The entire sector is talking about digitization and Industry 4.0 – but what do these oft-cited terms actually mean for the beverage industry? One thing is clear: their potential is vast. Digital technologies simplify processes, intelligently network systems with one another and relieve operator workloads. At the same time the digital revolution presents beverage producers and engineering companies with many mighty challenges. As one of the leading systems suppliers KHS is well aware of the significance these complex change processes hold for the success of a business. The Dortmund machine and systems manufacturer is thus driving a number of research and development projects which specifically focus on digital networking and line optimization.
For KHS, one goal of its group strategy is to boost line efficiency and cut down on the amount of resources used such as materials and energy. “When deciding whether we implement an idea or not, it’s the added value for the customer that counts for us,” states Dr.-Ing. Matthias Schopp, head of Engineering Systems at KHS. The Dortmund systems provider thus finds it prudent to enter into close cooperative partnerships with its clients to this end. “These provide the perfect conditions in which to approach new technologies with realistic expectations and with an open mind as to their outcome,” says Schopp. “This is demonstrated by our various sponsorship projects, for instance, where we can experiment with new technologies in a kind of ‘protected space’. This can definitely be referred to as a platform which enables our developers, together with experts outside the company, to try out new ideas that carry a certain risk of implementation.”
Networking and cooperation with research institutes and universities
KHS believes one vital driver of progress to be networking and cooperation with external research institutes and universities. At the time of writing, for example, KHS is involved in a project for additive production in maintenance logistics managed by a research consortium comprising scientists from the TU Dortmund, Ruhr University in Bochum and Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML). In this process, which is also described as 3D printing, components are produced layer by layer. Among other things, this form of manufacture permits complex component structures to be fabricated that cannot be made using conventional methods and are to simplify the production of machines in the future. The 3D printing process also speeds up the supply of spare parts as production is much faster than conventional manufacture. At the moment the selected projects focus on networking, digitization and process optimization, however. “The overriding aim of our research activities is to make our lines and machines even more energy efficient and gentler on resources so that our customers also profit from these projects in the future,” Schopp explains.
Faster filling processes thanks to self-optimizing systems
One research project KHS recently brought to a successful conclusion with its partners bears the name DnSPro . This acronym describes the development of a filling system that is equipped with various sensors and an intelligent logic controller. “The results from this project can form the basis for future filling machines where the machine can perfectly adjust itself to a new project automatically, with the automated variation of filling parameters replacing manual setup procedures,” is how Schopp describes the benefits of the self-optimizing filling system. This development centers on the application of machine learning for perfect adaptation to the bottle form, making the filling process quicker and more efficient.
The project has evolved from a cooperation between five industrial companies and the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences and Ruhr University in Bochum. “Both the cooperation and interdisciplinary development of the machinery were exemplary in this project and will make a major contribution to future product developments,” claims Schopp.