Linda Casey

January 30, 2014

10 Min Read
Sparkling finish for French champagne
champagne bottle

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Reims, France, has been innovating its bottling and 245899-VCP_See_Lees_Cellar.jpg

VCP_ See_Lees_Cellar

packaging operations since Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin simultaneously became a widow and the head of the champagne house when she was only 27 years old.



table de rummage at VCP

he first innovation of Widow Clicquot's is the table de rummage. Designed in 1816 to eliminate sediment (lees) from the champagne fermenting process, this table was cut with large, sloping holes pierced into its top where wine bottles could be placed head-down and gently turned over long stretches of time. This progressively brings the lees down into the neck of the bottles, easing their removal, reducing the amount of champagne lost during disengorgement and producing a sparkling wine of higher clarity.



Recently PD was invited to the champagne house to view the company's newest packaging innovation and the new case-packing and palletizing line supporting it.



From object to experience

The innovation is Veuve Clicquot's DesignBox, a paperboard box, which Stephane Bernelas, lead engineer of new packaging development, says was created with two primary design objectives: To enhance the luxury perception of Veuve Clicquot; and reinforce the champagne house's image as a pioneer in the champagne bottling industry.



Veuve_Clicquot_DesignBoxes_in_bronze, silver and gold


The telescoping box features a die-cut opening on its outer left wall that encourages consumers to push the inner half out from its sleeve and reveal the champagne bottle inside. This bilateral action aims to transform the DesignBox from a static packaging element to part of the champagne drinking experience.



The result of a collaboration between Veuve Clicquot and its paperboard packaging provider Seyfert GmbH, the DesignBox also represents the house's eco-conscious philosophies. To encourage recycling of the secondary packaging, the mono-material box uses no protective coatings; has less than 5 percent of the packaging's total weight coming from inks, glues and solvents; and is made from forest products certified under the Forest Stewardship Council. The boxes also are delivered as flats that are erected onsite, thus reducing transportation needs and carbon dioxide emissions.


Veuve Clicquot DesignBoxes in pink, white and yellow

These eco-conscious manufacturing decisions did not negatively impact the esthetics of the brightly printed box. The rigid fluting that enables the box to have the same strength of a standard box with less paper also was discovered to be a superior printing surface.


Rewarding research

In order to effectively casepack and palletize the new packaging though, Veuve Clicquot was obliged to modify its operations.

The winery considered proposals from several vendors for the new end-of-line setup. Of all the proposals, one stood apart for its content and the reputation of the presenter. “Cermex put forth the most innovative solution, presented an in-depth prestudy and is known for its design office,” recalls Yorick Roullet, the engineer in charge of implementation of the new production line.



Drawing of Line 5 at Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin

All in a year's time

The new line, which is designated as line five at the champagne house's Reims bottling facility, was completed one year after Cermex was awarded the business. With close collaboration between the technical, production and maintenance departments at Veuve Clicquot, the new line was developed to support three upcoming events: First and foremost, the debut of Veuve Clicquot DesignBoxes; the launch of new cases for bottles to be sold without boxes; and an increase in production capacity to 8,500 bottles/hr, which Roullet says is high for the champagne industry.


Sparkling finish for Freanch champagne

To develop the line, Cermex drew upon three of its technology focuses: robot integration; automated format changeovers; and protection of the product as well as the quality of the finished packaging—to create a line that could handle 16 different formats initially, with the option of facing the presentation boxes and the bottles in the future.



Sparkling finish for Freanch champagne

The new line can handle 75 cl standard, lightweight, special or Grande Dame champagne bottles; 75 cl standard, lightweight or special champagne bottles in the Veuve Clicquot DesignBox in three sizes; 75 cl standard, lightweight, special or Grand Dame bottles in corrugated trays of three or six bottles lying flat, top-to-tail, then packed in a wraparound case of six to 12 bottles and, in the future, packed in a new secondary packaging for six bottles; and Veuve Clicquot DesignBoxes for individual 75 cl standard, lightweight, or special bottles packed in wraparound cases of six or 12 lying on their base or on their sides; and in the future, packed in a new secondary packaging for six bottles.




VCP_ Erected_Boxes

VCP_ Erected_Boxes

Keeping it compact

The line was installed in July 2009 and comprises two F272.40 tray erectors. One is newly purchased while the other was salvaged from another line at the facility; two bottle or carton infeed lanes; a AN110 gantry packer; a WB45.80 wraparound case packer; a labeling and checkweighing area; rejection area; a spiral conveyor that lifts filled cases to a second level for palletization; two infeed lanes for palletization; a P432.20 palletizer; and Schneider Electric controls.

On the day of PD's visit, Veuve Clicquot was packing champagne in its new DesignBoxes. The boxes and bottles entered the AN100 gantry packer through its two infeed lanes.


Sparkling finish for Freanch champagne



The AN100 has three features that protect the product and the packaging: An infeed/gripping system that is engineered to avoid contact with the bottle labels; specifically selected suction cups that prevent marking of the products; and the transfer of DesignBoxes in a raised position, which avoids scuffing the base, thus prote245900-VCP_Boxes_Oriented.jpg


cting the integrity of the barcode.

Roullet explained that marking is not just an important esthetic concern with champagne bottling, it also can affect the integrity of the bottles themselves. “There are seven kilos of pressure inside a champagne bottle, so marks can cause the bottles to explode,” he remarked.



VCP_ Boxes_Stacked

Filled boxes were transferred from the AN110 gantry packer to the WB45.80 wraparound case packer via a step-by-step bracket conveyor to minimize rubbing during transit. Integrated into this multi-function


VCP_ Case_Labeling

case packer are two Fanuc M710-50 kg robots that enabled the machine to handle 16 formats at speeds up to 25 cases/min. Both Fanuc robots also are synchronized to finish packing two cases at the same time.




Filled cases moved to a checkweighing and labeling area. There are four labelers in this area. Two labelers apply preprinted labels to one side of the cases. The other two labelers are print-and-apply devices from Zebra Technologies, which print a bar-coded label and applies those labels to the other side of the cases.



These labels fulfill an important quality-control function as well as an informational purpose. “The labels guarantee that the cases have never been opened,” Roullet explains.

A Cognex vision system then checked the presence and position of the case labels.


The newly labeled cases then moved up an AmbaFlex spiral conveyor to a second level. This enabled Veuve Clicquot and Cermex to keep the packaging line footprint to 25 linear m, which is important because the line is fitted between a wall and another line.



spiral conveyor at VCP


Once conveyed above the packing equipment, filled cases were divided from one lane into two conveyor lanes.

A servo-driven case-turning system at the P432.20 layer-by-layer palletizer's infeed oriented the cases for palletizing. Oriented cases were then stacked by the P432.20 using a patented system that can prestack two to three complete layers, which Cermex says enables the machine to reach a maximum speed of 8.5 layers/min while maintaining a compact footprint.



VCP_ Cases_Oriented


VCP_ Case_Orien_accumulation


VCP_ Layer_Palletizing


Tradition of 'inherited audacity' continues

Thenewly installed end-of-line system will help the renowned champagnewinery keep up with demand for its current package and bottle formatsand sizes. It also was engineered with the champagne house's future inmind as Veuve Clicquot continues its tradition of packaging innovationwith new sizes and formats.

More information is available:

Cermex Inc., 678/221-3570.

AmbaFlex Inc., 877/800-1634.

Cognex Corp., 508/650-3000.

Fanuc Robotics America Inc., 800/477-6268 .

Forest Stewardship Council—U.S, 612/353-4511.

Schneider Electric, 888/778-2733.

Seyfert GmbH, 33 32-650-5500.

Zebra Technologies, 866/230-9494.




Eight performance characteristics

The high performance of Veuve Clicquot's line can be partially attributed to eight characteristics:

  • The automation of adjustments enables quick changeover times,

  • The integration of atypical robots allows maximum use of their functionality for automatic changeover of the tooling,

  • A reduction in weight of tooling, a user-friendly HMI and maximum access to all machines on the line,

  • Quality controls installed throughout the line,

  • Thecompact layout of all of the integrated equipment on the line, such asthe numerous intermachine conveyors, four labelers, the checkweigherand sorter, the case elevator and the lane divider for packagingupstream from the palletizer, optimizes use of floorspace,

  • Atypical methods to orient products and packages,

  • Access to machine data from the champagne house's intranet,

  • Anew patented system for pre-stacking two or three complete palletlayers that enables the palletizer to achieve a maximum speed of 8.5layers/min without an increase in the machine's footprint.

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