Filling and Packaging Industry Blog

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

KHS Metec provides filling level and cap monitoring for Underberg

KHS Metec provides filling level and cap monitoring for Underberg

Pleasant, agreeable, and quite unique in its appearance - this is an apt description of Underberg, the digestive herb beverage. It is a real personality with its attention-grabbing, single-serving bottle wrapped in straw paper. A personality with worldwide reputation. Today, about a million people around the globe enjoy the world's clear Number One in the single-serving bottle every day.

A unique taste experience


Like many interesting success stories, the Underberg story also began with a simple idea. In the early years, in the middle of the 19th century, company founder Hubert Underberg became acquainted with an herb elixir, which he particularly valued as a bitter cordial. Just one thing annoyed him: that pub owners diluted the mixer by eye with gin, as, due to the random mixture, neither the effect nor the taste were consistent. Underberg's clear objective was to create a beverage, which offered outstanding and consistent quality combined with the healing forces of the herbs, and which provided a successful symbiosis with modern production methods.

Herbs from 43 countries


The result of this was Underberg, which now as then contains selected and aromatic herbs from 43 countries that are carefully crushed just prior to manufacture. This much is known.

The Underberg recipe remains a secret


Underberg's recipe, on the other hand, is a closely guarded secret. Inventor Hubert Underberg set the standard, which has become a family legacy. Original quotation: "As the founder of the company Hubert Underberg, I look upon it as my first duty to keep the secret of the preparation of this renowned and beneficial drink to myself and my family." With Emil Underberg, Christiane Underberg and Hubertine Underberg-Ruder, the exact recipe of Underberg is today known exclusively to the fourth and fifth generations of the family concern, and to three Catholic priests. It is therefore also the family's task to select and mix the herbs to a harmonious blend personally.

The right amount of well-being


Underberg is made using the secret Semper Idem process. This special process guarantees gentle extraction of the active ingredients and aromatic substances from the herbs. Underberg then matures for many months in barrels made of Slovenian oak before being bottled in the special Underberg single-serving bottles, which have many advantages. The 20-ml single-serving bottle always provides the right amount of product for well-being. At the same time, the unique packaging provides protection against imitation. What is more, Underberg can also conveniently be enjoyed when traveling.

Development into an international, marketing-orientated beverage organization


Even though the Underberg brand has remained an important pillar for the company, the activities now extend well beyond the "original brand". The Underberg Group has developed over the years into an international, marketing-orientated liquor, wine, and sparkling wine organization. Underberg is today active both as a producer and as a trading organization. The group's activities are brought together in Underberg AG in Dietlikon, Switzerland from where the foreign business and quality management are handled. The group owns such resounding brands as Asbach, Xuxu, Riemerschmid fruit and bar syrups, sparkling wines Schlumberger and Blanc Foussy Unicum, as well as various fruit brandies (Freihof, Dettling, Zwack).

€500 million turnover realized with 1,000 employees


Including all its activities, the Underberg Group has worldwide sales of around €500 million per annum - with about 1,000 employees. A major part of this turnover can be attributed to Semper Idem Underberg AG, which incorporates all the German activities.

Berlin production facility - the "miniature bottle specialist"


German production facilities for the Underberg product range have been established in Berlin, Erding, and Rüdesheim. Foreign production facilities are located in Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, and France. In Germany, the main production concentration is orientated quite clearly towards the bottle size. While the "large bottle range" from the 0.2-liter size is bottled at the Rüdesheim location, Berlin is classed as the "miniature bottle specialist". The range of sizes bottled here extends from the 0.02-liter to the 0.2-liter bottle. The bottling of Underberg therefore quite clearly falls into the range undertaken in Berlin.

High-quality bottling equipment


In accordance with Underberg philosophy, equal importance is placed on the highest quality of bottling and packaging equipment at all production locations as on the best product quality. Thus, it was that shortly after an expansion of the production facility in Berlin and the associated move to a new site in the Heiligensee district in 1977, the decision was made in favor of three KHS bottling systems. This investment took the form of the first rotary fillers, which had a capacity that was very high at the time of 70,000 bottles/h. The fillers are running continuously in 2-shift operation to the present day and, according to Uwe Reisner, plant manager the Berlin site, provide "bottling results that are of just as high quality as on the first day, in spite of their age."

Revised single-serving bottle with new requirements for filling level and cap monitoring


Two of the bottling systems are used exclusively for filling the Underberg single-serving bottles. It was decided to invest in a new filling level and cap monitoring system, especially for these bottling systems. The reason for this was that the filling level and cap monitoring system previously practiced, which worked on the laser principle, was no longer suitable for the revised Underberg single-serving bottle shape, which is distinguished by the hexagonal shaped neck with integral Underberg logo instead of the cylindrical design.

Next to no error


Image processing had to be used in order to achieve precise monitoring. KHS Metec supplied the appropriate solution for this. Kirchner, Plant Manager, Berlin: "A solution, which impressed us from the very beginning." The KHS Metec Innocheck PROMECON 2000 system is connected downstream of each of the two "Underberg fillers", the capacity of which is 72,000 bottles/h, and, even with such a high capacity, it works with a nearly zero error rate.

Monitoring of up to 32 different bottle shapes and sizes


The Innocheck PROMECON 2000 is equipped with a PC base unit, camera, illumination field, and monitor. At present, the task is to check two Underberg portion-sized bottles, which differ slightly in the color of the glass. This can change on demand. A style memory allows the checking functions to be extended to up to 32 different shapes and sizes of bottle.

Maximum accuracy


Directly after the bottling and capping process, the Underberg single-serving bottles pass to the filling level and cap monitor. Here, the presence of each bottle is sensed, and only then is the appropriate picture of the bottle taken. In the Innocheck PROMECON 2000, a diode lighting field in conjunction with the camera recording provides information on the exact filling level by averaging three measuring points. This method neutralizes the effects of splashing. This results in the highest level of accuracy. The permissible variation range is set according to the appropriate specification. Everything is possible - regardless of whether the permissible filling level tolerance is one, two, or three millimeters.

One image, several tasks. As well as monitoring the filling level, the correct seating of the cap must also be determined with one image per bottle. The wall of the bottle below the thread is defined as the starting point for the exact measurement of the cap. All the necessary measurements are taken starting from this as a basis, and the cap height, as well as other characteristics of the fitted cap, are checked automatically.

After the checking process, "faulty bottles" are rejected by means of a special air nozzle. A special feature of the system, which was chosen mainly because of the high capacity. The bottles have to be removed from the production line quickly and accurately. The air pulse guarantees this.

Exact rejection of faulty bottles


A factor, which plays an important part in exact rejection, is the extremely precise forwarding of information from the image processing station to the reject station. Maximum accuracy when rejecting the bottles is achieved within the system by the so-called tracking of the reject signal by means of a pulse generator, which is mounted on the conveyor. This means that this pulse generator records the speed of the conveyor and passes this on as pulses to the control unit. Consequently, it is possible to say that each checked bottle reaches the reject station after x number of pulses. This is stored in the system.

Ready for integration into the production data acquisition system


Underfilling, overfilling, cap faults, separated-out units - all this information is registered and can be called up at the push of a button. If required, the details can also be transmitted to a production data acquisition (PDA) monitoring system without any problems via simple interfaces.

Modular design for maximum flexibility


A further important benefit of the Innocheck PROMECON 2000 is the modular design of the system. This means that the system can be expanded to provide even higher-capacity filling level and cap monitoring, and thus to the capacity of the Innocheck PROMECON 3000 or Innocheck PROMECON 4000 product lines. This is no problem for Underberg's requirements, which are currently limited to filling level and cap monitoring for just two types of bottle. If the circumstances should change, Underberg is on the safe side, however.

If it should be required to change to the Innocheck PROMECON 3000 or Innocheck PROMECON 4000, the inspection station, and thus the greatest part of the system, would remain, while other units, such as the evaluation unit and monitor, would be changed. The advantage of converting the system is the increased capacity, more memory, and communication via an ISDN line, which simultaneously provides the option of using ReDiS mobile.

Direct online help


ReDiS means Remote Diagnostic Service mobile and offers not only detailed analyses of machine and line components from KHS headquarters but also immediate online support if desired. ReDiS mobile consists of an easily transportable high-tech diagnostics case, which is equipped with a notebook, handy video camera, headset, and the necessary adapters for connecting the electronic machine components to the service case. Machine data can be transmitted to the KHS ReDiS Service Center using ReDiS mobile where extensive remote analyses are carried out. In a best-case scenario, a machine problem can be solved solely by accessing the electronic system components online.

ReDiS mobile components such as headsets and video cameras are used if mechanical components are involved. An employee on site picks up the camera system integrated in the case and aims it directly at the individual machine components. This enables the staff at the ReDiS Service Center to determine the mechanical condition of the machine. The customer technician receives instructions over the headset based on these image files regarding the necessary mechanical actions to be taken.

Comprehensive information


Examples of further options that are open if the system is expanded: Filling level checks can be associated directly with a particular filling valve. It is thus possible to detect which filling valve is associated with overfilling or underfilling. Likewise feasible: Filler productivity statistics, automated laboratory samples, and so forth.

Maximum reliability, simple operation


Ulf Kirchner, manager of the Berlin plant: "We expressly decided on a filling level and cap monitoring system, which includes high flexibility and leaves options open for the future. What is of prime importance to us today, however, is the high reliability of the system. We are so pleased with the reliability that we have decided to equip other bottling machines in the plant with KHS Metec filling level and cap monitoring systems." According to Uwe Reisner, an important additional criterion in support of this decision was also the simple operation of the system. Reisner: "A brief period of instruction is sufficient. The employees are favorably impressed by the simple handling of this high-performance unit."

A thriving culture of enjoyment and consumer safety is priority number one


Consumer safety is priority number one - with the KHS Metec filling level and cap monitoring system, Underberg is remaining true to a company philosophy, which has applied since the birth of the Underberg herb digestive, and from which consumers worldwide have profited. Today, people in more than a hundred countries appreciate the pleasant effect of Underberg. Distribution is concentrated on the areas of Western and Eastern Europe. Close trading relationships also exist with Asia, Australia, South Africa, and with North, Central, and South America. In all these places, there is quite a special culture of Underberg enjoyment. The stylish Underberg glass was developed as long ago as the 19th-century for this special culture of enjoyment, which, with a height of 24 cm, stands head and shoulders above all other glasses on a festive table. Which once again shows that an Underberg cultivates the appearance accorded by the uniqueness of its personality at every opportunity.

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