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Coke pours it on in Argentina.

New high-speed plant is designed to keep up with swift demand.

The land of vast Pampas has a vast thirst for soft drinks as well. With its new plant in Argentina, the Coca-Cola Co. is setting a high standard of production efficiency to meet the demands of a booming economy.

As a longtime leader in the international soft-drink industry, Coca-Cola has prided itself on continually upgrading its plants with cutting-edge technology. And the firm's new plant in Monte Grande (a suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina) lives up to that tradition of high-speed, high-volume processing and product-line flexibility.

The Monte Grande plant can fill 2,600 cans of beverage a minute, and unload 112,000 cans in two minutes. It can package filled cans in almost any variation and load 12-can packs in pallets without corrugated boards or other secondary packaging.

The new plant was designed as a turnkey operation by Simplimatic Engineering Co., based in Lynchburg, Va. The idea was to provide what Arturo McKeon, technical director of the Rio de la Plata Division of Coca-Cola Argentina, calls the most modern technology for canned beverages.

Coke wanted an excess-capacity plant that could easily fill and package a large daily volume of 12-ounce canned beverages, including Coca-Cola, diet Coke, Sprite and other popular beverages. At the same time, it also would need to fill and package cans in a variety of packages, including Hi-Cone (Illinois Tool Works, Inc., Itasca, Ill.) six- or 12-packs and film wrapped trays. The lines needed to be virtually maintenance-free.

To meet these requirements, the engineers provided two lines that include a 72-valve, 1,000-can-per-minute H & K (Milwaukee, Wis.) filler (installed first) and backed up by a 1,600-can-per-minute, 120-valve H & K filler. The filling lines are supplied by an automatic system that unloads cans from the semi-trucks that bring the formed cans into the plant onto transfer cars. The transfer cars move cans to five in-feed conveyors. Each in-feed conveyor can hold the contents of an entire truck - 16 pallets.

The whole system can handle 560,000 cans, enough to run for about three and a half hours at breakneck speed. Without the automatic unloader, trucks would have to queue up - for blocks - to keep up.

After the trucks are unloaded, cans are depalletized and moved into conveyor lines or storage using air conveyors and vacuum transfers. The slower 1,000-can-per-minute line uses an air conveyor to line the cans, single file. It uses a cable system and single rinser to move the cans along to the filler. The high-speed (1,600-cans-per-minute) line uses an air conveyor, vacuum transfer and mass air conveyor to move the empties to the filling room. There, an air divider splits the product for air single filling into two feed lines with a gravity rinser to clean the cans. After the rinsers, cans merge on an air conveyor combiner to a single row that feeds the cans at the required speed.

This excess-capacity system allows about four minutes of downtime at the palletizer to allow catch-up in the system so that an air gap doesn't shut down the filler. Its two palletizers can stack 175 12-pack units per minute. The twin rinsers allow more rinse and drain time, eliminating extra moisture in the cans.

At the end of each filling line, an Angelus (Angelus Sanitary Can Machine Co., Los Angeles) closing unit equipped with valve monitors that measure and record fill levels, closes the cans. A Simplimatic push-button sampling device monitors the efficiency of the valves. After filling, the cans are inverted and transported on single-file conveyors to a slow-down module to reduce the velocity of the cans, eliminating potential damage. Cans are warmed to near ambient temperatures to prevent moisture in the downstream area where packaging takes place. The low fill temperature (6 degrees C) can result in condensation damage to the outer package, unless the cans are warmed.

After the warmer, cans are turned right-side-up and a fill-height detection device checks the cans a second time. Cans are moved through a mass conveyor and transferred by cross-feed conveyors to a bi-directional accumulator. Filled cans may be directed to an automatic Simpli-Pak 60-tray packer and film wrapper; to a Mead (Mead Packaging Division, Marietta, Ga.) paperboard multipacker; or to a Hi-Cone ribbon packer, which produces six-packs.

The line was designed to eliminate a tray carrier, saving about 5 cents per case in packaging reduction.
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Title Annotation:Coca-Cola Co.
Publication:Food Processing
Date:Apr 1, 1996
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