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Label applicators keep Gatorade in motion in Mexico

Four new sleeve applicators at two PepsiCo Beverage Mexico plants accommodate high-speed, quick-changeover requirements.

To keep its leading sports beverage brands zooming through its packaging lines, PepsiCo Beverages México demands equipment that is fast and flexible. That’s why two of its plants—in Jalisco and in Mexico State—recently updated four labeling lines with new machines that nimbly keep pace with the company’s 600-bottle/min speed requirement, as well as easily accommodate its varied package formats.

PepsiCo’s Jalisco facility, based in the state’s capital of Guadalajara, is a 59,000-sq-ft plant that produces the globally recognized brand of Gatorade in four packaging formats: 500, 600, and 750 mL, and 1 L. The 118,000-sq-ft Mexico State production plant, in Cuautitlan, Izcalli, also packs Gatorade, as well as Propel and Fitline Water beverages in the same four sizes.

As the company’s engineering and capabilities director, Rodolfo Pacheco Pérez, explains, the new SleevePro 600® label applicators from Karlville Development were chosen to replace aging equipment that could not keep up with PepsiCo’s high-speed, quick-changeover requirements. “We were looking for new machines because the model we had before never achieved the desired speeds, and it had multiple maintenance costs and high spare parts costs,” he says. “Our goal with the SleevePro 600 was to eliminate all of these problems, as well as be able to control the application of a full-body sleeve.”

Requirements for the new label application equipment included the following:

• Speed of 600 bottles/min
• The ability to be adjusted to accommodate a new package format in less than 30 minutes
• Labeling precision (less than 0.5% fade)
• Compatibility with 40-micron labels
• Full-body sleeve application
• Continuity of operation and increased efficiency
• Fast service response
• Operational ease-of-use
• Safety and security

Success up their sleeve
Between December 2009 and March 2010, two SleevePro 600 label applicators were installed at each of the two plants. The SleevePro 600 is designed specifically for higher-speed applications and uses Karlville’s Bullet Technology, whereby the label tube is drawn over a bullet, or mandrel, for accuracy at the point of contact between the sleeve and container. The labeler is equipped with a servo-driven cutting block and a label shooting system, for precision during application. Other features of the equipment include splice detection, a two-roll unwind, and a Siemens control system.

In Jalisco, the equipment is used to apply labels to all four sizes of Gatorade. In Mexico State, the labelers work with 500- and 600-mL, and 1-L sizes of Gatorade and Propel, and with 500-mL bottles of Fitline Water. Both plants use a full-body 40-micron polyvinyl chloride label for the beverage bottles.

Pacheco notes that these packaging lines are typically changed over to a new format approximately twice a week. “The SleevePro 600 guarantees a rapid change of formats through visual means such as rulers for centering the label,” he reports. “The machine is capable of applying full-body sleeves at the desired speed, and the applicator is capable of applying 40-micron labels.”

The top-rated speed of 600 bottles/min is achieved when PepsiCo is running the 500-mL package size. The larger sizes predictably take longer to label, with the 600-mL operating at 380 bpm, the 750-mL at 350 bpm, and the 1-L at 300 bpm.

Beyond the machines’ success at meeting PepsiCo’s main requirements for new labeling equipment, Pacheco notes that it is a bit premature to comment much further on other advantages of the labelers. “To date, we have observed a lot of benefits compared to other machines we currently have in our plant in Mexico, like the smaller size of the motors, the absence of the use of air, and the rapid changes in format, which will eventually impact the efficiency of the plant,” he says. “But I believe it is too soon to identify all the benefits.”

Of the machine supplier, Pacheco has only positive feedback, saying, “Working with Karlville has been a good experience. When we have had issues and concerns with the machine, they pay special attention to solve any inconvenience.”

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