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Lion Dairy and Drinks is the company behind some of Australia’s most iconic juice brands, including Berri, Daily Juice and Just Juice. Hundreds of thousands of bottles pass through its plant in Smithfield, Sydney, every day – and the process is now easier and more streamlined than ever, thanks to new automation from Foodmach.
In the face of changing juice consumer preferences in Australia, Lion has made a shift to producing a wider variety of premium and specialist beverage products. What this means from a production point of view is that Lion is producing a greater number of SKUs in a range of PET and HDPE bottles in sizes from 250ml to 3L – but at reduced production volumes for each format. The upshot is that it needs fewer production lines but ones that are highly agile, allowing quick changeovers with minimum downtime, while maximising production efficiency.
The company downsized four beverage production lines to two, and repurposed some existing equipment along the way, while also integrating a high level of connectivity between all the equipment to bring the factory closer to Industry 4.0 standards.
“The objectives were to create a consolidated and efficient packaging process that allowed us to provide better quality and value to our customers, as well as unlocking the full potential of some of our existing assets,” Michael Riches, Engineering Leader, Lion says. “It essentially reduced four juice bottling lines down to two by turbocharging the secondary and tertiary packaging lines.”
Integration, automation and end-of-line solution specialist Foodmach was chosen to execute the project, that involved the design and supply of two filling lines, including an empty and full bottle conveying system, the end-of-line Robomatrix palletising system for both lines and a centralised high-speed, rotary ring Robopac stretch wrapper.
Foodmach also reintegrated the existing line equipment such as bottle unscramblers, bottle debaggers, bottle labellers, pack labellers, bottle fillers and spiral elevators.
“The equipment was specified to transform a site with essentially zero ability to generate meaningful production data into one that could. This data will be used to generate projects focused on operational efficiencies and waste reduction,” Riches says.
One of the challenges of the project was installing an end-of-line system that would operate efficiently in a chilled environment.
“Installation of the palletising and stretch wrapping system in the cool store was critical to ensure that we were able to get our product from mixing to a chilled environment to ensure cold chain compliance,” Riches says.
To enable this, the cool store had to be increased by 30 per cent; this meant the Lion team had to work closely with Foodmach in redesigning the palletising system to fit and work within the confines of the existing factory footprint, and to ensure it was suitable for a cool store environment.
“Foodmach was able to modify the design of the Robomatrix palletiser to suit this new application. We were very happy to be able to provide this service to Lion in order to meet their changing needs. Our local engineering and fabrication expertise allows this level of support in contrast to what's available via off-shore suppliers,” Earle Roberts, CCO at Foodmach, says.
“Foodmach was able to offer everything including conceptual designs, fabrication, installation, automation, and control. The key benefit was the ability to take an asset that was no longer required and repurpose it for a major turnaround project for the site,” Riches says.
“The Robopac stretch wrapper was evaluated through our normal procurement processes; it was the best fit for our requirements, was good value for money, and—with Foodmach as the agent—allowed for seamless integration.”
“The Robopac stretch wrapper met our production rates of 100 pallets per hour; was capable of operating in a cool store environment; met our site-specific electrical and automation specifications; was at the right price point and rated well in total cost of ownership; and, importantly, Foodmach met our project timelines.”
Commenting on the partnership between Lion and Foodmach, Riches says: “We have completed a number of successful projects with Foodmach across various sites, and have learned a lot from each other.”