Amateur cooks can quickly conjure up a gourmet meal with the help of stocks, spice mixtures or pre-cooked vegetables. Kühne was a pioneer in this field from the very beginning: As early as in 1954, consumers were amazed at table-ready red cabbage. Today, it is impossible to imagine many households without the delicatessen products from the Hamburg-based family business. Kühne is the market leader in several categories and as such relies on high efficiency – in both production and packaging. In order to pack its growing product range quickly and with the flexibility available today, Kühne is using two robot-assisted TLM machines from Schubert for the first time. With a connection to the networked GRIPS.world platform and simple format changes, the system now packs barbecue sauces, remoulade and vinaigrettes into cartons in eight different formats – sustainably and very efficiently.
A tasty sauce enhances any meal. It is often a speciality from Kühne that adds the finishing touch to fine dishes. Since 1722, the company has been developing delicious innovations that reflect the nutritional and cooking habits of their time, under the motto “Food that is simply good”. It all started with the first bottled vinegar, followed by pickled cucumbers, red cabbage, salad dressings, mustards and BBQ sauces – until finally, with the vegetable snacks, the consumer’s demand for “better” snacks was fulfilled. The company’s consistent focus on consumer expectations is also confirmed by its achieving a regular place among the top ten in GfK’s buyer reach ranking.
To maintain this position and the favour of buyers over the long term, Kühne is also increasingly focusing on production and packaging processes that are sustainable and efficiently controlled. The commissioning of two robot-assisted packaging systems from Schubert represents a further decisive step in this direction. The almost identical lines have been packaging barbecue sauce bottles and remoulade jars into cartons quickly and flexibly since July 2020. The new TLM systems bring a sense of calm to production: The sensitive glass packages are now grouped by pick & place robots instead of the usual grouping chain.
Quiet and unbreakable without a grouping chain
“Due to the high noise level and risk of breakage, the production managers at Kühne wanted an alternative to the grouping chain,” says Andreas Keller, Sales Account Manager at Schubert, describing the impetus for the robot technology. “For format changes, for example, from remoulade jars to sauce bottles, the employees also previously had to schedule around two shifts,” explains Keller. And in the highly competitive B2C food market, this represented a time span that Kühne could and would no longer tolerate. This alone has made the switch to Schubert systems worthwhile: The flexible solution now manages the changeover in a maximum of 20 minutes. The grippers of the F4 robots for the products (with bayonet lock), magazine plates, box folding frames as well as the Transmodul pick-up plates are all changed. After the changeover, the system then simply continues to run with high quality immediately and without ramp-up times.
Two lines for eight formats
Due to two different performance levels of the upstream filling stations, Kühne ordered two packaging lines at the same time, which only differed by the fact that the line for packaging two formats of the remoulades in jars required two more F4 robots. The other line currently packs six formats of the “Made for Meat” barbecue sauces in various sizes, as well as round glass bottles of salad dressings (vinaigrettes). On both lines, the packaging process takes place in counterflow. Schubert’s Transmodul transport robot combines the process steps with exceptional efficiency: Two carton blanks at a time are destacked, erected and placed on the Transmodul. Pick & place robots take two bottles at a time from the product conveyor and place the desired number of bottles or jars to be packed on the Transmodul with the erected boxes. The Transmodul moves to the next station, where the two finished bottle or jar formations are gripped by an F2 robot and placed into the boxes. At the last station, another F2 robot seals the cartons and places them onto an outfeed conveyor.
Packed sustainably with Big Data and GRIPS.world
Big Data is the new currency in the packaging industry, as well as everywhere else. But storing machine data alone is not enough. If you want to profit from sustainable packaging machines, you need a meaningful analysis of the important key figures and one-hundred-per-cent protection against attacks from the Internet. Schubert makes both possible: A GS.Gate is integrated into every new TLM line as an industrial gateway. This is also the case with Kühne. Schubert’s GS.Gate gateway evaluates all machine data and networks the Kühne lines with the GRIPS.world digital platform while adhering to the highest security standards. Based on the current production data and reports that are generated automatically on a weekly basis, optimisation potential for the entire packaging process can be identified. For example, the targeted analysis of error messages increases machine availability.
Evaluation in detail and in real time
Until now, Kühne used an OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) calculation program for its production meetings, which obtained part of its data from records from the machine operators on individual production lines. However, these records did not consistently list the interruption times because the elimination of a malfunction naturally took priority over the documentation process for the machine operators. This resulted in certain inaccuracies in the documentation, which the company urgently wanted to minimise. To this end, Kühne and Schubert are now working hand in hand on a new type of evaluation, as the new customer has allowed Schubert access to the platform.
“We are grateful for the trust Kühne has placed in us,” Keller says. He looks forward to exploring the digital solution further with the manufacturer. Stefan Knoth, from Technical Support at Kühne, agrees and is already entirely convinced: “Compared with our previous method, it is a real advantage that we now have a tool that automatically records the reasons for disruptions and downtimes. The weekly report provided by Schubert for this purpose provides an initial overview of the entire line’s performance. Detailed statements are possible with the program’s extensive analysis functions. Another highlight is the ECO dashboard for recording and evaluating power and compressed air consumption. This allows us to provide detailed data to our energy management system.” He also sees the possibility of exporting the processed data as a useful add-on and using it for further evaluations. “In the future, together with Schubert’s system development department, we intend to integrate further upstream and downstream machines into the system to process error messages from these systems as plain text in real time. We now have a powerful tool that provides us with excellent support in systems analysis and increased overall line effectiveness,” adds Knoth.
Increased efficiency in every respect
Christian Instenberg, Head of Technical Support at Kühne, is already very excited about the additional possibilities that GRIPS.world can offer and confirms this: “The fact that the decision in favour of Schubert increases the efficiency of our processes has already been proven by the rapid format changeover.” His colleague Stefan Knoth is also enthusiastic: “We are already achieving 20% more output than before, according to the OEE evaluation. The Schubert family has done an excellent job.” Kühne is well equipped for the future with the Schubert systems: They can be extended for other formats without much effort. After all, the market leader in convenience products has often shown that new product ideas are very well received by consumers.
Gerhard Schubert GmbH packaging machines
Tel: +49 7951 400-0