Automated palletizing gives bottled water company a clear advantage

Following the installation of an automatic palletizer, the company cut labor costs and increased total volume.

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Puerto Rico-based Cristalia Premium Water thrives on the booming Caribbean tourist trade and the region’s need for clean, safe water. After boosting revenues by 400% since 1999, high labor costs and inefficiencies in packaging operations were making it increasingly difficult to meet demand while maintaining profits. Following the installation of an automatic palletizer, the company cut labor costs and increased total volume.

Cristalia’s bottling plant was manually palletizing four lines of bottled water—shrink-wrapped trays of 16-ounce bottles, multi-packs, 5-gallon cooler bottles and 1-gallon jugs. However, the 20,000-square-foot facility only had the space to automate one line. The 1-gallon jug line was the most difficult to palletize manually, with its unstable, 27-pound cases forcing employees to take frequent breaks. Four employees worked in an hourly rotation on this line. The jugs were also the plant’s highest producer, filling a pallet every two and a half minutes.

The company installed a compact case palletizer (Intelligrated, to automate its line within the space constraints of the warehouse. The compact footprint eliminates the need for a long infeed conveyor and allows fork truck access to all points of the facility, including incoming materials, warehousing, production discharge and outgoing product—without intruding on personnel.

In addition to a touchscreen operator-interface terminal, the palletizer features a pallet dispenser and a full-pallet handling discharge, for rates of up to 30 cartons per minute. The new system has enabled Cristalia to reduce labor costs and heavy lifting, while producing an extra 1,000 cases every shift, for a capital investment of less than $100,000.

“With the new palletizing system we reduced labor costs by 25% and increased our total volume by 20%,” says Tom Terrell, director of manufacturing operations. “The most important gain came from continuous uptime and uninterrupted shifts. Now the line never stops.” According to Terrell, Cristalia experienced a six-month ROI with the new palletizer. “For the same overhead costs, we’re getting more cases out the door,” he says.

More food and beverage coverage:
Beverage distributors: Masters of the end-to-end supply chain
Retail distributors are looking to the storage, fulfillment and delivery strategies of beverage distributors to learn how to more closely connect the DC with the storefront.

Winemaker boosts productivity with dry running bottling-line conveyor
After replacing a conveyor chain and wear track with a system that did not require soap-and-water lubrication, Vincor Canada’s Quebec bottling operation significantly improved productivity, sanitation, maintenance costs and reliability.

System Report: Wirtz Beverage adds automation to the distribution mix
With AS/RS, voice-directed picking and high-speed sortation, Wirtz Beverage Illinois takes the lead in wine and spirits distribution.

About the Author

Josh Bond, Contributing Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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