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Craft brewer’s new can line is fast, flexible

Authored by admin

by PAT REYNOLDS, VP Editor, Packaging World

Aviator Brewing paves the way for future growth with a can line that lets the craft brewer go after contract packaging opportunities. Shrink sleeve labeling plays a key role.

“We’re offering a unique solution where we design the art for your label, we brew your beer to your specs, and we put it in cans and cartons—all for a single price on cases out the door.”

That’s how Mark Doble, founder of Aviator Brewing Co., describes the contract packaging business model at his craft brewing establishment in Fuquay Varina, NC. Not that Aviator is losing interest in its own-brand beers like Hot Rod Red, Hog Wild IPA, and Devils Tramping Ground Tripel. It’s just that Doble believes that the path to future success in craft beer—a category that is still growing but is beginning to show signs of saturation—lies in expansion beyond one’s own brands. It also hinges on packaging.

“With more than 4,000 craft breweries in the U.S., the competition for local tap handles in regional markets is increasingly fierce,” says Doble. “If you invest in packaging, you can access a wider market than breweries that don’t have packaging capabilities. But you have to get the packaging right, as in low dissolved oxygen content, bacteria counts that are kept firmly in check, and can seams that are tight. Packaging is our business. So if we invest in the wrong kind of packaging system, it puts our business at risk.”

Aviator hasn’t offered bottled beer since shortly after Doble launched the brewery—in a former airplane hanger, which explains the brewery’s name—in 2008. He’s a big believer in cans as the best format for beer, partly because he does a fair bit of export business overseas. “Zero oxygen gets into a can,” he points out. “Light protection is better than glass. From a shipping perspective, the can won’t break. It’s also lighter than glass, not to mention that aluminum has a good recycling story to tell.

“We installed a new can line that is capable of handling our own brands as well as our contract packaging business,” he adds. “Currently about 80 percent of our business is preprinted cans and the rest is shrink sleeve label. But by the end of this year I see about 40 percent of our business being sleeves. Our contract packaging is growing, a business that by its very nature is skewed toward relatively short runs. And whenever you’re dealing with short runs, preprinted cans don’t make much sense because minimum order requirements force you to buy far more cans than you need in a short-run business.”

Label applicator
A Lanzara labeler from Axon is the shrink-sleeve labeler at the heart of the new can line. “It’s perfect for when you just want to slam out 1,000 cases or so and then move on to the next beer,” says Doble. “And the look on the store shelf is terrific. The printing on the label just really pops. The labels may cost between six and eight cents each, but it’s definitely worth it.”

Supplied by Labels, Tags and Inserts, the labels used originally at Aviator were a 50-micron PETG. In fairly short order the firm had moved down to 40-micron and it’s now evaluating 35-micron. Among the reasons Doble specified Axon’s Lanzara applicator is because he saw evidence that it would comfortably handle these thinner-gauge label materials, even at speeds to 400/min. The other reason? The shrink sleeve labeler replaced by the Lanzara was an Axon EZ 200 purchased about four years ago on eBay. “If we ever had any problems with that machine, the support we got from Axon was unrivaled,” says Doble, “and a big consideration in our approach to buying machinery is the quality of customer support we get. So when it came time for a new sleeve label applicator, it was a pretty easy decision whose machine it would be.” Nor did it hurt, he adds, that Axon is just down the road in Raleigh.

Another feature of the Lanzara that Doble likes is how easily Axon experts can access it remotely. “It’s awesome the way they can just log into the machine and tweak it or adjust a software feature,” says Doble. “The other day we had a motor that was overloading, and they jumped on the machine remotely and quickly recommended the motor needed to be replaced. What a difference compared to waiting for someone to come on site just to determine what it is that needs attention.”

One thing that is conspicuously absent on the Lanzara are the dancer bars that many shrink sleeve label applicators rely on. In theory, these provide tension control for the incoming film labels. But according to Axon’s Bob Williams, “We found that they put a lot of whip into the machine and complicated film tracking. So instead we use a vacuum box mounted on the side of the machine that provides the necessary tension control.”

When Aviator is applying shrink sleeve labels to the cans it fills, line speed is 250 cans/min for 16-oz bottles and 400/min for 12-oz. “When we’re not sleeving,” says Doble, “we can go at 600 cans/min.”

Depal is fit for purpose
It all begins with an overhead depalletizer from Ska Fabricating, a firm that grew out of Durango, CO-based Ska Brewing Co. As a co-owner of Ska Brewing, Matt Vincent spent a lot of time dreaming up ways of improving efficiency. He soon recognized that many other craft breweries were in need of equipment that was properly sized for craft brew volumes. So he and Dan Morris formed Ska Fabricating, whose flagship product is the Can-I-Bus Depalletizer. Designed with space and cost in mind, this is a slim-profile, semi-automatic system that’s especially suitable for craft brewers. Capable of depalletizing multiple sized packages of aluminum, plastic, or composite materials, the Can-I-Bus is fully automated once the pallet is inserted into the machine and the straps and tier frame are removed. Ska Fabricating has now sold more than 280 depalletizers around the world and continues to develop more products with space and cost in mind.

Cans descend from the overhead level down an AV-C500 waterless twist rinser from A&E Conveyor Systems that uses high-pressure ionized air as the cleaning agent combined with a continuous vacuuming process at the opening of the container to help remove and collect debris that might be inside. “A&E was also very helpful in getting all the machines in the line integrated, though in fact we ourselves took responsibility for line integration,” says Doble. “Among the biggest challenges was getting it all to fit in a really tight footprint.”

At the discharge from the twist rinser is an ink-jet date coder from Domino that puts lot and date code on the bottom of each can. Then comes label application by the Lanzara. In addition to its features described above, it also takes an unconventional approach to the lighting system it relies on to communicate its operating state to plant floor operators. Most comparable machines use a light stack—typically consisting of red, yellow, green—so that operators can see if a machine is running smoothly (green), in need of attention (yellow), or stopped (red). The Lanzara, however, has shed its light stack in favor of lighting inside the machine cabinet itself. The theory is that operators have almost become desensitized to the messaging that comes from a light stack simply because they’ve been around them for so long. But when the entire interior of the Lanzara cabinet turns yellow or red, it’s pretty difficult to not get the message loud and clear.

Also notable on the Lanzara is the sophisticated way its Schneider Electric controls package handles motion control where can conveying speed is concerned. Axon refers to it as “virtual encoder” technology. Here’s how it works. A Schneider variable frequency drive (VFD) regulates speed of the conveyor feeding cans into the Lanzara. This VFD constantly sends real-time can position information to the Lanzara’s main controller, a Schneider PacDrive 3. It amounts to an update every millisecond. Armed with this information, the PacDrive 3 then signals the VFD to modulate its speed if necessary so that each can is optimally positioned at the moment its label is to be applied.

The PacDrive 3 also brings film-feed position adjustment in real time on the fly. A Schneider Lexium 52 servo motor actuates the knife that cuts each label free from the roll. The instant it’s cut it’s pushed down onto a mandrel that has servo-driven nip rollers on opposite sides. These rollers not only propel the cut label down onto a can without ever losing control, they also advance the film so that the next label can be cut and applied. A clear strip between each label serves as an eye mark for maintaining registration. A contrast sensor from Tri-Tronics with a 30-microsecond response time looks for that eye mark and signals to the PacDrive 3 just where it is. If it has not been advanced to the proper position, the PacDrive will signal the Lexium 52 servo motor that governs the nip rollers to speed up or slow down accordingly.

Two steps to labeling
Label application is actually a two-stage process. Cans exit the first stage with labels that are pushed only about half way down. Stage two consists of rapidly spinning plastic “fingers” on opposite sides of the conveyor that quickly and efficiently push the label down to the bottom of the can.

Immediately after labels are on cans, a steam tunnel shrinks each label tightly to the contour of its can. Then cans enter a 72-head rotary filler from Bevcorp integrated with a Pneumatic Scale Angelus 120L seamer. A Filtec inspection device detects any short fills so that those cans can be automatically rejected.72 Can Filler - Aviator

At this point in the line cans go down one of two paths depending on which format is called for. If plastic ring carriers are in the picture, the cans are collated in groups of four or six by a Mumm 450 () that applies a ring carrier. These four and six packs go into corrugated trays before palletizing. The other scenario has cans diverted instead to a Switchback cartoner that collates cans and encloses them in a paperboard carton. This versatile machine lets Aviator do 4-, 6-, 12-, 15-, or 18-count cartons. “That’s definitely one of the things we like about it,” says Doble.

Palletizing, for now, is done manually. “What we installed is all we could afford,” says Doble with a laugh. On a more serious note, he adds this. “The level of automation we have now is something we have to grow into. There was a time, as we came to grips with the fact that we needed more capacity and we were evaluating our options, when we thought maybe something in the intermediate range was the way to go, maybe something like 200 cans per minute. But then we figured screw it, who wants to go through another installation process once we outgrow the intermediate stage. So we decided to skip all the intermediate stuff and invested instead in a high-speed line. It’s an investment that is really at the core of the brewery itself. After all, you can make the best beer in the world. But if not enough people can get it because of packaging equipment constraints, what’s the point?”

How Technology Is Making Machines Safer

Authored by Bevcorp

For sheet metal fabricator Marlin Steel, spending money on safety technology makes dollars and sense. President Drew Greenblatt says the Baltimore, Maryland-based company invests millions in automation because it increases productivity, cuts cycle time and improves quality. It also makes manufacturing better in other ways.

“We’re able to ship product that’s made in a safer fashion because our employees are less likely to get hurt,” Greenblatt says. “We’ve gone more than 2,295 days without a safety incident. We attribute a lot of that to the technology and the robots.”

A non-automated company of a similar size would typically have had 18 to 30 injuries over that same span, according to Greenblatt. Thanks to its safety record, Marlin Steel saves money in insurance premiums and is better able to retain skilled employees, who value a company that demonstrates it values them.

But, at the same time, there are aspects of safety technology that Greenblatt would like to see improved. Chief among these are alerts that warn of attempts to defeat or bypass safety systems. Another desired innovation involves better sensors and systems, largely as a means to allow humans and robots to work more closely together.

Safety in numbers

As Greenblatt demonstrates, there’s a demand for safety technology, particularly if it’s part of an overall automation and productivity package. However, there also is room for improvement.

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Sales of safety sensors and switches will reach $3.3 billion yearly worldwide by 2020, according to a new report from analyst firm IndustryARC. The heavy machinery used in manufacturing has the potential to crush, amputate, burn or blind, causing severe workplace injuries. That makes the use of sensors a necessity to protect workers, and it explains the 3.1% compound annual growth rate in sales, says Industry Consultant Ravi Medichelmela.

Willoughby, Ohio-based Bevcorp is one reason for the growth in safety-related technology. That is due to a philosophy followed by the maker of rotary fillers, blending equipment and handling parts for the beverage industry (Figure 1).

“We design for safety-standard compliance, but we go above that by adding features and functionality and using the latest technologies, which gives the flexibility to maximize uptime,” says Eric Hendrickson, engineering manager for electrical and mechanical.

On the technology front, the company makes use of Ethernet-based safety PLCs and similar controls, finding this improves diagnostics and adds flexibility. Because of the technology, something like a door, for example, can be added without having to run so many wires. That gives the OEM the capability to better adapt a machine to a specific customer or situation.

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img-22As for other design changes technology now enables, Hendrickson cites what was done with a bowl used in the filling process. The product within it has to be maintained at a certain level, with more periodically added in a foam-free fashion. Previously, a product change or adjustment required stopping a machine, opening up guarding, making a mechanical adjustment, closing up the machine and starting it up again—a time-consuming sequence that might have to be repeated. Now, an electronic level control system that sits inside the guarding and communicates wirelessly enables adjustments to be made without stopping the machine at all.

Bevcorp uses products from Rockwell Automation, and Hendrickson says these offerings have evolved over time. That allows OEMs to offer more diagnostics and options. Looking forward, Hendrickson notes that safety technology vendors are trying to make devices that cannot be circumvented through the addition of redundancy and double-checking of conditions, all to better spot attempts at altering or bypassing safeguards (Figure 2).

Matthew Miller, a machine safety specialist at ABB Jokab Safety Products, notes that making a true calculation about the cost and payback of safety should account for everything, and that leads to one conclusion (Figure 3). “The rewards easily outweigh the investment,” says Miller. “An unsafe machine can result in injured employees, production downtime, paying workers’ compensation, lawsuits and fines and increased insurance premiums, just to name a few.”

Breaking News: Rockwell Manufacturing Safety Excellence Award: Congratulations to the 2014 Winners!

Authored by Bevcorp

Rockwell Automation named Corning Environmental Technologies and Bevcorp as recipients of its 2014 Manufacturing Safety Excellence Awards. The winners were recognized at the Safety Leadership Conference on October 27 – 29, 2014 in Indianapolis.

Created in 2013, the annual awards celebrate the world’s safest manufacturing companies – specifically those that realize the widespread benefits of a holistic approach to safety. They are given to companies that make people and machinery safety a core business value by incorporating the three key pillars of a comprehensive safety program:

  • A strong safety culture
  • A formalized compliance strategy, and
  • Capital investments in technologies that help improve worker safety and plant productivity

The awards also recognize collaboration between environmental health and safety (EHS) and engineering departments to help ensure compliance, worker safety and plant productivity.

The awards are open to manufacturers, machine builders (OEMs) or system integrators, as long as they demonstrate a true commitment to safety. The next call for nominations will open in the summer of 2015.

Bevcorp LLC Acquires Adcor Packaging Group LLC’s Crown Filling Intellectual Property

Bevcorp LLC has acquired the beverage filling intellectual property and inventory of Adcor Packaging Group LLC. The acquisition strengthens Bevcorp’s commitment to the beverage equipment marketplace, providing increased services to domestic and worldwide customers by expanding their resources and capabilities in engineering, sales, parts, and service. This acquisition also allows Bevcorp LLC to become the owner of the OEM technology to provide customers OEM quality filling equipment and parts manufactured using the original Crown Cork & Seal and Crown Simplimatic intellectual property owned by Adcor since 2000.

According to Chris Pascarella, President of Bevcorp LLC, “We are excited to expand and improve upon the legacy of Crown filling technology as exclusive owners of the intellectual property providing all customers with the security of knowing their Crown filler investments are fully supported by Bevcorp. The purchase of the IP from the Adcor Packaging Group LLC along with our recent acquisition of FCI Inc. Container Handling Division, combined with our MicroBlend Blending Division enables us to increase product offerings, inventory, and services to all customers. Bevcorp is committed to constant improvement and investments within our organization to continue to be a leader in beverage filling, blending and container handling.”

Bevcorp LLC will continue to service all current and new customers out of the Willoughby Ohio corporate offices and manufacturing site.

Adcor Packaging Group LLC inquiries for filler parts and filler service please contact:

Filler Parts Sales: 440-954-3505 | Filler Service: 440-954-3506 | Main Line: 440-954-3500

Email: sales@bevcorp.com

Bevcorp, LLC, Acquires FCI, Inc., Expanding Capabilities of the Beverage Parts Industry Powerhouse

Authored by Bevcorp

Cleveland, OH…In a strategic move to increase comprehensive customer solutions, Bevcorp, LLC, recently acquired FCI Inc., of Cleveland Ohio, a manufacturer of aftermarket change parts to the beverage industry and supplier of specialized industrial parts.

The acquisition of FCI, apremierchange parts supplier for more than 50 years, builds upon Bevcorp’s established handling equipment and processing reputation in the beverage industry by offering the following additional capabilities and benefits to new and existing customers.

  • Change parts for numerous European and North American fillers, cappers and other packaging equipment
  • Increased customer productivity and changeover reduction through efficient handling equipment and conversion packages
  • Increased engineering and machining capacity that promote speed to market for new package production lines

FCI is industry-recognized and will continue to advance Standard Bolt-on Change Parts, E-Z Fit Tool-less Quick Change Parts and Neck Control for PET bottles along with innovative products to decrease changeover time and increase filling line productivity.

These additional capabilities, coupled with Bevcorp’s reputation for unparalleled service in the filling and blending industry, will now provide customer solutions as FCI Container Handling Division of Bevcorp.

“It’s a win-win for FCI and Bevcorp customers,” said Chris Pascarella, President of Bevcorp LLC.  “Bevcorp’s manufacturing expertise will supplement the strong FCI industrial parts group, and the increased machining capabilities will better serve FCI’s current customers.”

Pascarella said the advantage of the combined organizations will manifest in outstanding opportunities for all customers to achieve greater value from their packaging investments with blending, rotary rinsing, filling, capping, seaming and container handling solutions under one umbrella of ownership.

“Combining the depth of the talent pool of both organizations will provide valuable solutions and added resources to all customers when it comes to product package design, handling andcustomersupport,” said Pascarella.