From uncasing through palletizing, a complete bottling line for 750-ml and 1.5-L sizes at Mondavi's Woodbridge Winery provides production flexibility at speeds to 500 bpm and 16,000 cases daily.
Like food with wine, two bottling lines complement one another at Robert Mondavi’s expansive Woodbridge Winery in Woodbridge, Calif. Due to growing volumes, an existing line that had been pushed to its limits performing double duty for 750-mL as well as 1.5-L bottles is now used to fill and case the magnums into reshippers. In May ’96, it was joined by a second bottling line, which runs 750-mL bottles in reshippers and 750-mL or 1.5-L bottles in special preassembled display (PAD) cases that maximize shelf presence at clubstores.
Speeds vary according to bottle size. While Line One cruises around 200 bpm for 1.5-L bottles, Line Two – the focus of PD’s visit – moves 750-mL bottles along at a 400 bpm pace that can hit more than 500 bpm, according to bottling mechanic Ted Nishizaki. Operating 10 hours daily for four days a week, Line Two yields 15,000 to 16,000 cases daily.
Received from Owens-Brockway, cases of bottles are depalletized and placed by two bottling specialists onto the infeed conveyor leading to one of two uncasers. The O-B manufactured custom bottles consist of a clear claret style bottle for the light wines or a burgundy (green) bottle for dark wines such as cabernet savignon. The 32# ECT corrugated cases are printed in three colors by Georgia-Pacific or Longview Fibre.
On the day of PD’s visit, a TriSterling uncaser was unloading standard 12-count 4x3 reshippers of 750-mL burgundy bottles for cabernet savignon at a rate of 35 cases he bottom case flaps, it uses side belts to grip the case and lift it off the bottles. Mondavi had the uncaser modified by M&D Loe Mfg. for better control for their application with a second motor and new case gripper assembly, according to Nishizaki.
The line also handles bottles in PAD cases, a merchandising- friendly, open-top case with 9-inch high sides. PAD unloading for 12-count 750-mL or 6-count 1.5-L cases is done by a Krones RoundPac II464 continuous motion uncaser. It operates in totally different manner than the Tri-Sterling system, which is located next to it: rather than lifting the cases off of the bottles, the RoundPac reaches into the cases to remove the bottles via individual packing cups with positive locking mechanisms. Maintenance manager Ron Mayer calls the Roundpac machine ”amazing ... one of the best systems we’ve ever purchased.” PAD reshippers are supplied by Georgia-Pacific.
After the flow of empty cases is split by a diverting conveyor, cases travel on an overhead Arrowhead conveyor to the case packers far downstream. After uncasing, bottles turn a corner and continue straight towards the filler room housing the Krones Bloc rinser/filler/corker.
Inside the room, bottles enter the Krones Variojet® 96-head rinser where they are cleaned with filtered water and inverted, followed by nitrogen gas injection to force the water out. They then transfer uprighted to the Krones 80-valve VP-GL pneumatic long tube filler. For comparison, the existing filler on Line One has 56 valves. Wine has been transferred from oak barrels to processing tanks for filtration and is gravity fed to the filler’s supply tank. Electro-pneumatic delivery and liquid level control maintains fill height accuracy within 1.5 mm. “We can adjust fill heights on a valve-to-valve basis without interrupting production,” notes Mayer. “The accuracy has reduced our product loss due to overfills.”
Bottles transfer to the Krones 20-jaw corker. Sourced directly from Portugal and printed on-site, corks are handled with care by a transfer system from Feeder Systems. From a hopper 15 feet from the corker, corks are transported through clear piping to an 11 foot height via brush screw – during which small cork particles are removed by vacuum – and then horizontally 15 feet to the corker’s hopper. At each of 20 stations, the corker uses stainless steel and bronze mechanical squeezers and plunger to insert the cork.
Quality assurance inspection is made by two systems from Industrial Dynamics: a Filtec unit to verify volume via wine level determination and an optic sensor to verify the cork’s presence. A Krones Slat Lane Divider run by programmable logic controller separates bottle flow into two lanes. The split allows speed and accuracy for the cork-top label applicators further downstream, says Nishizaki. A third lane accepts bottles rejected by on-line inspection.
Top notch top labeling
Each of two lanes leads to a top-of-the-cork label applicator from Artel Packaging Systems that was “beefed up” per Mondavi’s directions by M&D Loe Mfg. This upgrade consisted of installing larger ball bearings and drive shafts.
A wormscrew carries bottles through the unit, spacing and securing them in a precise position. At the infeed, a Nordson unit applies a spot of hot-melt adhesive to the top of the cork. The custom machine uses a spreading, sliding motion assembly that operates in reciprocal motion to pick up the pressure-sensitive labels from the backing paper via five vacuum heads. The five heads slide up to the top position to pull the labels off the backing and then slide down on guides as they spread into position over the bottles. Bottles are held in place at the tops with a grid that comes down with the applicator assembly. The bottle opening presents a 20-mm target for the 18-mm-diameter circular label, which is supplied preprinted by MPI.
Mondavi had used a beeswax seal prior, but that was more difficult to apply to the top label, says bottling shift leader Les Rupp. This also matches an industry trend toward capsule replacing top-of-cork labels (see Sterling Vineyards, Jan ’97, p. 40). Mondavi made the switch to the top label in late ’95, done on Line One using similar equipment. Mondavi informs PD they’ll be adding a third labeler and associated conveyors next year, which will make the line more efficient at higher speeds.
Both lanes converge on an Arrowhead combiner ahead of an Arrowhead 8X20 foot accumulation table that can hold about two minutes of production, Nishizaki says. From there, bottles convey to a Krones Solornatic 24 station rotary labeler where front and neck and then back die-cut labels are glue-applied. Bottle labels are supplied by fp Label, Herdei Printing and Blake Printery. Labels of 60# uncoated paperstock are printed in six colors plus two foil stampings, then embossed and die cut.
A Lumonics laser coder etches a date and hour code on the label, a mandate for shipments to the European Economic Community. EEC exports represent about 3 percent of Mondavi’s 10 percent of total volumes earmarked for export. The coder changes date and hour increments automatically. Rupp reports their experience with the laser has been a good one.
As they convey, bottles press against a Krones custom-built wipe-down unit consisting of vertical rollers that prevent flagging, especially of the neck label, which Rupp says had been a challenge.
As they continue in separate lanes, bottles round a turn and convey to two side-by-side Standard-Knapp Model 930 drop-style indexing case packers. Cases from the uncaser arrive on a lower level conveyor, then are raised approximately one foot for loading as the bottle grid shifts to drop bottles the approximately 16-inch distance into the case through polymeric guides.
Standard-Knapp packers had been used on Line One, but these newer generation units offer more electronics including photoeyes that replace limit switches. That meant a different learning curve this go around, Nishizaki explains, which distilled down to keeping the sensors free of dust and other particles.
Cases continue on separate lines to a Seal Star case sealer from Rockford Midland equipped with a Nordson hot-melt glue applicator. The Seal Star can handle up to 40 cases a minute. Case flow combines into single flow ahead of missing bottle inspection by a Filtec unit from Industrial Dynamics.
Depending on upstream conditions, cases convey at rates of 30 to 50 per minute to a Weber Marking Systems-supplied Label-Aire Model 2138 print-and-apply labeler. Nishizaki says they have labeled at rates as fast as one case per second. Mondavi uses two in series: one p&a system is kept in standby mode until needed to ensure the maximum amount of uptime. The switch from one to the other, such as when a labelstock roll or print ribbon is depleted, is automatic.
As grapes are to the wine, so are these labelers to the line – Rupp goes so far as to say that these labelers are “the heart of the line.” This same type of redundant setup was first established on Line One in late ’95.
Product identification and alcohol content is thermal-transfer printed just prior to application onto the labelstock along with automatically changed hour and date codes; the former is updated every 15 minutes. The 4- 3/4 inch square generic labels are preprinted flexographically with nonchangeable graphics by Weber in three to five colors on 3.2-mil Transprint® paperstock. Even though nearly all of the output comprises Woodbridge brand wines, the line packages Vichon Mediterranean and Robert Mondavi Coastal brands, too. Within those three brands, Mondavi labels all varietels and other stockkeeping units with one preprinted generic label per brand. Mondavi estimates these three generic labelstocks replace the equivalent of more than 30 preprinted labels per brand.
Cases then make an approximately 200-yard conveyor run overhead to the top level of an Alvey 920 downstacking palletizer designed with automatic pallet dispensing. It assembles 12-count cases for 750-mL bottles as 56 cases per load; 1.5-L bottles of 6-count PAD cases are assembled as 64 cases per load. Only PAD cases are assembled on pallets.
All loads proceed for unitizing by a “slick working” Liberty Model 7.70 stretchwrapper, which was one of three different machines Mondavi assessed, says Nishizaki, with the selection based on capability and pricing.
After stretchwrapping, forklifts equipped with special pickup skids transfer the loads – most without pallets or slipsheets – to and from warehouse storage where loads are stacked up to 16 case layers high. This facility also serves as the central storage location for Mondavi wines from sister wineries for products such as Opus One®.
With 12 of years of winery production experience, Rupp sums Line Two performance succinctly: “This line’s efficiency impresses me.” As he and other Mondavi personnel will tell you, when it comes to a bottling line, there’s no vintage quite as good as the latest.