Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Reims, France, has been innovating its bottling and 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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
All in a year's time
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.
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.
Keeping it compact
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.
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 protecting 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.
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
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.
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.
Tradition of 'inherited audacity' continues
The newly installed end-of-line system will help the renowned champagne winery keep up with demand for its current package and bottle formats and sizes. It also was engineered with the champagne house's future in mind as Veuve Clicquot continues its tradition of packaging innovation with new sizes and formats.
|More information is available:|
|Cermex Inc., 678/221-3570. www.cermexinc.com|
|AmbaFlex Inc., 877/800-1634. www.ambaflex.com|
|Cognex Corp., 508/650-3000. www.cognex.com|
|Fanuc Robotics America Inc., 800/477-6268 . www.fanucrobotics.com|
|Forest Stewardship Council—U.S, 612/353-4511. www.fscus.org|
|Schneider Electric, 888/778-2733. www.schneider-electric.us|
|Seyfert GmbH, 33 32-650-5500. www.seyfert.de|
|Zebra Technologies, 866/230-9494. www.zebra.com|
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,
The compact layout of all of the integrated equipment on the line, such as the numerous intermachine conveyors, four labelers, the checkweigher and sorter, the case elevator and the lane divider for packaging upstream from the palletizer, optimizes use of floorspace,
Atypical methods to orient products and packages,
Access to machine data from the champagne house's intranet,
A new patented system for pre-stacking two or three complete pallet layers that enables the palletizer to achieve a maximum speed of 8.5 layers/min without an increase in the machine's footprint.