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New level of packaging technology reaches Jim Beam

Managers at Jim Beam's Clermont, KY, plant began with a filler/capper monoblock to build its modernized 1.75-L glass line for spirits. New techniques for inspection and conveying will enable line to handle future needs.
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The 40-valve gravity/vacuum filler selected by Jim Beam minimizes product foaming to permit filling speeds of 180 bottles/min. TSmooth synchronization and gentle bottle handling are among the chief benefits offered by the filler/capper monoblock arrangemenLine technicians accomplish most troubleshooting of the PLC-controlled line via touchscreens like this one.Reshippers are sent to the end of the line to receive filled bottles from this drop packer. 3It1s built like a tank,2 says Jim BThe 40-valve gravity/vacuum filler selected by Jim Beam minimizes product foaming to permit filling speeds of 180 bottles/min. T

When it came time to modernize a 25-year-old bottling line in Clermont KY Jim Beam Brands anchored the new line with something previously untested in its three U.S. plants: a filler/capper monoblock.

"It's a first for Jim Beam Brands" says project engineer Pete Schamer. The 40-valve filler on the monoblock system was supplied by Horix (Pittsburgh PA) while capping is done by a 10-station Zalkin rotary capper from Fowler Products (Athens GA). The line is dedicated to four brands of distilled spirits in 1.75-L handled glass bottles.

In selecting components for the monoblock system which is the very heart of the new line Beam's engineers relied on past experience says bottling maintenance manager Don Sympson.

"Having many Horix fillers in the plant gave me a benchmark for comparison with other filling equipment" says Sympson.

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But it wasn't only past experience that led Beam management to the Horix filler.

"We selected Horix for a variety of reasons" says Johnnie B. Colwell bottling operations manager. "They suggested a machine that was simple in design adapted well to our space and floor-weight requirements and had a tank that would fit our ceiling-height requirements. They also offered adequate speed and anti-foaming fill tubes and the machine adapted easily to the capper we wanted."

The Zalkin turret capper features magnetic chuck capping heads that provide reliable control of torque which is tested off-line every two hours. Beam has been especially pleased by torque consistency and by the monoblock pairing in general. "The two machines work well together" says Sympson. "I have minimal problems with synchronization starts or stops."

Synchronous handling of the 1.75-L glass bottles is all the more important because at the same time the new line was being designed the custom handled bottle was lightweighted by 4 oz. It now weighs in at 32 oz when empty. The monoblock arrangement reduces the potential for jostling of the lightweighted bottle because the bottle is closely controlled between filler and capper. Bottles move smoothly through a single transfer starwheel in passing from one turret to the other.

Also helping to ensure synchronization is positive gear-to-gear power transmission between the starwheels the filler's turret and the capper's turret. Finally the bottle infeed conveyor was integrated into the monoblock's main drive gearing. As the filler speed ramps up or down in response to changing line conditions the conveyor remains synchronized to the filler.

Additional measures

Measures to protect the lightweighted bottles aren't limited to the filler/capper block. Downstream just ahead of the case packer bottle conveying is divided into zones to minimize the buildup of back pressure.

"Instead of say a straight sixty-foot conveyor length we break that into several separate conveyors" says engineer Pete Schamer. "So when the lead section is full a photocell is blocked. That signals that particular conveyor section to stop and also blocks the progress of additional bottles from the next conveyor section until the photocell clears."

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Yet another measure of soft handling is contributed by the Krones (Franklin WI) slat lane divider just ahead of the case packer. It gently guides bottles into the