Saint Louis, Missouri-based distilled spirits manufacturer and bottler Luxco is enjoying the sweet sounds of silence since upgrading their packing line to technology that almost eliminates bottle breakage while increasing packer speed. Luxco is one of the leading beverage alcohol suppliers in the United States. The company receives bulk alcohol and then blends, packages and ships its own lines of bourbon, brandy, vodka, rum, and tequila, as well as a range of flavored cordials and liqueurs. During the installation of a new bottling line being installed to replace a 17-year old system, Luxco sought a packer that would increase speed and offer better and more consistent control of bottles. They opted for a 939 Versatron “Soft Catch” Case Packer, manufactured by Standard-Knapp. In addition to increasing speed, the packer significantly reduces bottle breakage. Other benefits include reduced changeover time and easier and more efficient preventative maintenance.
Need for speed spurs quest for new packer As Chris Wieczorek, plant manager for
Getting under the hood of the case packer As the name suggests, the 939 Versatron Case Packer is extremely versatile, which is important for firms like Luxco that pack multiple products. The machine includes a “laner” at the upstream end, which divides incoming product from a single file line into the appropriate number of lanes for the particular carton, for example a case might be 6 bottles, packed in a 2x3 configuration or 12 bottles, packaged in a 3x4 pattern. According to Dave Lau, case packer engineering manager for Standard-Knapp, “The case packer works well for firms like Luxco, which package such a wide variety of products and sizes, including 750 milliliter bottles, 1 liter and 1.75 liter bottles, as well as 6 packs and 12 packs. Versatility and quick changeover is key.” While not being used at the moment by Luxco, the drop packer can also handle a mass flow product, in which the 15-inch wide conveyor is filled with product packed and nested like bowling pins in a pyramid. A two-axis servo system allows the Versatron to actually “catch” the product while it descends into the case. The lift table moves the case to the “up” position and waits for a full grid. When the grid is full, the riding strips shift to the side and initiate the bottle descent. The lift table simultaneously moves the case downward on a velocity curve that ultimately achieves the same speed at the point of contact (the “soft catch”). “It’s like catching an egg,” says Lau. The technology increases speed while minimizing or preventing breakage altogether. Many manufacturers, are moving towards using thinner and thinner glass as part of green initiatives aimed at reducing raw material use. Versatron change parts are designed for quick, repeatable changeover using an easy to understand by-the-numbers changeover system. Riding strips have a unique slide-in design for automatic alignment. Lane guide spacers are lightweight and have chamfered edges for easy drop-in replacement. Grid basket uses a patented snap-in grid technology to easily change from product to product. The system is product specific, so Standard-Knapp sets up the drop packer and runs it with all the products currently packaged and sells change parts to run products that may be packed in the future. Technology like the 939 Versatron Case Packer, with its high speed, reliable and repeatable changeover, and, above all, its gravity-defying Soft Catch technology, enables firms to streamline its operations, speed up its lines, and reduce glass thickness to reduce raw material usage. And all without damaging the bottles containing the products for which Luxco is known.