To me, the bottling industry is an amazing world. I’m fortunate to have worked with bottling clients both large and small, on several continents who fill containers with water, wine, fruit drinks, beer, sports drinks, milk, spirits, perfume, and more. You name it, I’ve seen it bottled.
Bottling processes are complex, fast-paced, diverse, and fascinating. I’ll just say it: bottling is cool. The diversity and variety of bottled products and the containers used to fill them is extraordinary. Beverages tend to be packaged in all different sizes, shapes, and materials. And when it comes to flavors, the variety is amazing.
The net result is a cornucopia of wonderfully different and unique products packaged in a bewildering array of beautiful containers. Just walk down the beverage aisles in your local supermarket and prepare yourself to be stunned by the variety of flavors, options, and artwork available there. Again, bottling is cool...and we
make it even cooler.
Quality is Job One
Considering the complexity and variety, it’s important to note that quality
is critically important to bottlers. Profit margins are thin, and they can’t afford to waste an entire run because the wrong can was used, or the wrong flavor was filled. Running the diet soda when it was supposed to be regular cherry could prove to be a very costly mistake.
Consider that high-speed filling lines regularly fill 90,000 cans per hour. If you accidentally put the wrong product in the right container, you can’t just dump the cans and start over. There’s no provision for rework in canning processes. Instead, erroneously filled cans must be thrown away. It’s immensely wasteful and expensive, the kind of mistake that quickly erodes those slim profit margins.
The machines used in the bottling industry are equally complex. A bottling run is a balletic exercise in which high technology is married with art. Filling machines move at dizzying speeds while 30, 40, 50, even 100+ fill heads spin faster than the human eye can see.
New product changeovers happen frequently on each line, and the same product can be produced simultaneously on multiple different production lines. The number of fill heads, filling lines, product varieties, and container options conspire to create a dizzying array of details that must be managed to produce safe, high quality products. Bottling is not for the faint of heart.
A Few Questions
Say you work in a plant with 15 production lines, each with 30-50 filling heads running at high speeds. How would you accurately determine:
- Which production line runs a single product better than others?
- Which production line fills all products similarly/differently?
- Which product is the most troublesome across all production lines?
- Which fill head is the worst performer for each production line?
- Which fill head runs the most consistently on each production line?
- Which fill heads on each line run high/low?
To answer the simple questions above with just anecdotal evidence (or a spreadsheet) is very challenging, if not impossible. Quality control in the bottling world is more than just a daunting task…it’s a complex, crucial activity.
Introducing Quality Intelligence
is the information that is gained when raw data values are converted into information. InfinityQS software products
are designed to do just that: Convert data into actionable information. And, to be clear, answering the questions above is a cinch with our software. In fact, it’s automatic.
Using our software, you can review any quality data and uncover information about every step in your manufacturing operations. For example, it’s easy to reveal the performance of how each individual fill head
is performing on each production line
and for each product code
Need to know how a specific product lot ran as compared to previous ones, or which shifts are performing at their peak? No troubles. It’s simple. It’s equally easy to highlight how each product performs on each production line, and where the greatest opportunities exist for reducing costs and improving quality throughout your entire operation—even if your operation spans the globe
Bottling companies are always asking themselves, "Where can we cut costs and improve?" If fill heads are overfilling, then costs will be negatively impacted. Likewise, if a fill head is filling below the label stated weight, then an underfilling issue could be occurring that could cause a legal violation, further negatively impacting the company.
InfinityQS software products have the ability to reveal fill-head-to-fill-head variability as well as production line performance comparisons. Want to know which production lines are in need of maintenance? No problem. Based upon the data you already collect, our software can highlight which production lines require the most attention.
All of this comprises what we call quality intelligence
. It’s the information that's extracted from the data you collect on the bottling shop floor and in the laboratories that support your operations.
Let’s consider how our software can help bottlers in specific ways such as net content control, volumetric calculations, changeovers, and verifications of both date codes and product codes.
Net Content Control
InfinityQS quality solutions support the bottling world’s need to abide by federally regulated net content control requirements. My colleague, Jason Chester, InfinityQS Director of Global Channel Programs, discusses net content control in detail in his blog series
. In that series, Jason says, “Net content control ensures that consumers get what they pay for. Laws protect consumers from (intentional or unintentional) ‘shorting’ of the contents of any product they purchase. It doesn’t matter what the consumer purchases—juice, after shave, toothpaste, whatever—they expect that the packaging contains at least as much product as the amount stated on the product label.” I couldn’t agree more with that summation of the topic.
Net content control features are built into our software—ProFicient™
. Whether you need metrics specific to fill volumes by product, fill head, or production line, we support them. Need metrics for maximum allowable variation (MAV in North America or T1/T2 in the European Union), or label-stated weight statistics? No troubles. They’re supported.
Need to accurately calculate volumetric fill values from net weight and brix and/or specific gravity? No problem. Our software allows automated data collection from your measurement devices, and all the mathematical calculations you may care to specify. All these capabilities and more are natively supported. We know that there are lots of net content control regulatory hurdles and mathematical calculations that bottlers must get over. No worries as it's all built into our software
In short, bottling companies get the information they need in order to run their fill lines in the most efficient ways while complying with regulations.
Changeovers and Verifications
If you have hundreds of different permutations of your bottled products that can be run on a single production line, our software supports product code verifications
. Verifying the product code helps you ensure that you’re running the right product, on the right line, and at the right time.
In the bottling world, every container has a barcode on it. It's how the cashier at your local grocer quickly and easily rings up prices on the products you purchase. The cashier takes the product, runs it across a barcode scanner, and the price comes up on the register. (Or we do it ourselves at self-checkout.) Well, bottlers can use the same barcode in a different way, for a different purpose, on the fill line.
An operator takes the container for an upcoming run and scans the barcode into InfinityQS software. Our software then automatically determines whether or not what was scanned is, indeed, the right product that's supposed to be run at that time. That way, the operator has all the confidence in the world that they're running the correct product, in the appropriate container, on the correct production line, at the time they are supposed to be running it
Additionally, operators can easily verify that the correct expiration date code is found on the product they’re about to run. They need only scan the code on the can or bottle, and our software verifies that expiration dates are correctly calculated.
These simple yet powerful verifications make a changeover easy, and they ensure that errors are eliminated. Does the date code match? Is the container (special runs included) correct? Is the mixture (i.e., flavors, diet, etc.) right? Is the container size correct? Setup for a new run on a given production/fill line is made quicker, easier, and hassle-free.
By employing these types of quality control strategies, organizations we work with have completely eliminated errors. Their costs are far lower as a result, and efficiencies have increased significantly. It’s quality control and continuous improvement in action—our software doing what it does best.
Talk about a perfect fit for the bottling industry
. InfinityQS quality intelligence software provides peace of mind for net content control, volumetric calculations, easier changeover, and verifications. That’s a match made in heaven. I’ll drink to that.
Take advantage of the technology at your fingertips today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website
) for more information.