OEM Sustainability: Better design, controls make OEM greener
Original equipment manufacturer promotes green initiatives. Automation and smarter machine design help bottle packing equipment use less plastic, less heat, and produce less scrap.
The effort to be “green,” reducing environmental impact, has gained popularity as more consumers examine companies’ environmental records before doing business. There is tremendous pressure on bottling companies to be environmentally friendly, especially in the bottled water industry. Staying ahead of what “green” means is particularly challenging.
“All the water bottles that our machinery works with started out at 18 grams of plastic; now they’re down to the 12-gram area,” said Mike Weaver, president and Co-CEO at Standard-Knapp, a manufacturer of automatic packaging machinery. This major modification of decreasing the average weight of a bottle by one-third produces a ripple effect on downstream operations. In packaging machines—tray packers and loaders, case packers, shrink wrappers, and bottle packers—bottles are moved on a high-speed conveyor belt. As machine speed decreases to collect and organize bottles for packaging, it creates a condition called line pressure. With lighter bottles, this pressure can damage the shape of the bottle, for the bottler and the end user. Distorted bottles cause processing problems as bottles are harder to divide into lanes, handle, and meter.
A high-speed servo motor pulls products into the packing area, creating continuous, low-pressure conveying for smooth bottle laning, ensuring balanced lines and jam-resistant operation. Better motion control with the servo motor eliminates line pressure at the beginning of a packing machine and allows the packaging machinery to do a better job of handling thinner bottles.
The machine design handles recyclable and reusable boards for the shrink-wrapped trays that hold the bottled product and eliminate tray end walls (moving away from corrugated material). This uses less material and offers more support than a pad.
Limiting heat in the process is another opportunity for savings. Shrink wrapping traditionally has proven to be one of the greatest drains on energy usage.
“The metal chain pulling the cases goes into the tunnel at about 200 degrees and comes out of the tunnel at 260 degrees,” Weaver explained. “Every inch of chain that goes through the tunnel increases in temperature by about 60 degrees, which means that on the return path, it’s heating up the room. That turns out to be the single biggest energy user in a heat train tunnel because it’s taking the heat out of the tunnel.”
Replacing the metal chain with a plastic conveyor belt lowers energy consumption and can reduce customer cooling costs.
- Mario Mazzotta is customer relations-marketing manager, Southern California, Standard-Knapp Inc.