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Getting things sorted

24 July 2022

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Germany has invested in a returnable glass line in its Mannheim facility, which is able to manage highly complex sorting tasks. 



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The returnable glass system supplied by KHS is able to fill a total of six different bottles on this line – four in 20ml and two in 330ml formats. The smaller sizes are primarily destined for the hospitality trade and the Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite and mezzo mix brands on the line have their own respective bottle designs. 

One outstanding feature of the mew filling line is the sorting system that can feed the empty bottles by type to the washing and filling process fully automatically. “In principle, the sorting and filling processes take place on two separate systems. We use a segment to combine both sections with one another specifically for our main product types, the 200ml and 330ml Coca-Cola bottle,” said Christopher Bee, plant manager.

Here, the containers that are largely returned from the market by type are sent straight from sorting to production. They no longer have to take a detour through the empties warehouse. This reduces the amount of effort needed for handling.” The other five product types from the sorting process are first packed into beverage crates and then onto pallets before being temporarily stored until they are filled.

Intelligent decrater
Thanks to the system’s high degree of automation, the only manual task required takes place right at the start of sorting. When the crates arrive, they’re scanned from above. If they’re found to contain foreign objects such as paper cups or film, the crates can’t be identified. The obstacle must then be removed by hand before the crate can be fed back into the automatic process. “The decrater is so intelligent that it places the biggest bottle type on one conveyor,” said Bee. “The smaller bottles are set down on a different conveyor where they’re separated and guided to different lanes with the help of camera systems and pushers. Here, we aim to manipulate the containers as little as possible: in other words, to ensure that they have very little contact with the machine. In this way, we can keep the risk of something falling over at such high speed to a minimum.” With an output of up to 66,000 bottles per hour the sorting system has a greater capacity than the returnable glass line that can fill a maximum of 60,000 bottles every 60 minutes. This means that CCEP in Mannheim seldom suffers any downtime with its empties – even during the peak season.

Great flexibility
The irregular return of empties often results in peaks. “What’s special about this system is that it can individually react to these peaks,” continued Bee. “In order to facilitate this, during commissioning we ran a live simulation with an external service provider. On the basis of the results, in close cooperation with KHS we were then able to make a number of optimizations and fine adjustments to the layout that improved performance. This was extremely helpful, especially as we couldn’t work under real-life conditions during the pandemic due to closures in the hospitality trade.”

For Bee, one highlight of the new returnable glass line from KHS is the Innoclean DM double-end bottle washer. “On average we save up to 40% in water and energy for each filled bottle compared to previous-generation systems,” Bee emphasizes. This is enabled by the freshwater control, for instance, that’s automatically adjusted to the current machine capacity by a control valve. The new ECO carriers are also good for the energy balance: they weight about a quarter less than the previous bottle pockets and have side openings that permit better rinsing. This reduces the amount of caustic and heat carryover and thus the cooling requirement within the machine. If at any point no empties are available, the bottle washer switches to an energy-saving idle state: its new standby mode. To this end, the Liquid Efficiency Spraying System (LESS) lowers the pressure of the spray pumps to 0.3 bar during downtime and thus cuts electricity consumption by up to 80%.


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