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Brewer finds new printers can save costs

An investment in new coding printers has enabled the UK’s largest private brewery, Wells & Young’s, to boost productivity and cut costs to the extent that it is expected to almost fully recoup its investment after just one year.

The Bedford-based, £189m-turnover business, which was founded in 1876 and produces a range of cask beers and speciality lagers, including the Bombardier, McEwan’s, Estrella Damm and Kirin Ichiban brands, has replaced the aging kit it was using to code bottles, cans, trays and cardboard boxes after the cost of maintaining these machines had escalated significantly.

The company runs both a high-speed canning and a high-speed bottling line, which it uses to produce up to 30,000 bottles/hr and up to 51,000 cans/hr. It also exports more than eight million pints of beer annually to 25 countries around the world, including the US, Canada, Italy and Australia.

Five new A420i and two new A300+ Opaque continuous ink jet printers from Domino, have been installed. Wells & Young’s small pack continuous improvements leader Justin Adams explains his choice: “Our previous coding and marking printers were early model machines, which we hadn’t upgraded. Due to the age of the machines we had a lot of maintenance problems, downtime was high and we had to have a back up machine for each printer in case any of them developed a fault.”

These difficulties, along with the added expense of service agreements and parts, meant that the cost of operating and maintaining its existing coding and marking equipment rose by 20% in 2011.

After getting the green light to replace the outdated equipment, Justin obtained quotes from different coding and marking solution providers and compared the different packages.

“Our calculations revealed that, by choosing these Domino printers, our annual running costs, including ink, would be 50% less than if we opted for some of the other suppliers,” adds Justin.

The new A-series ink jet printers, which have been fully operational since last summer, are being used for both the factory’s bottling and canning lines. 
On its bottling lines the brewery uses the A300+ Opaque printer with Domino’s 253WT white ink to apply twin lines of code onto glass bottles (brown and clear), which range in size from 330ml to 670ml.

The bottles are then placed into a case, via a Kister packaging line, which is then also coded with an A420i printer, using Domino 2BK009 black ink.
On the canning line, the Domino A420i printers are used, with a six metre conduit, to print twin lines of code onto the cans. An OCME tray filler then places the cans onto a tray, with both sides of the tray coded using two of the company’s new A420i machines while another of the company’s new A-series ink jet printers is to be used as a spare, in case of any additional requirements.

Justin explains: “Our investment in Domino solutions has saved us significant costs in terms of maintenance, service agreements and machine downtime.” The coders are covered by a five-year warranty that covers the full cost of ownership for parts and labour. Therefore, the only additional cost for running the printers is the inks. “We’ve been pleased with the sales and service we’ve received from Domino on this project and are now considering further investment in some of their other print and apply label solutions.”

31 January 2013 - Felicity Murray