As the company was looking for a sound investment, it decided to invest in two Sidel Matrix blowers over two years. The investment allowed Alpla to produce bottles for the full range of Coca-Cola branded products on behalf of client Coca-Cola Femsa.
After field-testing the new SBO24 Sidel Matrix blow-moulder in February 2012, plastic packaging solutions provider Alpla quickly ordered a second, on which production started only 12 months later.
Both of the new blowers are located at theTolucaplant of Coca-Cola Femsa – in sales volume – one of the largest Coca-Cola bottlers in the world. Alpla selected Sidel as its partner for the project by highlighting the different solutions available on the market, focusing mainly on investment costs, energy consumption, maintenance and after-sales service, alongside the capacity that Sidel Matrix offers to reduce bottle scrap rate.
Martin Stark, Technical and Purchasing Director at Alpla, explains: "We wanted an optimal solution offering reduced energy consumption and maintenance costs. These are the two main reasons we chose the new generation of Sidel Matrix blowers – along with the fact that Sidel performs better on-site service compared to other suppliers."
In Latin America, where Coca-Cola Femsa is the leading bottler, each person drinks an average of 225 litres of cola every year – and Mexico, with a recent growth in consumption of Alpla Mexico Sidel Matrix bottle2%, is one of the largest ‘per capita’ consumers of soft drinks in the world.
Currently however, there is more of a focus in Mexico on water and non-carbonated drinks as growing health-consciousness and concerns about obesity create opportunities for increased sales of low-fat, sugar-free products with fewer calories.
In addition, physical activity across the country is also growing, meaning that demand for energy drinks looks set to soar in future. Sales of the "on-the-go" format are also expected to increase and AlplaMexico has a key role to play in this dynamic market, in supplying bottles to the beverage producers.
As a market and technology leader in preforms and empty bottles, Alpla has a comprehensive global presence in 39 countries and 148 production plants and produces innovative and competitive packaging solutions. The company makes optimum use of technology, with flexible supply chain solutions for the best-possible customer supply. For more efficient utilisation of resources and the continual development of ecologically sustainable technologies and products, Alpla decided to invest in the latest Sidel Matrix blowers to provide Coca-Cola Femsa with PET bottles in the most efficient way.
Alpla acquired the second Matrix blower in 2013 following the success, efficiency and performance attained by the original. The challenge in both cases was to limit the consequences of installation and start-up on production, as the old machines had to be stopped in parallel. Martin Stark, Technical and Purchasing Director at Alpla, explains: "The two new SBO 24 Matrix blowers came in to replace previous generation Sidel blow-moulders – one SBO 16, two SBO 18, and one SBO 20 – to produce the full range of Coca-Cola products. The bottle scrap rate is lower than production on the blow-label-fill solution and the reduced footprint of the machines has increased our storage capacity for preforms."
Installed in a wall-to-wall configuration in Coca-Cola Femsa’s plant inToluca, located less than one hour fromMexico Cityin the south of the country, the two machines are in production 24/7. Producing 2,200 bottles per hour per mould, one blower is mainly dedicated to 400ml format bottles and the second one to 600ml format bottles.
With its latest innovations – Ecoven with a large process window, improved ventilation in the oven, electrical stretching – the Sidel Matrix blower successfully handles all the different preforms whatever the raw material – virgin or PCR (Post-Consumer Recycled) PET – regardless of whether the preforms have recently been injected or come from storage. There is no compromise on bottle quality or output. Mr Stark comments: "This latest solution shows great improvement over the former technology. It allows us to use a wider range of PET materials and offers great potential for lightweighting. Even if the production of bottles with 50% PCR PET preforms is generally more complex in terms of process, performance of the bottles was right from the outset."
The new Sidel Matrix blower allows good repetition from one station to another. It also ensures a stable and consistent material distribution. The short neck used in all the Coca-Cola bottles is well protected due to the specific machine set-up of the blower. Sidel brought all its packaging expertise to bear: heating and blowing process definition, stress cracking and burst testing, everything contributed to reach the performance demanded by the Coca-Cola specifications.
The new base shape, designed by Sidel, improved the bottle resistance to internal pressure and avoided stress cracking.
"We have also been able to reduce the weight of the 400ml bottle from 20.5g to 15.5g, respecting the specifications of Coca-Cola, which remain unchanged."
Once the required letter of approval had been obtained by Alpla from Coca-Cola Femsa, full commercial production started in earnest.
After some months of running at 2,200 bottles per mould per hour for both machines, the overall performance of the blowers fully meets Alpla’s expectations. According to Mr. Stark: "After tailoring the modular Sidel Matrix blowers for our specific needs, the performance reached the level we were targeting, with an efficiency of up to 98% and an output matching that of the filling line. The availability and the uptime of the machines are at the right level."
Furthermore, as Mr. Stark explains: "Other criteria which were key in the decision process, were the ease of operation and maintenance for the technicians as well changeover flexibility for different beverages." When it comes to changeover needs for example, Alpla’s objective was to optimise uptime of the line: "We have to handle a format-change every day on 24 blowing cavities, so we needed flexibility and easy operation. That’s why Alpla chose Sidel’s Bottle Switch." By eliminating any need for manual intervention, the electrical stretching also contributed in reducing changeover time.
Those easier operations are supported by the advantages of the new user-friendly Human Machine Interface (HMI) of the Sidel Matrix blower. With the air filtration in the oven and its point of lubrication (with food-grade lubricant) above the container in the blowing station, the hygienic design contributes to ensure food safety throughout the processing.
Throughout the project, Sidel provided Alpla with support, advice and recommendations in terms of production management. Alpla’s Technical and Purchasing Director, Martin Stark summed up: "During the project, communication between Alpla and Sidel teams was very good, and the Sidel team was always responsive. The times scheduled for the commissioning and start-up of the blowers were met with relative ease. Sidel’s local presence and proximity was also vital. It was one of the key factors in deciding to buy the second Sidel Matrix blower, which was installed in February 2013. The collaboration between Alpla and Sidel is a long and trusting partnership."