Upgrading For More Flexibility & Cost-Efficiency

Monday, September 18th, 2017

In any business, it is vital to use the most efficient equipment and upgrades should have as little downtime as possible. Carola-Ribeauville was helped by Gebo Cermex to achieve this. By Jean-Marc Passemard, external communication manager, Gebo Cermex

A modern factory needs to be capable of combining cost control, efficiency and flexibility. Carola-Ribeauville is no exception, and the facility’s PET line was in need of an upgrade. They looked to Gebo Cermex to oversee this modernisation, with a brief to limit downtime to a maximum of three weeks in order to avoid any disruption to clients’ regular delivery schedules.

A Need For Change

A new investment strategy was put in place when Carola was bought out by Spadel, and that included an overhaul of the PET line at their Ribeauville factory. This upgrade was much needed for industrial, commercial and economic reasons.

On a purely industrial level, the line was getting old and posed problems such as limited flexibility, insufficient accumulation between machines, limited speed as a result of certain machines and working conditions which needed improving.

On a commercial level, the age of the line was preventing them from keeping up with the requirements of today’s market: the constantly-fluctuating consumer demands, the keenness of clients to switch to more modern packaging formats, and importantly their wish to reduce the weight of bottles.

Finally, in economic terms, their group’s investment strategy included a production cost reduction plan.

This project presented a double challenge: on one hand they had to change everything without creating a supply problem for clients. This meant replacing the machinery and getting the line back to full speed in all formats in no more than three weeks. And on the other hand, they had to upgrade the packaging line without taking up any more room, in a facility where space is at a premium.

“With this type of project, which covered everything from the bottle conveyors right up to the palletiser, the connections between each machine are of crucial importance. Output performance is largely determined by the efficiency with which we can handle increases in speed, as well as stoppages,” commented Jose Lefort, industrial manager for both the Ribeauville and Wattwiller facilities.

“Line control is one of the great strengths of the new system, not least the advanced management of stoppages/ restarts on the conveyors and the accumulation tables between machines.”

The Upgrade In Brief

The implemented high-performance PET line has four objectives: flexibility, productivity, improving working conditions, and cutting production costs. In conclusion, the improved aspects include:

  • Speed increased by 3,000 bottles per hour for small and large formats
  • An expanded choice of packaging options: packs of 6, 8 and 24 bottles
  • Quicker changeovers between formats thanks to an automated or simplified process
  • Optimal operator ergonomics
  • Limiting the need for teams to work nights
  • Reducing the need for outsourced buffer stock

The Solution:

  • Control and management of the connections between different machines
  • Dismantling and removal of old equipment
  • Supplying new machinery, commissioning and production restart with:

- Bottle and pack conveyors with automatic lateral guides adjustments

- AQ-File and AQ-Max accumulation tables allowing to manage product integrity and FIFO

- Continuous tray packer

- Layer by layer palletiser with robotic layer preparation

  • Project management, with particular attention to respecting the stipulated installation and ramp-up timetable within three weeks.

Achieving Improved Processing

One year following the upgrade, the project has received success in various aspects, surpassing initial expectations. The line productivity target has been met, and speed and line regulation have been optimised for all packaging formats. Format changeovers are now much more efficient than they used to be.

A new and lighter bottle design was also introduced with no problems; the new bottles are perfectly stable on the conveyors.

The productivity gains made have enabled the company to turn out greater volumes to tighter deadlines, with the double benefit of being able to respond immediately to spikes in orders and to reduce the volume of products which they have to keep in reserve with an external storage provider.

Moreover, increasing the speed by around 3,000 bottles per hour for all formats has allowed them to switch to 2-by-8 hour shifts, with barely any production going on at night.

According to Thierry Klein, director of Production Maintenance at Carola Ribeauville, having the machines and conveyors reinstalled as close as possible to the ground made them directly accessible without the need to climb up on walkways, as was necessary previously.

Also, the disassembly of old equipment and the assembly of the new machines were successfully done in the stipulated three-week period. Clients’ orders were able to be delivered without interruption, while offering them new packaging options.