Beverage Review - More fizz for ABI
With expenditure on beverages booming, Amalgamated Beverage Industries (ABI), the soft drinks division of sAB and the leading coca-Cola bottler in the country, is the proud new owner of one of the most advanced soft drink filling and packaging pET multi-pack lines in Africa.
ABI unveiled the new line at its Midrand plant, Line 4, a few weeks ago to the media - and it has much to be proud of. with a price tag of R115 million, it's capable of filling nearly 41 000 bottles/hour, or 11 bottles/second, high-speed capacity that will increase output considerably at the factory that produces a wide range of products and packaging for the Gauteng area.
ABI says the investment was made because of the unexpectedly high demand for products packed in PET. 'There are several reasons for this: the country's economic growth, more disposable income and the supermarkets' move into townships,' says ABI's manufacturing director, Trevor Sanderson. 'The weather has also played a role. This year, for example, a much warmer winter led to an increase in the sales of our soft drinks."
Apart from taking care of its PET growth requirements for the next few years, Sanderson comments that another great advantage of the line is its versatility. It can be converted in only two hours, versus eight hours for a smaller line, to fill 500ml, one-litre or two-litre PET packs.
Line 4 is the fastest in the plant and is manned by 45 employees on a 24-hour, three-shift basis. An additional 35 people had to be employed as a result of increased production requirements.
Sourcing the best possible machinery and technology was of utmost importance, and ABI selected three different suppliers.
- SIG/Simonazzi in Italy (via local agent SIMBOT) supplied the blender, labeller, filler and wet-end botile conveyors.
- Krones in Germany delivered the blowmoulder, case packer, palletiser and case and pallet conveyors.
- Procomac in Italy was responsible for the empty bottle-handling equipment.
Sanderson comments that the potential problems of co-ordinating three separate companies were overcome successfully and the line was able to get product to market three weeks ahead of schedule.
'ABI, and especially its Midrand plant, has always been at the forefront of the South African bottling industry in terms of technological advancement, and this has been emphasised with the installation of our new line,' says Sanderson. 'We are now well-placed to ensure that our customers will always have what they have come to expect from ABI - quality products that they can depend on every single day of the year.'
ABI's Midrand plant specialises in PET-packed beverages, producing 55 SKUs, five pack sizes, and 19 brands on four production lines. Its current outout is 41 million cases or 4,6 million hectolitres. It can produce 41 000 bph of 500ml and 1 000ml PET size (>800 000 bottles/day), and 29 000 bph of 2 000ml PET size.
A sophisticated new filler
The heart of the new ABI line is a Simonazzi Eurotronica FM filler, specially designed for filling PET bottles and which incorporates electro-pneumatic valves with the contents of the bottle determined volumetrically by magnetic flowmeters. These are considered the most technologically-advanced volumetric measuring devices, able to guarantee the greatest precision, versatility and hygiene.
The rinser/filler/capper unit comprises a 90-head rinser, 140-head filler and 20-head capper. As a volumetric filler, each filling head has an individual flowmeter to ensure a very high accuracy of filling. According to Ed Koch, manufacturing manager of ABI Midrand, this is the first of its type in the company - all its other fillers use 'fill height' methodology. 'This new filler,' he comments, 'enables us to give away less product and have better product yields.'
The volumetric concept is particularly suitable for filling PET bottles, since under pressure they have no stable dimension, thus making it difficult to control the content of the bottle with traditional level systems.
Line 4's sophisticated technology epitomises the drive to automated processing in the CSD arena. Another aspect of it is a continuous blending system from GEA Diessel that supplies Coca-Cola to all the filling lines in the plant. This technology - the blending of syrup and water directly in line and with constant measurement by high-precision flow meters to monitor the streams of the two components and compare them with recipe specifications - is now mostly standard in Coke plants around the world, albeit this is the only one currently in South Africa. Continuous blending has huge advantages in terms of flexibility, productivity and reducing losses and, with no batch mixing required, it does away with the need for big blending tanks.
A BIG blowmoulder
All the bottles are non-returnable PET and are 'blown' in house by a Krones Contiform S24 blowmoulder - a 24-station machine and the largest in the country. It's designed specifically for high-speed product change-overs and allows ABI to do a full-size change-over on all mould stations in approximately two hours. The line has been designed to change from 500ml to one litre and two litre bottles. The preforms are supplied locally by Xactics to the very high standards set by Coca-Cola and ABI.