Ergomodul: #GermanBlingBling out of tradition

It all began at Krones with labelling technology. It was a semi-automatic labeller that marked the birth of Krones in 1951. And it was its fully automatic successors that in the 1960s achieved the firm’s international breakthrough. Since then, of course, quite a lot of things have happened. The regional machinery manufacturer has evolved into a globe-girdling technology conglomerate. The erstwhile underdog has grown into a big player.

And labelling technology? This, too, evolved contemporaneously. Whether cold-glue or hotmelt, precut or reel-fed labels, tax strips or other specialised applications: bit by bit, Krones’ machines eventually covered all the variants of labelling modes. They increased their output many times over. Whereas the fully automatic machines of 1956 could only manage 4,000 bottles per hour, present-day high-speed models produce the same number in a few short minutes.

A new generation is born

“Mission accomplished”, one might think. And nonetheless Krones’ labelling technology is currently undergoing the biggest development thrust in its more than sixty years of history. Because by drinktec 2017, all labellers (with the exception of the linear and sleeving models) will have been incorporated in a harmonised modular system, which will in future cover all dress variants and output sizes. At the same time, the entire technology is being comprehensively rejuvenated – after all, it’s tasked with being able to meet and master the challenges of a long-term future.

The responsibility for this mammoth project rests with Andreas Kraus, Head of Development Labelling Technology, together with Stefan Rossmann and Tobias Eichhammer. The three R&D guys are all too well aware of the opportunities, but also the stumbling-blocks of their remit: “Krones’ labelling technology has been continually evolving for decades,” as Andreas Kraus reminds us, “and that’s our yardstick, of course.” So for him and his two colleagues, there was never any question of breaking with tradition and re-inventing the wheel. “It was important to achieve another proper quantum leap forward, particularly in terms of ergonomics and efficiency,” to quote Andreas Kraus, “otherwise we’ve maintained a healthy balance between innovative ideas on the one hand, and field-proven design on the other.”


The project managers behind the new generation of machines, from the left: Tobias Eichhammer, Stefan Rossmann and Andreas Kraus

Three types of machine, from high-end to classical

Not the least of the reasons behind Krones’ success is its strategy of responsively identifying and meeting the individual needs of its different clients, both small and large. This is why the new generation of labellers is divided into three types: the technological front-runner here is the Ergomodul. It consists of a slim basic machine, around which the individual labelling stations are radially arranged. For operator control and maintenance work, this construction is an enormous advantage, since it means the stations are freely accessible almost in their entirety. And because they are not permanently attached to the machine, but merely docked onto it, they can be replaced at need. So which labelling processes ultimately get used on a machine is left entirely to the client’s imagination, since the Ergomodul can be combined with all available station types.

The second series from the new generation is well-nigh identical to the Ergomodul. However, here the stations are permanently installed on the basic machine, so that each model is specialised in a particular labelling process. A difference that’s also reflected in the nomenclature: because depending on the labelling process selected, each model has its own first name, so to speak, such as “Autocol” or “Ergomatic”, then followed by the shared family name “Pro”.

If you simply omit this family name, you finally arrive at the third series of the new generation. In contrast to the Ergomodul and the Pro series, it features a classical design with a machine table. A high-end machine is not the product of choice for everyone, is how Andreas Kraus explains the thinking behind this. “The tabletop machines are the perfect option for all those clients who want to have a dependable, high-performance machine in their production line without necessarily feeling they need to incorporate all the options offered by the very latest technology.”

An easy decision

Besides the three series of machines, the new modularised choice of labellers also incorporates two different types of station, each with a name of its own: the designation “ED” stands for “Ergonomic Design”, and thus for stations that not only render the machine easier for the operator to control, but also, for example, diverge from the standard in some of their functions. The stations with the abbreviation “CL” for “Classic” are technically a little simpler in design, but in return also cost less.

Three types of machine, two series of stations: the more alternatives there are, the more difficult it proverbially is to choose between them. But in the case of the new labellers, a decision in favour of one technology and against another is fortunately not a final one. Because firstly the modularised machines with permanently installed stations can be upgraded to the more flexible variant. And secondly, the two different types of station can be freely combined with each other – even over all three types of machine.

Don’t miss it: as from 8 November live at the BrauBeviale

So far, 16 models of the new system have already gone into operation, not least at the Augustiner-Bräu brewery in Munich and at the craft beer rebels of Crew Republic. Four other machines are currently being prepared for their debuts at Krones clients. One of them will be stopping off briefly at the BrauBeviale. So if you want to learn more about this new generation of machines, you should definitely drop by at the Krones stand where curious visitors will find an Ergomatic Pro cold-glue machine with two Classic stations.