Last year, Dr. Kurt Wolff GmbH & Co. KG is celebrated its 70th anniversary and the company now employs 330 people. In 2015, the family-run business with the internationally known Alpecin and Plantur brands achieved annual sales of over 200 million euros. In April 2015, the 100 millionth bottle with caffeinated Alpecin left the plant in North Rhine-Westphalia.
In view of increased global sales successes, and with the aim to make its production processes more efficient, the company needed a fully automatic packaging system for its various care products with different bottle sizes. Dr. Kurt Wolff GmbH & Co. KG., the brand manufacturer of hair-care products from Bielefeld, opted for a Schubert top-loading machine (TLM) when restructuring its production and packaging processes. The packaging machine manufacturer from Crailsheim was able to successfully implement all requirements with respect to the special bottle design – achieving a secure package with intelligent pre-grouping. Additionally, the new Schubert system ensures quick format changes for future formats as well.
Schubert’s overall concept impressed new customer Dr. Kurt Wolff. Especially the aspect of format changes for the differently shaped bottles played a key role in their purchasing decision. On the one hand, a format change on a Schubert TLM system runs automatically, easily and without tools. And on the other, the highly advanced machine concept was ideal in its capability to perform a preliminary grouping of products on the Transmodul and to place the entire bottle formation into a carton. The Schubert machine, with its compact construction, could also easily fit into the Kurt Wolff production hall in Bielefeld.
“The unique challenge in developing this system was to implement the many different formats and packaging configurations with the shortest possible conversion time and a faster restart time, following a format change,” explains Stefan Hoffmann, project manager at Schubert.
The highly flexible, 12-meter-long packaging system comprises six sub-machines, including a palletizer, and is designed for nine different formats.
As a modular system, Dr. Kurt Wolff’s TLM system consists of two Transmodul lines, two-, three-, and four-axis robots, including an imaging system. It was installed and successfully put into operation in late 2015.
The packaging process
The 75 to 250 ml Alpecin bottles (optional: 50 to 375ml) run either standing in transport carriers (pucks) or – in the case of the Plantur hair-care product– already horizontally packed in small folding cartons, on the conveyor belt in the entire system. The folding cartons are packed, for example, as a standing 6-unit lineup. The Alpecin products’ PET bottles need to be packed standing in several different formats.
The shape of Alpecin bottle with its semicircular curve requires an individualized product orientation, so that the PET bottles can be packaged in multiple rows in a space-saving manner.
The Alpecin bottles are not placed directly in the outer packaging. Rather, they are pre-grouped in a single-pick process by three four-axis robots on the Transmodul’s format plates. Parallel to this feeding process, the cartons are erected and pre-folded in the system, to ensure time-saving pre- and final grouping of the bottles in this circulation system. The individual processes have been perfected thanks to Schubert’s patented counter-flow system and the Transmodul, so that different feed rates from the upstream machine for the entire system run virtually vibration-free and without any loss of performance.
Pre-grouping bottles guarantees secure packaging process
Once the individual bottles or folded cartons are pre-grouped by four-axis robots, in a next step, an F2 robot places the complete formation in the waiting, already erected cartons. This method is especially gentle on the product as opposed to direct loading. In the following step, the filled cartons are glued and sealed. The finished product then goes through a completeness check via weighing and a labelling station, before the individual cartons are palletized in the desired packing configuration. This enables two cartons to be simultaneously erected per working cycle, two boxes filled and two closed – and this, ten times a minute. Overall, the TLM system has a maximum capacity of 120 packaged bottles or cartons per minute.
Quicker format changeovers, faster restart times
The exceptional features of Schubert’s packaging solution include the pre-grouping of products on the Transmodul, rapid format changeovers with faster restart times following a change, and the interception of performance fluctuations of the upstream machine.
“The customer receives a machine that is customized to his visions and wishes – and one that is absolutely unmatched on the market in terms of performance, ease of use, efficiency and low maintenance,” says Hoffmann. “The previous manual packing work is no longer required. The use of the Schubert machine in the final inspection indicated 99 percent effectiveness. Of course, in the future, there will be new products from Wolff which will be packaged on this Schubert system. Thanks to robotics with interchangeable tools, the TLM packaging system from Schubert is ideally equipped to take on any task.”
For more, go to: gerhard-schubert.com