Orlando Wyndham, the Australian bottling company, has commissioned what is believed to be the fastest wine bottling/packing/despatch system in the world to cope with increasing production demands.
Jacob's Creek is Australia's most successful bottled wine brand, exported to in excess of 65 countries and expanding sales. The increasing production volume meant that as fast as Orlando Wyndham could supply bottling, requirements kept increasing.
The company's previous packing line, just 4 years old, had been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Consequently the new additional line had to not only take the pressure off but also include ample capacity to meet sales projections. Quality control was non-negotiable.
With a line-speed of 30,000 bottles per hour and gloss printed carton products - the natural enemy of grippers - technical director Roger Meeks and his team knew they would be asking their suppliers to come up with a world-first in wine bottling.
"We looked all over the world for the latest, most productive systems, not just in the wine industry but also brewing and soft drinks", Meeks said.
"In palletising and depalletising we found that Foodmach Australia could match the rest of the world. Then their software control skills came in. All the equipment from different suppliers had to be co-ordinated and controlled so that the line functions as 'one machine', even though we're continually changing pack configurations."
The Jacob's Creek line runs 'just-in-time philosophy' with little warehousing apart from wine held in tanks. "In theory, we can fill an order from the vat to the ship in under three hours", Meeks said.
Bottles are delivered about every 20 minutes and once they are positioned into the depalletiser magazine, the whole process is automated. Rows of bottles are 'single-ised' for the filler then corked, labelled and encapsulated by successive machines, all synchronised by a Foodmach integrated control and communication system.
Coming from the opposite direction, a carton-former conveys open cartons to the bottling line for filling and sealing in configurations of 6 or 12, depending on the market destination.
Palletising then becomes a game of computer-chess, planning ahead for permutations on carton size, pallet dimension and container volume, all of which vary across Jacob's Creek's 65 destinations. Software directs the palletiser to form the optimum mix of patterns, as it builds layers on each pallet. At faster than a carton per second, layers literally form in a blur.
"We have some smarts in the palletiser so we can switch between wood and plastic pallets for local markets", Mr Meeks said. "But on the international scene we are a 100 per cent slip-sheet." Special forklifts can transfer each stack to the container and 'recycle' the pallet immediately to the palletiser.
"What we've got from Foodmach substantially outstrips what we bought four years ago. We're now packing more wine in five days than we used to do in seven. The machinery is more substantial, it's quieter and reliability is looking good (three months after commissioning). It also matters that it looks good. Aesthetics give the staff a better working environment which relates to a mind-set of quality. People come from all over the world to see Jacob's Creek and they see a plant that's aesthetically unified and attractive."
Foodmach manufacture and import a wide range of packaging machinery with the emphasis on food and beverage industries.