Velké Popovice invests in a turnkey KHS line designed around the high-performance Innofill Glass DRS ECO filler

Sustainable production thanks to efficient filling technology
Velké Popovice invests in a turnkey KHS line designed around the high-performance Innofill Glass DRS ECO filler
Photo - KHS

The Czech brewery Velké Popovice is the next well-known bottler to rely on groundbreaking technology from KHS: At the heart of a new glass line is the Innofill Glass DRS ECO filler. By investing in a complete system from the Dortmund-based system provider and long-standing partner, the beer producer is once again underlining how important product quality and optimal taste are to it – as well as the use of particularly sustainable developments. For example, Velké Popovice uses the beer to be bottled to cool the vacuum pump and thus save energy. With the installation of the remaining dry end in the line, which is planned for the beginning of next year, the brewery is thus relying exclusively on KHS technology – including integrated digital service solutions.

Photo - KHS

For many years, both companies have been striving to continuously refine the art of brewing with the help of state-of-the-art technology. Together, they not only shape the future, but also look back on a similarly long and eventful history. In 1874, while the first beer was bottled in a 60-hectolitre brewing kettle in the Czech town of Velké Popovice, KHS began its journey from an apparatus dealer to a global partner to the beverage industry in a backyard in Dortmund in 1868. Today, one of the world's most popular Czech beers, Velkopopovický Kozel, is brewed in the municipality, which is located about 20 kilometers southeast of Prague. As one of the world's leading full-service suppliers in its industry, KHS offers forward-looking technologies – including the flexible, high-performance Innofill Glass DRS ECO filler. The close ties between the two partners over decades are the logical consequence.

Photo - KHS

Commissioning in two parts

A few years ago, when the people in charge at Velké Popovice decided to replace a competitor's previous glass line, KHS was a deliberate choice. "We want to impress our customers with the best beer quality and unique taste. The new glass filler is the perfect machine to meet these high demands. With more than 150 years of expertise, KHS is state-of-the-art for us in the field of filling technology," explains Martin Šebek, Packaging Manager at Velké Popovice. The entire wet end of the line, which also includes the Innoclean DM bottle washer, the Innopas SX tunnel pasteurizer and the Innoket Neo Flex modular labeling machine, was finally successfully commissioned in spring 2022. At the beginning of next year, the second phase will be followed by the finalization of the remaining dry end.

Photo - KHS

From then on, the brewery will bottle Velkopopovický Kozel beers as light and dark lagers in 0.5-liter bottles entirely with KHS: In addition to the new glass line with an output of up to 50,000 bottles per hour, Šebek and his team on site already rely on a keg system from KHS for up to 300 kegs per hour. Other locations of the brewery group also rely on KHS technology. This includes a canning line from the Radegast brewery in Nošovice. At the Pilsen site, where the world-famous Pilsner Urquell is produced, a canning line and recently a new reusable glass line are also in use. Together with Velké Popovice, the three bottlers are subsidiaries of Plzeňský Prazdroj a.s., which in turn is part of Asahi Europe & International.

"Know requirements and challenges down to the last detail"

"As early as the end of the 1980s, our first machines went to Pilsner Urquell. Since then, a trusting partnership has developed, which we have intensified on both sides over the years. In both filling and packaging technology, we know the requirements and challenges of the customer's various production sites down to the last detail," explains Lubomir Neubauer, Area Sales Manager Czech Republic and Slovakia at KHS.

One of them concerns the avoidance of production downtimes over several weeks, which were threatened by the replacement of the previous glass line with the new system. To prevent this from happening, Velké Popovice decided to implement the new installation in two phases. While the wet end has already been installed, the addition of the dry end will follow at the beginning of the new year as part of a specially built hall. Another customer requirement was far trickier to implement: cooling the vacuum pump of the glass filler with the beer to be bottled afterwards. "Although the customer was enthusiastic about our proposal, he was concerned about the possible impact on product quality," says Neubauer.

Individual adaptations for the implementation of customer requirements

The KHS experts were able to quickly dispel these concerns. "The process neither affects the taste of the beer nor does it foam," Neubauer promised. The solution, which is being used for the first time in the world, is well thought-out: Velké Popovice already bottles its beers between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius. The low temperature is sufficient to cool the vacuum pump sufficiently, eliminating the need for additional cooling. In this process, the beer temperature only increases by 1 degree Celsius, which is within the tolerance. Individual adjustments were made to the machine for the implementation: The beer flows through a heat exchanger, which in turn cools an intermediate medium. This circuit finally leads via a circulation pump to the vacuum pump, where the so-called sealing water is cooled. The process is crucial, because without the adjustments, the equipment would heat up and warm water would evaporate when the vacuum is created – thus increasing the negative pressure. However, this must be as deep as possible in order to draw the oxygen from the bottle, which is harmful to the beer, during bottling. "The vacuum pump has an energy requirement or an operating capacity of up to 16 kilowatts per hour. This electrical power corresponds to the power of the cooling, which is now saved. The resulting reduction in energy consumption is not insignificant and can therefore also be implemented by other breweries," explains Neubauer. In any case, this is already reduced by up to 20 percent in the vacuum pump of the Innofill Glass DRS ECO due to a reduced suction power – with optimal results. "Within the entire brewery group, we are taking a green approach and want to save water, energy and other media. With the new KHS line, we are taking the next steps towards becoming a climate-neutral company," says Šebek.

CO2-Consumption reduced by up to 60 percent

In particular, CO2consumption of the Innofill Glass DRS ECO filler, which is up to 60 percent lower than that of other systems on the market. The lower this is per bottle, the more effective the brewing process, and the lower the oxygen uptake, the higher the product quality – an important criterion for the Czech bottler. Usually, a lot of CO is needed to achieve this goal.2 which significantly increases costs for breweries due to the high price of carbon dioxide. With the new KHS fountain pen, these two poles are in perfect harmony. According to Velké Popovice, the CO2consumption at around 0.2 kilograms per hectolitre. "Compared to the previous machine, there has been a significant reduction, and by the way, the quality of our beers has improved even further," says Šebek.

Improve performance

KHS also impressed with its digital services. Thanks to the smart remote maintenance system ReDiS, possible system failures can be avoided in the future, and even an improvement in performance is realistic, according to Šebek. As part of the additional installation around the dry end of the line, the brewery will rely on the Innoline MES production system in the future. As an integrated overall IT solution, it supports the planning and execution of corresponding orders for the plant. "This will bring us further advantages for production and further increase flexibility and line efficiency," Šebek is certain. "It was important to us that KHS meet the many requirements as a reliable partner. I am more than confident that we will look forward to this project with full satisfaction once the entire lines have been installed."

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