The Wine Group (TWG) is one of the largest wine producers in the world, distributing more than 60 million cases of wine each year. From its corporate headquarters in Livermore, CA, the company ships out over five million cases of wine annually throughout North America, Western Europe and Asia. Satisfying the palates of wine lovers worldwide involves a sophisticated process. When it came time to install a new packaging line in the Livermore facility, TWG turned to its trusted partner for 15-plus years, Hartness International (hartness.com). With a shared commitment to excellence, Hartness has supplied accumulation and end-of-line packaging equipment in the past for TWG’s Ripon and Livermore facilities.
“When we were putting in the new line in Livermore, we were looking for a line that was fully automated, could handle a variety of different sized packages and essentially ‘do it all’,” says TWG plant manager Ryan Dean.
From screw cap, cork, poly-laminated and PVC capsules, bulk glass and RSC glass, the line needed to handle a variety of customer demands. With the automated line, it was essential for TWG to increase accumulation capacity in order to minimize the effects of occasional micro-stops and downtime. Equally important was the ability for all of the equipment pieces to work together seamlessly.
A solution was needed that addressed reducing overall footprint, providing more accumulation and increased efficiency gains on the line. In the end, TWG opted to incorporate a DYNAC accumulation machine, case packer and laner from Hartness.
Controlling product flow
There were several components to this solution, but accumulation was the key. The Wine Group already had installed Hartness’ DYNAC accumulation system and a top-load case packer and high-speed laner in other areas of its facility, and the company knew that these would integrate well together on the new line. DYNAC isolates the upstream and downstream operations by absorbing the changes in the line and providing a consistent metered flow of bottles.
On the TWG’s line a new DYNAC 6900 was positioned between the filler/labeler and the laner/packer, allowing these machine centers to be close to each other, yet operate independently. The resulting DYNAC-centric design provided the desired smaller footprint and ample accumulation, and gave TWG the ability to work multiple line layout options to uncover the most productive design.
“These changes led to incredible advancements in efficiency for our line,” says Dean.
Since the installation of the DYNAC 6900, TWG has seen 10% efficiency gains on its most difficult molds. These gains drive dollar-for-dollar cases down by more than five cents each and represent 50,000 cases of incremental volume annually. As for material savings, Dean estimates that they have “approximately 95% less waste thanks to the DYNAC.”
As TWG does not run a traditional operator-at-each-machine scenario, the DYNAC accumulation provides enough uptime for plant operators to float on the floor where needed.
“We can run lean and prioritize where we are going to focus on the line because of the DYNAC. It provides about seven minutes of uptime when another piece of equipment is down, which gives our operators ample time to repair any issues on the line without interruption,” says Dean.
These time savings of minutes can also add up quickly and result in days of production time not lost over the course of a year.
Communication across all levels
The above savings could not be possible without proper communication between the equipment on the line and personnel involved.
“The Hartness DYNAC needed to communicate with our labeler and they were in sync when we needed them to be – as soon as we started them,” says Dean.
TWG turned to Hartness for additional secondary packaging solutions. Upstream, the DYNAC was communicating well with the labeler and earlier on with the filler. Downstream, the bottles still needed to be packed. TWG wanted to ensure that the chosen equipment would integrate with the rest of the line, as well as handle the variety of products to be packed on the line. The solution was a Hartness laner and case packer.
Hartness’ Global Laner was selected for its high-speed capabilities as well as its smooth, servo-controlled operation and gentle handling of labeled bottles. With a changeover of less than 10 minutes, the laner is flexible enough to handle broad product sizes.
TWG also chose to install the Hartness 2800, a 40-cycles-per-minute servo-controlled case packer. One unique feature of the 2800 is its air transfer system, which eliminates line pressure as it captures the bottles and positions them above the grid for packing. Bottles are vertically loaded through plastic fingers that guide the bottles into the cases.
“What’s nice about the Hartness Case Packer is that it can pack directly into a case with or without partitions, which gives us the ability of running two types of glass,” says Dean.
Ensuring successful product delivery, Hartness also provided the conveyor and control from the DYNAC to the packer resulting in a vertically integrated solution. Communication didn’t stop at line integration. Training was also important to ensure success post-installation.
“Hartness trained the plant operators very well and worked with them at the pace they needed. Within a couple days, our team was able to pick up on how to operate the equipment properly and it’s been working well ever since,” Dean explains. “Whether I needed parts or service performed, Hartness post-install was equally impressive in their customer service and response time.”
The end of line for new beginnings
Since 1981, The Wine Group has delighted consumers around the world with unbeatable brand value and continuous innovation to consistently exceed their expectations. Having partners like Hartness ensures those values and beliefs are upheld at every stage of production.
“Hartness has been tried and true for us. Whenever we are looking at bottle handling or case handling equipment, Hartness is always at the top of the list based on the partnership that we’ve built with them during the last 15-plus years at the Wine Group – and definitely at this facility over the past eight years,” says Dean. “I would say our new line is the most state-of-the art line in California today.”