Situated in Alsace in Eastern France, bordering Germany and Switzerland, is the picturesque region of Ribeauvillé, home to the famous Carola brand of natural mineral water, which is now part of the Nestlé Group. Founded in 1888 by Dr. Staub, who named the spring in honor of his sweetheart, Caroline, the Carola range, which includes slightly sparkling and sparkling natural and flavored spring water, has established an enviable reputation among restaurateurs and gourmets for the quality of its product and is today distributed to more than 25 regions in the East of France.
The water from the spring, located 150 m underground, is piped into buffer storage tanks before being bottled in glass bottles, thus controlling consumption and protecting the source. The company then produces more than 60 million bottles per year—24,000 bottles/hr at peak output—in 1-L and 500-mL formats.
As a company of the Nestlé Group, Carola is renowned as much for its distinctive identity and quality of its water, as it is for its environmental policy and high safety standards.
José Lefort, operations manager at the Ribeauvillé facility, explains, "In 2011 our plant was rewarded within the Nestlé group for its commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its processes. More than 98 percent of our waste is recycled through the resale of caps, glass, and plastic. In 2011 we reduced our energy and water consumption by 20 percent. That's a record!"
Laser coding meets quality standards
It was this same concern for the environment that prompted the company to opt for laser technology to code its bottles of water, the different types—sparkling, slightly sparkling, and so on—being easily recognized by their red, blue, or green color. Carola was the first to introduce this color coding, which is well known to consumers today.
The company carried out a comparative study of various laser models available on the market before opting for the next-generation Domino D320i compact scribing laser. Having used an original Domino DDC3 dot-matrix laser coder to code directly onto the bottle on its PET production line since 2002, Carola was confident of the capabilities of the Domino technology, and therefore took advantage of the launch of Domino's new D320i to equip its glass bottling operation. On the glass line, the label is affixed to the bottles once they emerge from the bottling system. The D320i then laser-scribes the best before date and time of bottling onto the label.
"The new laser had to be reliable and easy to control," says Lefort. "The quality of marking is essential to the consumer. Since installing the D320i laser at the end of 2011, we've been extremely impressed with its performance and quality. Our customers are also very satisfied with the excellent readability of the codes.
"We carry out visual checks on the production line, and the D320i significantly improves readability—the printed code is of a very high quality. In addition, the D320i has given us the crucial flexibility to respond to frequent changes in bottle format on the line."
Having used the new Domino D320i for a few months, Carola maintenance manager Gilles Oehler adds, "I was already very familiar with the DDC3, but even so, the D320i is very simple to use. It requires minimal intervention and maintenance, and the interface is very intuitive. For operators, changes and message backups with the associated parameters are quick and easy. A few months ago, we still had to replace the coder and make various mechanical adjustments every time we wanted to change formats. With the D320i, this is no longer the case—it adapts very quickly to technical constraints.”
"We're delighted with the partnership with Domino," concludes Lefort, "and we've also just acquired a high-definition C1000+ printer to code our boxes."