At a time when energy costs continue to spiral upwards, saving energy is not just good for the environment, it is important for the commercial bottom line.
According to Jesse Auricht, engineering manager, Yalumba Winery, decisions taken when planning a bottling upgrade at the plant have turned out well in both regards.
He said the choice of energy-efficient SEW-Eurodrive Movigear mechatronic drive units to keep the conveyor lines and bottles moving, contributed to this positive outcome.
The winery is serious about reducing energy costs and monitors energy consumption continuously. Typically, half the cost of energy is based on network charges, so it is important to avoid any spikes in consumption as the wine bottles are filled, capped, labelled and packed in the bottling plant, said Auricht.
“In the energy market, 50 per cent of your cost can be dictated by a half-hour event,” he said. “If you hit that peak once, depending on the time of day, you’ll see an ongoing energy cost increase.”
John Gattellari, national industry specialist – food & beverage, with SEW-Eurodrive, said the Movigear units are designed to minimise the use of electrical power and help manufacturers make savings. Movigear complies with efficiency class IE4 (super premium efficiency) and reduces energy costs by up to 50 per cent, due to the high efficiency of all its components.
Planning pays off
Once it was clear that the plant needed refurbishing, the owners decided not to rush in. Starting with their own design concepts, they issued a tender for detailed design and implementation of the project, and awarded it to Foodmach, a specialist Australian provider of machinery design, manufacturing and control services.
Working closely with Yalumba, Foodmach designed and installed the new conveyor and line control system. The revamped system consisted of the original bottling line with new controls, conveyor and palletisers, and a second line with a new de-palletiser, filler and packer.
SEW-Eurodrive’s engineering and customer service, together with energy efficient Movidrive mechatronic drive system and high precision servo motors and Movidrive controllers, were fundamental in obtaining the desired result.
In addition to saving costs by reducing energy consumption, the upgrade also led to a safer work environment and a reduction in noise.
Noise amplification and reduction
Another key issue was that of noise, especially given the running speeds of the conveyors. Line 2, which is used for wine only, runs at 12,000 bottles per hour. “You get glass bottles banging into each other at that rate and it’s noisy – and potentially dangerous as well,” said Auricht.
Trevor Burgemeister, process control technician at Yalumba, said that to alleviate the noise and danger of uncontrolled collisions, the system had to be designed to detect when bottles were about to collide. When this happened, it set a maximum collision speed.
Auricht said to achieve this, the drives needed to be accurate, reliable, efficient and controllable. As for the noise component, he said that the Movigear is so quiet it’s negligible in comparison to the rest of the system.
These characteristics, along with past performance and a strong relationship, were major factors in the choice of SEW-Eurodrive.
“They have been a solid partner of ours for a long time. It’s a recognised brand and we’ve had a lot of success,” he said.
The key to reducing the noise is creating a pressureless line. In this case, pressure refers to the accumulation of bottles at any point on the conveyor system. It occurs when the conveyor is transporting more bottles than the individual machine process rate. If a processing machine for filling, capping or labelling is operating at a slower speed than bottles are being delivered, the bottles bump into each other, and that familiar sound of glass against glass can be heard. On a grand scale though, it’s not a pleasant clinking sound that you might hear in a restaurant. At a rate of thousands of bottles per hour, it’s more of a cacophony.
Auricht said that if the conveyor keeps running when this happens, the pressure continues to build up. This means energy wastage, inefficiency and noise, along with wear and tear on all the conveyors.
On Line 1, which is used for many different bottle types ranging from sparkling wine with a cork, to table wines with screw tops, the flow is between 5,000 and 9,000 bottles per hour. While the aim is zero pressure on the conveyors, the processing machines require a degree of pressure to function correctly.
To achieve this, the conveyors on this line run at set speeds, while the line’s process machines vary their speed as necessary to maintain head pressure of between five and eight bottles.
In the Foodmach, line control system speeds are controlled by software programmed according to a “recipe” that varies for each production variety.
The recipe specifies which processing machines are required for the product and also their operating parameters. Recipe data – speed, diameter of bottle, gap between bottles and the like – is communicated from the programmable logic controller (PLC) to the SEW-Eurodrive gears and units. These are calibrated so that the speed of the conveyor is set correctly. Burgemeister says that connecting the motion-detecting sensors to the motors and gear units, in order to manage the flow of bottles, was a simple operation. “It was just a matter of plugging the photoelectric in,” he said.
Poetry in motion
Correct flow is set up at the start of the operation on the Foodmach de-palletisers, where thousands of bottles per hour are fed into the two bottling conveyor lines. At this point, several mini conveyor lines, running side by side and at different speeds, cause bunched-up groups of bottles to be fed into a single line. Complex programming, communicated to each Movigear drive in the system, makes the operation look easy. For Auricht, this is what good engineering is all about. He describes the process with a single word – poetry.
“This was probably one of our most successful projects undertaken – both in timeframes and outcomes,” said Auricht. “In the scheme of things, the premium for the high-efficiency, low-energy drives was not that much. Looking back on it now, it absolutely was the right decision.”