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New technologies help water company triple productivity

19-May-2003

A small US water bottling company, Kolob claims to have tripled productivity and significantly reduced costs following investments it has made in automation equipment sourced at a leading US packaging expo.

The equipment investment was made at Pack Expo , where the company claims it was able to review the latest advancement in the fields of case packing and cartooning., Kolob eventually invested in several pieces of automated equipment that upped production and reduced manufacturing costs by about $1.50 per (€1.28) case.

"Increased consumer demand for our bottled spring water drove us to explore packaging technology that would increase our productivity and help reduce manufacturing costs," said Kolob manager Martin Edgel. "Introducing more sophisticated, automated equipment was the first step in achieving our goal."

Often referred to as the Gateway to the National Parks, Cedar City is centrally located in southern Utah. The source that provides Kolob's spring water is on Cedar Mountain, part of the company's own expansive property and at an elevation of 10,000 feet. It is here that the water is pumped, filled in stainless steel tanks, and brought 25 miles (40kms) down the valley to Kolob's bottling facility.

Founded in 1997, the Kolob Water Company supplies its Mountain Spring water to grocery and convenience stores throughout the state of Utah and in parts of Nevada, including the Las Vegas area. The water is packaged in 10 ounce to 2.3 litre plastic bottles.

To research automated equipment for Kolob's bottling facility, Edgel attended Pack Expo Las Vegas to view the latest technology and learn how to improve the plant's productivity. After meeting with several exhibitors and investigating a variety of systems, Edgel purchased a 90 Degree Transfer Turntable, a stainless steel conveyor and an Automatic Bottle Washer, all from Accutek Packaging Equipment Company of California.

Kolob's says its most important investment was the Automatic Bottle Washer. Featuring ten rinse nozzles, an Automatic Bottle Indexing (ABI) System, and a soft grip bottle grabber, the company says that the system was an ideal companion to its existing bottling line.

Operation of the Bottle Washer is straight forward. Photo eyes count the appropriate quantity of containers into the work area, stopping additional containers from entering using an indexing system. A second indexer stops the progress of bottles in the work area at the appropriate position. The gripper arm then slightly squeezes the containers and inverts them over the nozzle jets located in the recovery basin. According to the company the soft grip bottle grabber gently holds bottles in place and an actuator with end cushions slows the gripper arm at the end of each rotation cycle so containers do not jar out of position, ensuring accurate location above nozzle jets and a soft landing back onto the bottle conveyor. The gripper arm has a pressure adjustment so containers are not excessively squeezed or collapsed.

Kolob has set the Bottle Washer to spray sanitising liquid to remove any carton dust or particles. "No Clog" spray nozzles and valve system allows the Bottle Washer to remain in operation when recycling rinse or sanitising solution from the recovery basin.

After containers are rinsed and placed back onto the transport conveyor, the gripper indexer releases the containers while the inlet indexer releases a new set of containers to be rinsed. With both sets of containers moving at the same time, maximum speed and efficiency is achieved. The Bottle Washer is said to clean effectively as production rate speeds of up to 45 containers per minute, or 21,600 containers per 8-hour shift.Prior to installing Accutek's Bottle Washer, the company had washed all of its bottles by hand, a time consuming and costly procedure. With the new system installed, Kolob claims to have increased productivity by 300 per cent, producing up to 400 cases per day.

Accutek's Bottle Washer features a unique roll up design, allowing the system to be placed into operation quickly. "We installed the whole system in-house by ourselves," said Edgel. "The set-up literally took minutes, and thanks to a very helpful support staff at Accutek, we haven't experienced any problems."

After the success of the last Pack Expo, Edgel says it is returning to the next show in October this year. "We're looking for some additional packaging equipment that will help us at the back end of our production line, such as cartoners and case packers," said Edgel.

The professional advice from exhibitors at the last event is a major reason he's scheduled a return trip. "Each booth is staffed with technical representatives, so you can really get a good understanding of the technology you're investigating and how compatible it will be with existing equipment," said Edgel. "Nothing beats the experience of viewing technology running live on the floor and talking to knowledgeable people who provide excellent information."

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