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When Logoplaste was awarded a £35 million contract by a global pharmaceutical giant to manufacture plastic bottles for its well-known sports drink brand, selecting reliable suppliers to help improve the efficiency of its manufacturing operation was essential. Goplasticpallets.com, the UK’s leading independent supplier of plastic pallets and containers, and Soft Design AB, a leader in automated materials handling solutions, played an integral role in the project.
With the London 2012 Olympics drawing nearer, businesses are planning ahead to prepare for the crowds’ descent upon the city. When you are a global pharmaceutical manufacturer responsible for producing close to one billion bottles of a popular sports drink a year, being able to meet demand for London 2012 is vital.
The pharmaceutical giant selected rigid plastic packaging specialist, Logoplaste, to manufacture the bottles for its sports drink. Previously, the bottles were being manufactured and shipped by truck from Wrexham in North Wales. With the large volume of bottles required, a different approach was called for to reduce transportation costs and cut carbon emissions.
As the pioneer of in-house manufacturing in Europe with the ‘Hole in the Wall’ concept, Logoplaste built a brand new manufacturing facility next to the pharmaceutical company’s factory in Gloucestershire. This allowed Logoplaste to manufacture the bottles onsite and deliver them directly to the pharmaceutical company through a ‘Hole in the Wall’, to be filled with the sports drink liquid.
An important task for Logoplaste was sourcing suppliers to help make the manufacturing process as smooth and efficient as possible. Chris Jones, Project Manager for Logoplaste, said: “From a very early stage, we knew that the plastic preforms required for making the bottles would need to be stored in boxes. We ruled out wood and cardboard as the boxes needed to be handled in a series of automated processes. Plastic boxes were the logical choice because of their consistent size and weight, superior hygienic qualities, and they are reusable.
“As we handle many millions of preforms each month, the box had to be capable of holding anything between 7,000 and 20,000 parts. To maximise storage space we needed to be able to store approximately 2,000 boxes in our warehouse. We calculated that the size of the box would have to be close to 1,200mm (L) x 1,000mm (W) x 1,600mm (H) to meet the volume and storage requirements.”
As sole supplier in the UK of Europe’s largest plastic pallet box, Goplasticpallets.com was selected by Logoplaste to supply 2,000 of its GoBox 1311 plastic containers with lids. The GoBox 1311 offers a storage capacity of 1,400 litres and is ideal for large-volume consignments. Some slight modifications were made to the container and lid to ensure that the boxes could be stacked accurately and securely up to 5 boxes high. Delivery of the boxes was a large-scale logistical operation requiring 48 trailers, which Goplasticpallets.com coordinated to fit Logoplaste’s tight delivery schedule.
To help with the automation required for the project, Logoplaste selected Swedish automated solution provider, Soft Design AB. The company supplied seven Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), two Pick & Place lid application and removal machines and eight Box Tippers. Soft Design AB has worked with AGV Systems for over 20 years and its state-of-the-art AGV Control System “MAX” offers a warehouse management module, which controls and optimises AGV transport assignments.
For this particular project, MAX was programmed to locate and identify all the boxes throughout the manufacturing process; to calculate the quantity of plastic preforms in each box; to track the boxes from the beginning of the production line to the warehouse, and to empty and replenish the boxes as required.
Chris added: “After six months of consultation with Goplasticpallets.com and Soft Design AB, the automated system is now working in a production environment very satisfactorily and we’re confident we can produce enough sports drink bottles to help our client meet demand for London 2012.”
The slickness of the manufacturing operation is best explained by reviewing the production line:
- Four loads of plastic granules arrive at Logoplaste’s factory every day.
- The plastic preforms are produced from the granules and dropped into a box, which is then shaken to make the bottles disperse evenly, allowing the box to be filled to maximum capacity.
- Once the box is full, the AGV collects it from the preform machine and takes it to a Pick & Place Robot to have a lid applied.
- The AGV then places the box into the buffer store warehouse, located on a mezzanine level, which holds 1,980 boxes in total. The AGV is able to deep-stack the boxes in lanes and up to five boxes high. The boxes are stacked in flexible zones according to product type, date and batch.
- When a box of preforms is required for production, an AGV selects a box and transports it to a tipping station where the lid is removed and the preforms are tumbled out at variable speeds into a feeder system, which supplies the blowing machines on the floor below.
- The blowing machines below the mezzanine produce the finished bottles from the preforms, which are then sent through a ‘Hole in the Wall’ using air-driven conveyors and into the filling line.
For more information contact goplasticpallets.com on +44 (0) 1323 744057.