Roughly 55% of Old Orchard product is sold in bottles. Director of Manufacturing, Greg Mangione, keeps these containers flowing along the line with as many bottles making their way to the cases in good shape and ready to sell. The ICwedge Cooler Infeed system, designed by Industrial Consortium in conjunction with Nercon Eng. And Mfg. Inc., helps Old Orchard maintain their rate of 280 PET bottles per minute without the waste and interruptions caused by dented bottles.
Dents were an on-going problem for Old Orchard, as they are for many bottlers who use these kinds of containers. With the old crowd cooler infeed, a conveyor belt led the bottles to the crowd infeed. Greg explains “the bottles went over a dead plate and the system put a lot of pressure on the bottles to get them into the cooler.”
The hot liquid in the PET bottles resulted in a number of dented bottles, especially with the recently introduced rectangular bottles. Difficulties occurred when the bottles emerged from the cooler and went into the labeler. A dented bottle would not index properly and the system could not label. The line had to be stopped and someone had to pull the bottle out of the labeler by hand. This downtime happened many times during the day.
This persistent problem sent Greg to the internet, hunting for an infeed solution. One alternative was a rotating arm generating oscillating action to push bottles into the cooler. “But the pressure from this was strong enough to still dent bottles,” pointed out Greg.
Old Orchard tried a dynamic cooler infeed system, but it could not handle the bottles without producing back pressure. Greg then turned to the ICwedge. The system provides continuous motion and transfers bottles into the cooler tunnel from single file with no back pressure. The unit is able to run at a top speed of 800 bpm, so Old Orchard’s normal flow rate is well within the system’s capabilities.
Because the ICwedge generates almost zero back pressure, the system results in improved package quality and no rejects from the cooler infeed. At relatively the same size as existing crowd feed conveyor systems, Old Orchard was able to easily incorporate the ICwedge into their existing line equipment.
The process allows an initial row of 29 bottles to form in front of the cooler while the second row is formed on the delivery table top conveyor by utilizing three continuous motion, rotating wedges. These wedges rotate in the same direction of flow as the bottle supply.
Three rotating wedges continuously and simultaneously allow a row of bottles to form while laterally directing the preceding row of bottles into the cooler. The pushing component of the rotating wedge, angled to the face of the cooler, creates a gentle motion which transfers the first row into the cooler while "running full back" for the second row.
The speed of the table-top delivery conveyor is synchronized with the speed of the wedge motor and cooler motor. These speeds are referenced from the bottle per minute speed of the filler. In the case of the Old Orchard system, the PLC control system and drives send the bottles to the infeed with a ½ gap. As the filler increases and/or decreases in speed, the cooler infeed system will follow the same change in speeds.
Along with providing more uptime for the conveyor system, the ICwedge provides other benefits. Thanks to the infeed system, more bottles can be flowed into the cooler without the risk of denting. The bottles can now occupy 98% of the cooler space versus the 80–85% they were able to achieve previously.
Old Orchard can actually slow the cooler speed for a longer dwell time in the tunnel. “This pulls more BTU’s out of the bottles before they reach the labeler,” explains Greg.
Once inside in the cooler tunnel, sprayers rain water on the bottles. Bottles spend 20 minutes in the cooler as they march through on their way to the labeler. By being able to marshal the bottles to occupy nearly every square inch in the cooler, Old Orchard is able to maximize their energy use and, as a result, save energy.
Another change brought about by the ICwedge is the money saved on the bottles. The system dropped the half gallon bottle from 81 to 73½ grams. For every gram lost, the company saved $100,000 per year – that is $750,000 in annual savings. Old Orchard now has lower cost, lighter-weight bottles arriving at the labeler dent free. That is an outcome that makes a good impression – on this company’s bottom line.