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The digital revolution in the beverage industry


2019-09-06

The entire sector is talking about digitisation and Industry 4.0. Digital technologies simplify processes, intelligently network systems with one another and reduce operator workloads. At the same time the digital revolution presents beverage producers and engineering companies with many huge challenges. As one of the leading systems suppliers KHS is well aware of how important these complex change processes are for a company's success and is therefore
driving a number of R&D projects with a special focus on digital networking and line optimisation.
A primary focus at KHS is to boost line efficiency and reduce materials and energy consumption. To ensure added value, KHS enters into close collaborative partnerships with its clients. This provides the conditions necessary for approaching new technologies with realistic expectations and an open mind as to their outcome.
This is illustrated by sponsorship projects where KHS experiments with new technologies in a kind of 'protected space' that allows its developers, together with outside experts, to try out new ideas.
Working with research institutes and universities
KHS views networking and collaboration with external research institutes and universities to be a vital driver of progress. For example, KHS is part of a high-tech consortium working on a project for additive production ‒ 3D printing ‒ in maintenance logistics. Besides simplifying the production of machines in the future, 3D printing also speeds up the supply of spare parts. However, at the moment, the selected projects focus on networking, digitisation and process optimisation.
Faster thanks to self-optimising systems
The focus of the completed DnSPro research project was on sensor-based subsystems with decentralised cooperation for Industry 4.0 production systems. Sponsored by Germany's Federal Ministry of Research, the project revolved around developing a filling system that is equipped with various sensors and an intelligent logic controller so that the machine can perfectly adjust itself to a new project automatically, with the automated adjustment of filling parameters replacing manual setup procedures.
Line optimisation boosts sustainability
When developing new products KHS attaches particular importance to efficiency which includes reducing consumption of materials and energy and optimising lines and machines. KHS reports it is constantly working to make its systems even more efficient. Each component, however small, is therefore seen as an important part of the whole. It expects to gain new impetus for this work from the EnAP project which revolves around applying energy-efficient drive technology in production. The consortium involved in this project is working to devise energy-saving concepts and line optimisation processes that can be used in pneumatic and electrical handling systems. 
Funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the project not only aims to help save energy and resources but also to enable the beverage industry to keep its overall operating costs down to a minimum.
Digital tech reduces operator workloads
Another focus for KHS is the interaction between man and machine. Its work on designing self-learning and self-optimising systems aims to make the operation of the increasingly complex technology needed to meet growing market requirements easier for human operators.
At the moment KHS is exploring the basic principles in this area through the CyProAssist project which is developing a production assistance system which supports optimum human machine operation.
Brewery profits from digital technology
KHS’ collaboration with the Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus brewery shows that the use of digital technology in the beverage industry is no longer a vision for the future but already reality. The systems engineer recently supplied its long-standing customer with an Innofill Glass DRS glass bottler which includes many additional digital functions, such as a camera-controlled high-pressure injection control system called Opticam. This produces a fine jet of water which displaces the residual oxygen from the filled bottle, making a significant contribution to the quality and shelf life of the beer. Using the Opticam, the head of foam to be continuously monitored and controlled without operator intervention.
Thanks to this system, the brewery can not only reduce beer loss due to excessive foaming but also detect and reject bottles with insufficient foaming. The new DIAS diagnostic assistance system also has a positive effect on the filling process. Sensors in every single filling valve ensure constant monitoring and visualisation during filling. As a result, any deviations from the target values are immediately detected. In addition, the evacuation and CO2 purging processes are monitored to ensure low oxygen pickup. Broken bottles are consistently detected and damaged bottles automatically rejected. The sensor data can be retrieved at any time and used to statistically evaluate results. This information can be used to detect and eliminate possible future sources of production errors in advance. In practice this not only enables fast, targeted repairs and reduces operator workloads, it also provides a starting point for maintenance work, said KHS.