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    High speed line for high-proof drinks
    High speed line for high-proof drinks
      Anyone touring the plant of the Mexican tequila producer Jose Cuervo will most probably feel like a time-traveller

      A sweet fragrance wafts from the venerable stone-walled ovens, which even after 250 years still serve to make tequila. In the distillery, visitors can see for themselves how copper stills convert the juice of agaves into pure alcohol which then develops its inimitable taste in the cellar hewn into the living rock centuries ago.

      So as to continue living up to its reputation and supplying the world’s markets with tequila of a consistently high quality, Jose Cuervo decided to install a new bottling line. Krones was able to accommodate all the stringent requirements posed by the client in its customised project that proved persuasive for Jose Cuervo, not least thanks to state-of-the-art technology, a high degree of line flexibility and a can-do service support team. Not only did the order placed cover the first complete line from Krones installed at this tradition-steeped tequila-maker, it is also Jose Cuervo’s fastest spirits-bottling line so far, rated at 26,000 bottles an hour.

      The non-returnable-glass line starts with a Pressant Universal 1N bulk-glass sweep-off depalletiser, which unloads the arriving pallets. Thanks to its modularised construction, it makes for gentle bottle transfer, and matches its working sequence precisely to the speed required for each of Jose Cuervo’s different types of bottle. On a bulk conveyor serving as buffer, the empty bottles then travel through a Checkmat, which inspects solely the containers about to be filled with the tequila premium product and verifies whether this special-shaped rectangular bottle is being transported in the specified short-side-leading position. As the conveyor belt is slightly inclined, the bottles will usually jostle into the correct position by themselves. In the rare cases where this does not happen and a bottle arrives long side leading, it will be rejected and fed back onto the bulk conveyor.

      The Linatronic 735 inspector installed downstream is used by Jose Cuervo for assuring the requisite product quality levels and can handle a variety of different bottle designs, like round, square and rectangular, at high speeds. This was one of the key factors that short-listed Krones in Jose Cuervo’s decision-making process. The Linatronic can be relied upon to detect whether the containers for the tequila premium product exhibit any cracks, and/or contain glass fragments or other foreign substances, thus constituting the ideal solution for this kind of empty-bottle inspection. Jose Cuervo now has at its disposal optimum quality-assurance kit for its non-returnable glass bottles.

      Precise determination of fill quantity

      After that, conveyors take the empty bottles to the rinser-filler block, comprising a Variojet rinser and an Isofill VV-CIP filler, both of them accommodated in a cleanroom equipped with HEPA filters. Even the bottles that are most difficult to handle are reliably passed through the rinser, where format change-overs do not require much time, thanks to this machine’s simple mechanical adjustment options. The Variojet does not use water for rinsing but exclusively white tequila. As soon as the bottles have been cleaned, they enter the gravimetrically operating Isofill filler. The top-quality tequila demands a perfect filling process, so as to ensure that not a single drop of the precious product is lost. Being a highly efficient filler, the Isofill from Krones guarantees Jose Cuervo a high level of microbiological safety with its two filling speeds ensuring perfect flow behaviour and ultra-accurate determination of the fill quantity.

      Wide range of dress and labelling options

      An Acculoop working on the first-in/first-out principle serves as a buffering section, and provides very gentle non-contact transport for the glass bottles. Fast change-over from one dress configuration to the next increases productivity levels, and consequently any beverage producer’s success as well. The Krones concept makes for particularly gentle container treatment: it discourages the glass bottles from touching each other, thus reducing noise levels and ensuring smooth bottle transport without any wear and tear on the containers. When the container for the Tequila Tradicional brand is handled, to start with a first Linadry dries the bottle neck only, which is then given an original-packaging guarantee in the shape of a compressed plastic/metal closure by a special machine. For all container shapes, a second Linadry then dries the bottles in their entirety.

      This is followed by the Multimodul labeller, onto which up to six stations can be docked. At present, Jose Cuervo deploys five pressure-sensitive-label applicators. The Multimodul uses camera analysis as its orientation system. The downstream Checkmat 707 inspector likewise works with a camera system for verifying that the labels have been correctly positioned. Some of the glass bottles boast up to five different labels – a huge challenge indeed for the labelling kit. Since Jose Cuervo had previously gained some positive experience with the modularised Multimodul machine, the company now opted for this labeller again, providing as it does reliable and flexible service, especially when frequent dress changes are involved.

      A bulk conveyor spreads out the containers from initially two side by side to four, and then six bottles in a row, and passes them to a Linapac, which at high speeds packs the entire spectrum of disparate containers that Jose Cuervo is using. Above all, it excels in terms of simple gripper-head change-overs and a minimum workload for the operators.

      15 different bottle sizes

      Jose Cuervo believes that the project’s actual challenge was rooted in the huge number of disparate bottle designs that have to be reliably handled. This was one of the reasons why the company put its trust in Krones – and has been duly rewarded: the line handles a total of 15 different bottle formats, ranging in size from 375 millilitres right up to 1.75 litres and also including special shapes: square, round or pyramidal.

      Wouldn't that be something for you too?