At the recent PETnology Conference, held in conjunction with drinktec 2017, Mr. Robert Cowden, Agr’s Chief Operating Officer, discussed the topic of Improved Beverage Line Productivity via Automated Process Control. The presentation was co-presented by Mr. Frank Haesendonckx, Director of Sales & Technology KHS.
In his presentation, Cowden detailed the effect that process variability has on the blowmolding process and the cascading impact that this has on downstream beverage line efficiency and overall plant productivity. He pointed out that whet her the variability is a result of environmental conditions, operator skills or manufacturing practices; these all have an impact on bottle production and the ability to operate at optimum levels.
“Managing variation in the blowing operation is the key to optimizing beverage line productivity, and the most efficient way to accomplish this is through automated blowmolder control,” explained Cowden. He stated that Agr’s Process Pilot blowmolder management system has proved to be very effective in reducing or eliminating the effects of environmental and manufacturing-related variables on the blowing process as evidenced by the four hundred plus unit installed base worldwide.
As part of his presentation, Cowden detailed two case studies that illustrated how production variation can be reduced through the entire production and filling process with the Process Pilot system.
In the first example, the plant was experiencing large temperature fluctuations and high humidity. The line experienced inconsistent container material distribution that resulted in performance issues, most notably the prevalence of stress cracks that necessitated continuous adjustment to the process. After the installation of the Process Pilot system, process changes were reduced from 150 per month to just three. Base stress cracks were dramatically decreased by reducing the base wall thickness variation by nearly 80% and, as a result, customer complaints shrank by nearly 70%. As an added bonus, the improved stability of the process made it possible to further lightweight the bottle by two grams.
The second example involved a plant that experienced numerous preform-related issues. The preforms used in this operation ranged in age from one week to six months, manufactured in five different plants, involved two different resins and were produced on over ten different injection presses. The variety of preforms made it necessary to maintain a number of different blowmolder recipes to accommodate the difference in performance from lot to lot and played havoc on the material distribution, further affecting downstream productivity. The installation of the Process Pilot system made a dramatic improvement in blowmolder management, most notably the ability to consolidate recipes from 30 to one. Additionally, a 65% average reduction in wall thickness variation was realized on the bottles produced, regardless of preform origin or age. The improved consistency in material distribution made it possible to increase the speed of the filling line as well as overall blow-fill efficiency by 10%.
On the new development side, Mr. Frank Haesendonckx discussed the joint effort between Agr and KHS to implement Individual Mold Control on the KHS series IV and V blowmolders. Haesendonckx emphasized the intelligent maintenance system and how monitoring the performance of individual molds through the Process Pilot system could play an important role in this process. Individual Mold Control not only provides the means to quickly identify and correct performance issues on an individual mold station but also captures valuable mold-performance data that can be used to determine the optimal time to perform system maintenance, all while maximizing productivity.
Agr’s Process Pilot system works in conjunction with the reheat stretch blowmolder to proactively manage and maintain container material distribution at a specified thickness to within ~0.01mm. This is accomplished by continuously monitoring every bottle for material distribution, analyzing minute changes and adjusting the blowmolder controls to maintain pre-defined distribution levels. With Individual Mold Control, this can be taken to the next level by providing the ability to fine tune material distribution on the individual mold basis, eliminating the mold-to-mold variability that is common with bottle production on blowmolding systems without this capability.
Agr’s patented Process Pilot automated blowmolder control system has been on the market for several years and has amassed a significant global install base of major bottle converters and self-manufacturing brand owners. The Process Pilot system is unique in that it manages the blowmolder based on direct bottle measurements, on every bottle produced. By controlling the blowmolder based on direct feedback from bottle measurements rather than just blowmolder performance indicators, the Agr system can ensure that the final product has the desired quality and performance attributes in spite of environmental, blowmolder or material variations that occur during the production process.
This product has proven to be a vital tool in the production of light weight bottles while improving overall bottle performance and quality. Details on the Process Pilot family of products can be found on the Agr website (www.agrintl.com) or by using the following link: http://bit.ly/agrProcessPilot