Case packers and wrappers are becoming more versatile
Imagine the perfect
beverage production line. Ideally, the process runs smoothly from the very
first pick of ingredients to the very last point as the finished product is
stacked on a store shelf. In reality, however, a snafu here and a kink
there inevitably need to be worked out. As new technologies continue to
improve equipment pieces that are imperative to a production line, the 100
percent perfection mark isn’t a pipe dream anymore.
Toward the end of a beverage line, case packers and
wrappers are an integral part of making the manufacturing process as smooth
as possible. These days, manufacturers are looking for equipment that is up
to the challenge of increased production as more and more products hit the
“The big buzzword of the year is
flexibility,” says Ed Orick, director of beverage sales for
Alexandria, Minn.-based Douglas Machine Inc. “[The machine] has to be
able to do many things on one machine, because the last thing an operations
guy wants to do is tell a marketing guy that a new machine they just bought
can’t do something. The operations guys are trying to outthink the
marketing people, so that they can say, ‘Yes, there is a lot of
flexibility in this machine, and it will do just about anything you want it
Geoffroy Bretzner, key account manager for Norcross,
Ga.-based Cermex, agrees about producers demands for flexibility.
“[Beverage producers] want full flexibility, the ability to pack a
broad size or type or range of bottles,” he says. “It may be
film only, or cardboard plus film, depending on the customer. The machine
must also be tolerant of the raw materials like cardboard or film. No
matter what the quality of the material, the machine must be able to
effectively control the handling of the materials and the products.”
New production technology can take on a variety of
forms, and in some cases, that form includes the use of robotics.
Brewerton, N.Y.-based Schneider Packaging Equipment Corp. recently
introduced a case packer and palletizer combination that uses a robotic
system that performs both case packing and palletizing of, for example,
cases of wine.
“We’re seeing an increased use of robots
for these types of applications,” says Terry Zarnowski, director of
sales and marketing for Schneider. “Conventional case packers, of
course, are typically servo- and pneumatic-driven machines. In many
applications, however, the process can be cost-effective to use a single,
articulated armed robot.”
As an added bonus, the case packer palletizer
combination can be contained in a very small footprint, freeing up space in
Along with new technologies, machines that can work
quickly and efficiently are also high at the top of the priority list for a
beverage manufacturers’ ideal equipment. The speed factor,
particularly, is an element to case packing and wrapping machinery that has
grown in importance. For example, MG America, the U.S. subsidiary of MG2 of
Italy, offers beverage producers the GSL20 horizontal case packer, which
can pack up to 20 cases per minute. Additionally, the machine doesn’t
need to change parts for case sizes and has main machine movement through
servo-motors with drivers controlled by Elau soft PLC technology.
“Speed and efficiency are certainly top
priorities for beverage bottlers,” says
Bryan Sinicrope, vice president of sales and marketing for A-B-C Packaging
Machine Corp., Tarpon Springs, Fla.
A-B-C’s Model 360 unpacker/case packer, for instance, can be designed
to pack and unpack multiple cases per minute for increased volume.
“For years, there has not been a desire to speed
up packers, but the marketplace likes smaller packs with smaller pack
counts per case,” says Mike Weaver, vice president of engineering for
Standard-Knapp, Portland, Conn. Weaver adds that Standard-Knapp’s 989
Pakmore can run up to 75 cases per minute. Recently, the company also
introduced a twin lane case packer on its Versatron equipment line that can
pack two lanes of cases at the same time. This allows it to run up to 100
cases per minute on a conventional drop packer.
Besides speed, producers want easy changeovers on
their machines to reduce or eliminate downtime.
“The industry seems to be continuously demanding
reduced changeover time,” Bretzner says. “It’s essential
to reduce the machine downtime in every method possible.”
“At the end of the day, you’re looking to
save costs, which dovetails into efficiency,” Schneider’s
Zarnowski says. “Our equipment is designed to minimize the cost of
ownership for the customer. We build everything to be very robust and very
quick and easy to cover for many issues. In other words, downtime is
minimized. We strive for our design to minimize downtime, maximize
efficiency for the customer, and therefore maximize the return on
One thing that is quickly shooting to the top of
everybody’s minds in the beverage industry is the green factor. What
in beverage production can be reduced or reused, and how is production
impacting the world around us? No part of the production line has been left
unturned, especially the packaging portion and the machines that do the
“We’re going through a whole green
revolution, and that means, for us, we’re going to handle thinner,
lighter weight bottles that are more material efficient,” Weaver
explains. “That requires some imagination on how to handle them.
They’re less sturdy, and you can’t use the old tricks.
You’ve got to come up with new tricks on how to handle them.”
Also, in the tray-shrink world, Weaver notes, beverage
producers want to put much less corrugated and plastic on a pack, but still
maintain the quality and integrity of the pack. With increased
opportunities for companies to print on shrink-wrap film, the bottle
becomes more of a billboard. This means the case packing and wrapping
equipment has a bigger chance to keep the bottles looking aesthetically
pleasing, with less distortion to create more perfect-looking packs.
“The green aspect is really going to dictate
changes to packaging and new materials and new ways for us to handle
it,” Weaver says.
“In shrink wrapping, there are three primary
considerations [beverage producers] are looking for: speed, efficiency and
running packages with less materials,” Douglas Machine’s Orick
adds. “Reduction of materials saves them money, and it also
contributes to the green space and contributes to the environment, which we
all like. The less we throw away, the better.”
Design on a dime
How big or small a piece of packing or wrapping
equipment is certainly comes into play for beverage manufacturers. With
limited space, the words ‘smaller footprint’ are music to
“Manufacturers are calling for machines that
reduce the amount of space necessary on the plant floor for packers,”
Cermex’s Bretzner says. “The more compact the packer, the
better the machine integration into the current line.”
Companies like A-B-C Packaging Machine Corp. boast
case wrapping and packing equipment that has all the features a good piece
of equipment should have, but without the bulk. The company’s Model
360 also has a compact design and takes up only 56 square feet of floor
“Virtually every customer has a floor space
restriction of some sort,” Schneider’s Zarnowski says.
“For example, if it’s an existing operation where they’re
doing hand packing and palletizing now, they can only fit the equipment
typically in that space while possibly leaving room for a fork truck to
drive in. So the smaller the footprint, the better. And the less space you
use, the better the return on investment is for the equipment used.
“We absolutely have to take [space restrictions]
into consideration, and designs do shrink over time,” Zarnowski
continues. “That’s where applications like the robotic packer
stand and palletizer combination come into play, because it takes up less
floor space than a standard conventional case packer and stand alone
Besides machines with a smaller footprint, beverage
producers also want machines that are easy to operate and maintain.
“We try to make our machines as easy to operate
as possible, because the large companies like to have one person running
several things at once,” Orick says. “That automation is a key
“One of the things our customers want is a
very quick learning curve, so that they can train somebody in a day,”
Weaver adds. Standard-Knapp machines have fully graphical operator
interfaces for easier operation.
“With the maintenance of a machine, you want to
be able to do things very quickly,” Weaver says. “You want to
be able to diagnose preventative maintenance while the machine is running,
and perform the maintenance at the prescribed time.”
Into the future
As beverage companies continue to put out more and
more products, and a greater variety of shaped and sized products, case
packers and wrappers continue to beef up their equipment to handle it all.
“The future of case packers and wrappers will
see faster speeds, more volume output, more flexibility and more
adaptability for machines to run various types and sizes of
containers,” Bretzner says. “Robotic applications for packers
will also be a feature that will be more noticeable since manufacturers
have assessed the efficiency of robotics. With wrappers, the future
includes innovative machines with less power consumption, environmentally
friendly materials for film and automatic format changeover formats.”
“There are a lot of untapped markets out there
that haven’t looked at automation equipment in the past because of
the cost, or lack of justifying the cost,” Zarnowski says. “But
we’re seeing that trend coming into reverse.”
“Reliability is very important,”
Standard-Knapp’s Weaver notes. “And reliability is now measured
by many of our customers with automatic measuring systems, and they allow
us to zoom in on certain things.”
He adds that a common ailment is a stopped machine
when a bottle falls. But as equipment develops, so too do
“We’ve developed a bottle eliminator, so
the machine can keep running even though it has a defective condition
toward it,” Weaver explains. “We want it to heal itself without
stopping and waiting for an operator to intervene. That’s probably
the biggest thing we can make a difference with.”
With equipment innovations and evolutions as a
constant, the future of beverage equipment overall is bright and, of
Coors introduced a new style can for its
Carling Lager in the United Kingdom.
Using thermographic inks, Graphic
Packaging, Marietta, Ga., created an eightpack
version of the Fridge Vendor package
to replace the mid-cone original. UK Coors
also successfully launched a 10-pack
Fridge Vendor for Grolsch.
Temperature Controlled Wine
New Vine Logistics, Napa, Calif., released an eco-friendly packaging solution,
WineAssure. The new package ensures wines stay at optimal temperature
during shipment all year round. Designed by International Thermal
Wizards, Miami, WineAssure packages will not exceed 70 degrees
Fahrenheit or fall below refrigeration level during a five day shipping period.
All packaging and insulation also are made from 100 percent recyclable
and degradable materials.
Eco-Box For Wine
California's DFV Wines changed the package for
its Bota Box wines to be more eco-friendly. The 3-
liter wine box is made with 95 percent post consumer
fiber, and the box is recyclable. The print
on the package is done on unbleached kraft
paper, and the ink used is water-based. The paper
layers of the box also are held together with cornstarch
instead of glue. Bota Box wines are available
in five varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio,
Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Mexican Beer In Aluminum
Dos Equis XX Lager from Cervecería Cuauhtémoc
Moctezuma (CCM), part of Fomento Económico
Mexicano, S.A.B. de C.V. (FEMSA), launched its signature
brand in a new aluminum bottle. CCL Container,
Hermitage, Pa., produced the 12-ounce bottle. The aluminum
bottles are unbreakable, resealable and 100
percent recyclable, CCL Container says. The beer bottle
is the first Mexican-brewed to appear in an aluminum
Beverage Industry’s November issue highlights the 100-year advocacy of the American Beverage Association and what’s next for CEO Katherine Lugar and a new plastics initiative, Every Bottle Back. This issue includes a special report on craft beer, an Up Close With feature on PRESS hard cider and what is sparking innovation in natural colors. Read more about how protein is powering up beverages and how warehouses are using WMS and WCS systems to streamline operations. As usual, the latest trends in new products, packaging and ingredients are highlighted.
Check back throughout the month for additional content.