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Automation boosts competitiveness of heritage beer bottling business

20 February 2013

Edwin Holden’s Bottling Company Limited, based in Sedgley, has a distinct heritage feel which endears it to its long list of ale brewing customers. The business, celebrating its 70th birthday this year, has maintained its heritage while at the same time investing in the latest automation technology.

Flexibility and quality are the two core elements of Holden’s production that attract small to medium sized breweries throughout the UK for its bottling services. A complete rethink of how the business operates has seen investment over the past two years in labelling machinery, conveyors, packaging machinery and more recently in a palletising robot at the end of the processing line.

Mark Hammond, Production Manager of Holden’s and a third generation family member, explained that the level of automation at Holden’s isn’t what you would expect to see in a small business. “Robots are normally associated with large corporations, typically car production, but the investment for us makes sense with a fairly short return on investment (ROI). We need to remain competitive, maintain flexibility and protect staff from risks of repetitive lifting of heavy weights.”

Kawasaki Robotics UK was selected by Holden’s after trials were carried out on all container types to be palletised. Mark Hammond added, “We fill five bottle types and pack into 8 different size cartons varying in weight from 6Kgs to 13 Kgs; so the system design needed to allow for flexibility and fast programme changeovers to allow handling of over 30 tonnes per day.”

After carrying out trials at Kawasaki’s UK facility it was clear that this was achievable and a system was put together by PAK Automation, a Kawasaki Robot system integrator.  With limited production space Holden’s were concerned that installation should not impact on production and installation of the full system, safety guarding and its commissioning was completed in 5 days.

The palletising system comprises an input area for the cartons of beer bottles a Kawasaki FD-50N Palletising Robot and a pallet positioning area. Pallets are manually positioned into the guarded area of the robot cell and the robot accurately positions cartons in a pre-programmed pattern. A cardboard separator is positioned, by the robot, onto the top of each layer when complete. Full pallets are removed manually and the cycle repeats.

“To meet exacting packaging requirements it is crucial that pallets are packed neatly and consistently – we now achieve this requirement allowing operators to be more productive in less physical tasks,” continued Mark.

Basic operator training has been provided to Holden’s by Kawasaki Robots and a more advanced programming course will be attended by Holden’s in the near future, however the levels provided to date illustrate well the ease of integration of robotics into the existing facility and processes.

For further information, please contact Jim Carr:

Kawasaki Robotics UK Ltd
, Unit 4, Easter Court, Europa Boulevard, Warrington WA5 7ZB Tel +44 (0)1925 713000 email:  Visit our web site: are not responsible for the content of submitted or externally produced articles and images.
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