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FABs for SAB

Alcohol-based mixed drinks are proving ever more popular in South Africa. For bottling these drinks, also referred to as flavoured alcoholic beverages (FABs), South Africa’s leading beverage producer The South African Breweries Limited (SAB) commissioned a non-returnables line from Krones. The line offers various options for end-of-the-line packaging, coupled with intelligent process control for high-line availability levels.SAB operates seven breweries and five soft-drinks plants in South Africa. During the 2008/2009 business year, it produced just under 26 million hectolitres of beer, 17 million hectolitres of soft drinks and 1.3 million hectolitres of other alcoholic beverages. Its principal beer brands are Carling Black Label, Hansa Pilsner, Castle Lager and Castle Light. DiversificationTo compete in a down economy, SAB diversified its product portfolio to include mixed drinks with an alcohol content. As far as beer is concerned, South Africa still retains a preference for returnables, which make up more than two-thirds of the total. At SAB’s Chamdor Brewery, specifically, things look somewhat different.Returnables are in the minority, accounting for only 45 per cent of the volume, and being filled on just one returnables line rated at 40,000 750-millilitre bottles an hour. Chamdor Brewery has an output of around 3.5 million hectolitres and recently constructed a bottling hall with a footprint of 4,000 square metres for what is called “Line 7,” which is used for filling FABs into 275 millilitre, 330 millilitre and 340 millilitre non-returnable bottles.Double-figure demandDemand growth has always been in the high double figures, reaching 1.3 million hectolitres in the 2008/2009 business year. These demand levels, according to Wally Tollemache, senior project manager, were behind the decision to buy a new non-returnables line. “At the same time, we’ve thus created more capacity for beer-filling on the other non-returnables line.” The Brutal Fruit variants are filled in individually designed, 275 millilitre ACL (applied colour label) bottles, so that the line has to handle eight different bottles overall. There are several options for putting the drinks into sales packages: 6-bottle, wrap-around cartons on a 24-bottle, full-depth tray; 6-bottle shrink-packs on a 24-bottle, full-depth tray or in wrap-around cartons; or 24 loose bottles on a tray.The line has been equipped with three different packers to handle the disparate end-of-the-line packaging variants, as well as with IT solutions for optimum capacity use and smart line control at product changeovers. This is important because of the number of different products being filled. An LDS (line documentation system) for data acquisition and an LMS (line management system) for order handling have been installed for this purpose. The LDS records all the relevant machine data and consumption figures and outputs these in combined reports. The LMS, by contrast, provides support for the operators and line managers in handling the orders involved and in making the necessary adjustments at the machines. It provides appropriately coordinated procedures and concomitant notes and specifications at the machine touch screen. Bulk glass is passed into the line by a sweep-off depalletiser in robot design. And it’s here that intelligent line control with the Krones LMS starts to come into play, because the number of pallets holding non-returnable bottles fed in at the depalletiser should in fact reflect the availability of product at the filler. To put it another way: when there’s not much product left, the bulk-glass supply should be decelerated to a stop under coordinated control so that the end of filling can be matched to the number of bottles still required. The LMS knows the order quantities in relation to the size of the bottle being filled. By continually checking the order and the filler’s buffer tanks, it is able to compute the number of bottles still required as the smallest unit accurately down to one bottle layer and to then stop the layer sweep-off function appropriately.Once depalletised, after an Accutable buffer the containers are passed via a bottle-spacing unit to the BLOC-synchronised Variojet rinser and the Sensometic VP-VI filler. After they have been inspected for the proper fill level in a Checkmat, they travel along a buffering section that takes them to the Sander Hansen pasteuriser. Depending on the pasteurisation unit stipulated, it can take up to an hour and a half for the product to pass through this machine. This means the pasteuriser may “harbour” a production quantity equivalent to 90 minutes’ worth of filler output. All the downstream processes can thus continue to work with these bottles after a corresponding time delay. To prevent the necessity of running the pasteuriser completely empty when a new order is started, to avoid any intermingling, a procedure between the LMS and the pasteuriser has been developed, which requires a pause of only two pasteuriser zones. This corresponds to roughly 10 minutes for reliably separating any two orders and for permitting the pasteuriser to run individualised temperature profiles. At the discharge, the LMS, in conjunction with the pasteuriser’s control system, makes sure that the order leaving the machine coincides with the order at the downstream machine, or, if it doesn’t, interrupts product discharge. A lengthy section of conveyor follows the pasteuriser, which likewise serves as a buffer and leads to two Multimodule labellers, each with four Autocol stations for pressure-sensitive labels and two stations for cold-glue neck-around labels. “SAB has traditionally used two labellers in lines of this rating, this is because labelling quality and performance are important production attributes,” said Tollemache. The two labellers can be run either in parallel or separately, depending on the order concerned. How they are going to be used for any specific order is dynamically determined by the LMS both when the order is started and while it is being processed. On their way from the pasteuriser to the labellers, the bottles pass through a distribution gate, which enables any conceivable combination of labeller to be utilised. One of the possible variants, for example, is to finish a particular order with only one labeller, while simultaneously changing the other one over to the next order, so as to achieve a maximally smooth transition without any standstills between one order and the next. This is supported by the LMS, which dynamica

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