Cermex recently unveiled its most revolutionary end-of-line packaging system at French champagne producer Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. KAREN STRETCH travelled to Reims, France, to see first-hand the benefits of the special installation.

Caption: Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin’s new ‘Design Box’ and carton required an innovative end-of-line packaging solution from Cermex.

VEUVE Clicquot Ponsardin (VCP), producer of fine French champagne since 1805, has only one slogan – ‘Only one quality, the finest’. The heritage and success of this famous champagne maker is largely thanks to the work of one woman, Madame Clicquot, who inherited the vineyards and winery in Reims after being widowed at 27 years of age.

She was a woman before her time, a true pioneer in the advancement of wine making in the 19th century. Her ethos for premium quality and innovation still rings true today and VCP’s recent collaboration with Cermex to revolutionise its end-of-line packaging technology reflects a common goal to anticipate market demands and produce advanced solutions.

Cermex has partnered VCP since 1994, installing over 20 machines at its premises. To produce premium quality champagne consistently demands total focus at every stage of production and this includes generating original ideas for packaging designs that ‘push the limits’ in terms of automation for every packaging launch.

The development of Line 5, VCP’s latest end-of-line packaging system, was inspired by three key factors – the launch of a special Veuve Clicquot ‘Design Box’ (for the sale of individual boxes), a new secondary packaging and a need to reduce carbon footprint while still increasing production capacity from 4 000 to 8 500 bottles/min.

Designed in a ‘U-shape’ within a compact 25m area, it incorporates an F28 tray erector, an AN110 gantry packer, a WB45-80 wraparound case packer, with two integrated Fanuc robots, and a P4 palletiser.Before the introduction of Line 5 in July 2009, a typical end-of-line system at VCP consisted of one tray erector – for bottles and magnums. Bottles were transported to the wraparound case packer via a conventional conveyor which caused scuffing under trays and on cartons and tooling changeovers were manual and time consuming. Rollers and a turning bar used to move cases to the palletiser also caused bumping and scuffing.

Speed and efficiency

Cermex has implemented five key innovations that combine to create impressive production and quality capabilities on Line 5.

Firstly, two robotic systems co-operate to manage the speed demands of 8 500 bottles/min. The AN110 gantry packer is capable of operating at high speeds with a payload of 20 to 250kg (including gripping heads and product batch), and two Fanuc M710 50kg robots, integrated into the multi-function WB45-80 case packer, can handle 16 packaging formats at up to 25 cases/min.

Secondly, the F28 tray erector, the WB45-80 wraparound case packer and the AN110 gantry packer have a special cantilever design that allows maximum access to all the technology elements.

Format changeovers and adjustments are activated by selecting the new format on a Human Machine Interface (HMI). Cermex was briefed to limit operator tool handling to a maximum of 5kg, enforcing automated tool changeovers for anything heavier. Tooling changeover stations are operated with a racking system. A robotic arm removes tooling from a work-station to a vacant trolley, which is removed by an operator. New tooling on a separate racking is then brought in; the robotic arm collects the new format and sets it in to the work-station. Preprogrammed adjustments are servo-driven. Bottle format changes can be completed in just three minutes and tray format changes, which previously took two to three hours, can be completed in 20 minutes.

Caption: Smooth transition to a raised level palletiser in-feed is carried out using a spiral conveyor system.

All machines are fitted with new-generation setting motors, chosen on the basis of criteria such as shared electronics or compatibility with the various networks used by the Cermex.

Quality control and product integrity

Thirdly, the quality of both product and packaging at the out-feed is measured on two levels – with specific technical solutions that avoid knocking and rubbing as well as quality control elements on the whole line.

High-level quality control of formed trays includes sensor detection of non-glued areas at the gluing station and the exclusion of non-compliant trays. A detection device at the out-feed of the tray erector during merging from two to one lane also identifies trays that are incorrectly glued.
A double quality control at the out-feed of the labelling station includes a Cognex vision system, checking the presence and position of product and barcode labels on filled cases as well as barcode verification.

Caption: Four stations on the labelling line enable quick changeovers and at the out-feed a Cognex vision system checks label positions and barcode verification.

At the AN110 gantry packer in-feed, bottles are laid top-to-tail in trays or presentation boxes top-to-tail on their sides. This ensures perfect balance before being transferred by a step-by-step bracket conveyor to the WB45-80 wraparound case packer, again avoiding scuffing of the Design Box. Before format changeover on the case packer, extra boxes are automatically ‘flushed-out’ via a separate conveyor. The bottle in-feed and transfer is based on the principle of never coming in to contact with the bottle labels and the transfer of presentation boxes is in a raised position to avoid scuffing the base where the barcode appears.

A checkweigher and sorter also validates that each case is complete.

Cases are transported to a raised level layer-by-layer palletiser via a spiral conveyor and two step-by-step conveyers at the palletiser in-feed ensure no bumps or jolts. With a patented two or three layer pre-stacking system the P4 palletiser is capable of achieving 8,5 case layers/min. Case turning at 90° and 180° angles at the in-feed is carried out by a high-performance servo-driven system that functions continuously. This, claims Cermex, is a design ‘first’ for this type of application.

Other specific adaptations that guarantee product and packaging integrity are, for example, rubber suction cups on gripping tools and specific robots offering smoothness with precision-design tooling for carefully stacking filled trays and boxes.

Fourthly, the maintenance elements and machine parts of Line 5 are easily accessible to the operator. The HMI offers on-screen visuals of the main machine components, and maintenance and breakdown assistance from the HMI ensures minimum manual assistance and downtime.

Lastly, a special box and bottle turning device guarantees product orientation at maximum speed levels. For example, bottles are turned via a vision system; the bottle is positioned onto a mobile stand with a camera above that reads the position of the label and rotates the stand until the bottle is correctly oriented. By providing product facing and shelf-ready packaging the top-quality finished product has greater shelf impact.

The system is capable of reading 70 different label references.

The Line 5 project, from conception to construction, took Cermex one year to complete. In-depth pre-studies were conducted to provide VCP with the most advanced intelligence produced specifically to suit the products and packaging handled. Cermex ‘pushed the limits’ in terms of equipment design and integration to produce a solution that is second to none and in perfect synergy with VCP’s growth strategy.

Caption: At the gantry packer 12 bottles are collected by motorised gripping tools and laid horizontally, top-to-tail, in the trays. This ensures correct case balance.

Four decades of innovation

WITH a 40-year history, Cermex is considered a leader in end-of-line packaging machinery, with complete single-function or multi-function solutions for case packing, shrinkwrapping and palletising fast-moving consumer goods. Since 1996, the company has been a subsidiary of Sidel, a division of Swedish group, Tetra Laval.

Cermex designs and installs machines for seven main industrial sectors: food, alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic beverages, personal care, home care, pharmaceuticals and paper. In 2009 the milestone of 10 000 installed machines was reached.

With a strong culture of quality and service, the company has become a global player and today offers one of the widest ranges of machines on the market, with 70% being exported.

Innovation is at the heart of Cermex’s strategy, and 8% of its annual turnover is dedicated to industrialising new processes throughout the packaging chain – from gripping a product in its primary packaging through to palletisation.

The company is represented in South Africa by WH Rosenmeyer.

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