a different layout
To be able to fill the quantities required into the huge multiplicity of container sizes involved at maximum efficiency, Ocean Spray, after discussing it all with Krones, opted for two different line layouts. What is called Line 21 has been designed as a dedicated line, filling only defined container sizes: the 64-ounce and the 60-ounce bottles (volume corresponds to 1.89/1.77 litres) while the second line (Line 22) has been conceived as a flexible line, able to handle containers holding ten ounces (295 millilitres) up to one gallon (3.785 litres).
In Line 21, which is rated at 24,000 containers an hour, Ocean Spray has for the first time been using its own blow-moulder. “We prepared meticulously for the first-time use of a blow-moulder, which is why the Contiform’s start-up went off without a hitch,” explains Plant Director Tim Haggerty. “Together with the Krones Academy, we provided our staff with some intensive training. A stretch blow-moulder, that’s something else again – it was a real challenge for us. We first had to familiarise ourselves with the basics of the technology involved. And it’s here that the mutually supportive partnership with Krones proved to be extremely important.”
Neck-handling air conveyors take the containers to the rinser-filler block, accommodated in a cleanroom and comprising a Moduljet rinser and a Modulfill NWJ weighing-cell filler for hot-filling. Downstream, a Checkmat inspects them for the correct fill level. In terms of process engineering, a VarioDos hygiene centre assures the bloc’s microbiological safety, and a VarioFlash H unit with shell-and-tube heat exchanger and deaerator, rated at 45 cubic metres an hour, makes for gentle and simultaneously dependable product pasteurisation. After being hot-filled, the containers are cooled down to ambient temperature in a LinaCool.
So as to ensure reliable production round the clock, Ocean Spray chose redundancy for both the labelling and the end-of-the-line packaging functions. Two Topmodul labellers installed in parallel, each featuring one Canmatic and two Autocol stations, run at half-speed in normal operation, and can at need be accelerated to full speed. The same applies for the upstream Linadry container drier as well as for the downstream label inspectors Checkmat EM+L. There are also two Variopac Pro TFS packers. A Modulpal 2A palletiser with a Robobox layer preparation unit constitutes the end of the line.
Flexible line for many different container sizes
Things are somewhat different in flexible Line 22, which is rated at 21,000 containers an hour. In view of the fact that here a broad spectrum of highly disparate container sizes is being run Ocean Spray does not produce these on site, but feeds the pre-moulded PET bottles into the line using a Pressant Universal 1A high-speed sweep-off depalletiser. From here, they are passed to the rinser-filler bloc, likewise featuring a Moduljet rinser and a Modulfill NWJ weighing-cell filler. Here, however, the containers are not conveyed in neck-handling mode but by base guidance, so as to ensure reliable transport for the heavy one-gallon containers as well. The process-engineering section comprises two VarioFlash H flash pasteurisers varying in size. This enhances the line’s versatility for coping with the different container sizes involved. A VarioClean CIP system handles automatic cleaning of the filler. After they have been inspected for correct fill levels in the Checkmat S+L, the containers are passed through the LinaCool unit, dried in the Linadry and dressed in a Topmodul labeller with two Autocol stations for pressure-sensitive labels and one Canmatic wrap-around-labelling station.
Successful ramp-up phase
The lines’ acceptance test not only confirmed the guaranteed figure of 92.5 per cent efficiency, but even recorded an impressive 94 per cent. For Paul DaRosa, Director Beverage Operations, however, this is only one side of the coin. “It’s not unusual in the beverage industry for a filling line’s speed – once the line vendor’s commissioning staff has left the plant after the acceptance test – to drop by up to 30 per cent.” After Line 21 had been acceptance-tested in February 2015, there was in fact just a minor decrease in line efficiency during the following ramp-up phase, which was eliminated after only a few months. “This is firstly attributable to the high level of commitment of all our own staff. Secondly, though, we could only be just as good as the tools supplied to us by Krones,” emphasises Paul DaRosa.
Even after an acceptance test has been successfully passed, all parties involved concur, the lines must continue to run at optimum efficiency. Which is why Ocean Spray has concluded maintenance agreements with Krones covering the new lines in the three plants. “If you want to keep on performing properly at this level, then a tightly meshed collaborative alliance is essential,” is Paul DaRosa’s firm belief.