|  Meantime


A flagging corner, wrinkle across the back, misalignment, slant to one side or missing altogether. None are worse than the other. All are bad. All are foes of the bottle labelling machine operator. All must be overcome. None can pass through. Day by day, thirty thousand bottles at a time the labelling machine is tweaked, tuned and optimised. Days improve, spirits are high and then comes the dreaded product changeover.

We change the bottle. A new height, diameter and bottle shape. It’s likely the labels size has also now changed. We adjust the firing time so that the label, bottle and wiping apparatus all meet at once. The speed the label moves towards the bottle is set not so high that it crumples onto the bottle nor so low that the passing bottle tugs on the label disrupting the tension of the webbing behind. A little to the left, or a little to the right? We decide and advance or delay the label firing time so it lands exactly where we want it. Narrower labels are easier. The less length the less opportunity for something to go wrong. Is the neck label aligned with the label on the body of the bottle? Is the back label exactly at the back? Measurements are taken, callipers are read. Test bottles are passed through the labeller, stared at and held up to the light. Poor labels are torn off and bottles are retested. A production shift starts, the bottle filler is calling for labelled bottles, the labeller starts turning, the infeed gate is opened. What happens next? Before was different to now.

In the past everything came to a halt. Every millimetre counts in the strive for labelling quality. A new product meant hours of tedious troubleshooting, theorising reasons the labels weren’t responding as one thought they should and looking to the skies just wondering why logic just wasn’t logical. The day would progress but the bottle count would not.

However one day there they were, on the back of an Italian truck, new pieces of a sought after Kosme labeller. To some, they were just three well packed pieces of machinery. To me, I saw three madonnas. Shining pieces of computer controlled accurate and intelligent labelling machine were unloaded on platforms of wood so grand, that ridding the wood from site was more of an effort than bringing the new machinery inside. The bottling line was dismantled. The core of the new labeller was shuffled into place and the ancillaries united. Conveyors were joined. Twelve metres of cables were run to connect the various sensors and motors to the control panel situated on a mezzanine above.

Our new labeller has five computers each controlling two bottle rotating platforms. These ensure that every bottle rotates as programmed against smoothing devices, enabling our labeller operators to live their lives devoid of their foes. Once parts are changed, product changeovers take place at the press of a touch screen button. Never before has the first bottle appeared so easily and fault free. During the first days of operation an unusual air of calm was present on the bottling line. All operators felt it, old daily issues had been resolved, we’ve moved on and daily working life does feel better, but as with anytime that a bottle neck is removed from a process, another appears and now focus turns elsewhere as the ongoing pursuit to bottle beer better goes on.


Beer Heroes,News

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