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Coca-Cola France meets international demand

New packaging system allows Coca-Cola Production, Socx, France, to "twin-stack" 33-cL cans into paperboard cartons to meet demands of consumers in France, Germany, Belgium, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Africa.
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Within the last year or two soft drink makers have heavily promoted cartons printed with vibrant colorful graphics that aim to generate sales of 12- 18- 24- and 36-pack quantities of cans. The increasing popularity of these packs is good news not only for beverage companies but also for paperboard suppliers converters and machinery manufacturers involved in carton production. Coca-Cola Production S.A. in Socx France (near Dunkerque) is a good example. CCP signed a five-year leasing arrangement with Riverwood Intl. (Atlanta GA) to use a Twin-Stack® packaging system for 33-cL (11.15-oz) steel cans. CCP began operation of this system last May the first to use the machine in the European market. The Twin-Stack was introduced in the U.S. last October at the InterBev trade show. "The Twin-Stack is an addition to one of our four existing lines" explains Charles Bennett maintenance and engineering manager at CCP. "The real advantage it gives us is the ability to run 24-packs in a 12-over-12 configuration and 18-packs in a 9-over-9 pattern. We'll also be able to run 36-packs 18-over-18 which we plan to do later this year. Until we leased this machine we didn't have these capabilities. We ran conventional film-wrapped trays of 24 cans and 6- and 8-packs." "These packs serve as a key promotional tool especially during the peak beverage consumption periods" states Daniel Lavergne operations director. "The machine is developing sales markets for us." "The Twin-Stack was an answer to a request from our customer in France" recalls Bennett. "They asked us to install a system to run 24-packs in time for a summer promotional blitz on Coca-Cola. We ran three million packs for France last year; another 400 for Belgium and about 50 for a Christmas promotion in Germany." Lavergne expects to run in excess of 4 million 24-packs this year. "Marketers in other countries were attracted by the pack in France" he says. "That's how we got orders from Germany late last year. We also supply Benelux countries like Belgium and Holland and have shipped to Africa and to some Baltic republics and in the former Russia." Several suppliers provide CCP with the steel two-piece cans and aluminum easy-opening lids. Lavergne tells PW that by March CCP will have completed a change from a 206-diameter (2 6/16") can end to a 202-diameter (2 2/16") size. The smaller end "will save 1 tons of aluminum annually" he says. The change is not expected to affect the Twin-Stack machine though Lavergne does say "the switch involves adjusting the tooling of our filling and seaming equipment." Handles production speeds CCP opened its Socx greenfield plant in late '89. Today more than 60 million cases are produced annually with output divided evenly among four lines that fill the 33-cL cans at rates of 1 cpm. The Twin-Stack multipacker used on Line #4 is rated at speeds up to 2 cpm; 3 cpm in a "surge" operating mode. All lines are equipped to pack 24 loose cans into a corrugated tray that may be palletized as is or wrapped in shrink film. Line #1 also produces 6- and 8-packs; Line #2 12-packs; Line #3 can also run 50-cL (16.90-oz) cans which represent a small percentage of CCP's total volume. In seven months of production last year CCP ran nearly 3.5 million twin-stacks on the machine. The plant expects to run more than 4 million this year with the majority of sales anticipated during the summer season. At this point only the Coca-Cola brand is sold in twin-stacks though CCP expects the machine to handle additional brands in the near future. Empty can bodies are depalletized then conveyed through rinsing filling seaming and ink-jet coding stations. This equipment was installed when the plant opened in '89. After cans are checked for proper fill height they convey from eight separate lanes into two four-lane infeed conveyors on the Twin-Stack machine. Flight bars mounted to a tabletop chain index cans into both four-lane conveyors. One four-lane conveyor feeds cans for the carton's upper layer; another its bottom layer. Cans index past a wedge divider and three cans go into each of the four lanes. A divider of 18-pt coated kraft paperboard from Riverwood is placed on top of the cans. This cushions the two layers of cans during transit. Lane guides move the same configuration of cans from the second four-lane conveyor on top of the kraft paperboard divider. A carton erector picks the carton from a magazine erects it and loads it into a pocket between the flight bars on the tabletop chain. Cam-activated pusher arms load the "twin-stack" cans into the paperboard carton supplied by Riverwood. Leading and trailing end flaps are tucked inward and hot glue is applied. Major panels are folded over the glued flaps the ends are compressed for a tight seal and the pack discharges from the machine. The SUS cartons are printed offset in five or six colors depending on the specific beverage promotion with Aqua-Kote® clay coating. For 18- and 24-packs a 24-pt board is used; for single-layer 12-packs CCP uses 21-pt board. The multipacks are manually palletized then stretch-wrapped. Pallets are shipped to bottlers and/or retail warehouses by truck or railcar within Europe; by ship to Africa and locations in the CIS. "The Twin-Stack machine has an extremely high level of efficiency" says Lavergne. "We can make changeovers for different pack sizes quickly. Most importantly the machine has helped us exceed our sales goals."

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