Journey to the centre of the machine

In the last few months, there was only one overriding issue here at Krones: the drinktec 2017. This is the world’s biggest trade fair for the international beverage industry, and Krones was there to be marvelled at in Hall B6 on a stand measuring approximately 11,000 square metres. I myself was also there for a day, to admire the high tide of innovations on Krones’ stand at the fair. And not only that: I also visited my colleagues from Information Management there. Firstly those who every four years make sure that all the IT technology works perfectly, and that the team on the stand can do their work just as if they were sitting in head office at Neutraubling. This support team was on the spot for the entire week of the fair, and provided prompt assistance if a printer failed, for example, or if there were other problems with the IT infrastructure. This is the time to say: well done guys, you did a brilliant job yet again – we’re all gratefully appreciative!

I also visited my other colleagues, who this time presented a highlight of our presence at the fair. Together with the Research & Development people, we showcased presented augmented reality as exemplified by the Bottling on Demand concept study.

What is “Bottling on Demand”? In order to meet consumers’ wishes for a maximally wide choice, our clients have to be able to respond immediately to individualised requirements. For the drinktec, a pilot system was developed, able to demonstrate how in future products can be filled and packaged on a just-in-time basis – without order-picking, without warehousing.

And what is meant by the term “Augmented Reality”? It denotes computer-aided extension of how we perceive reality. If you occasionally watch a football match on TV, then you must have seen distances being superimposed on the picture for free kicks with the aid of a circle or a line. This is augmented reality.

So, now all the explanations are out of the way, I’ll tell you precisely what was on show at the fair. When I arrived, the stand was really crowded, and all my colleagues were talking to clients. So first of all, I watched the video, which shows a summary of the guide tour round the stand, and then I could hardly wait to finally experience hands-on what I’d just seen.

The next stop was a high table, where I found the requisite data glasses – in our case the Microsoft HoloLens.

The whole thing now came into focus, quite literally. My colleague Viktor Kister explained to me how the glasses worked, and how to adjust them properly on my face. I have to say, it wasn’t all that easy: even a slight change to the angle has a sizeable effect on your field of view. You have to experiment a bit before you arrive at the right position. And if you wear glasses yourself anyway, then it gets a bit more complicated. But at last the glasses were properly positioned, and I could start.


The HoloLens enabled me to familiarise myself with Bottling on Demand. The system on show at the drinktec comprised three modules: the bottle feed on the left, direct bottle printing in the middle, and on the right the bottle was filled and closed. With the glasses, I was able to see the real machine and in addition a digital model of the machine. Furthermore, real-time data were superimposed, such as the order ID of the bottle to be produced, the number of bottles produced and the machine’s current status. This means the user has the machine and the production data directly in his field of view.

The next thing I did was put myself in the position of a fitter who is tasked with repairing the gripper arm that moves the bottle to the bottle printer, and for this purpose receives a virtual service and installation manual. I placed myself in front of machine’s middle module. A simulation showed me how the gripper arm has to be dismantled step by step: this was visualised with written instructions and by means of exploded drawings. I thought it was absolutely fascinating, and I can well understand that this will make maintenance or repair jobs quite a lot easier for our service technicians – after all, you’re guided step by step through the entire operation, and get precise instructions and drawings.

How I moved on to the machine’s right-hand module, where I saw a simulation designed to help you to top up consumables while the machine is in operation. In our case, it was topping up the bottle closures. I was able to observe how the empty magazine moves out and how it is gradually filled with blue closures. The individual steps of the procedure were once again superimposed directly on the field of view. In the simulation, at least, the procedure didn’t look all that difficult. J

In future, it’s certainly conceivable, for instance, that we shall be training our service technicians with this new technology. However, at the moment I can’t imagine working for long periods with the Microsoft HoloLens, since the glasses start to feel very heavy after a time and begin to pinch. But as is the case with all new trends, this will doubtless soon be remedied, and the wearing comfort will be improved.

Once I took the glasses off, I was back in reality, and it was time to say a sincere thank you once again to Viktor Kister and his team for all their excellent work and for taking me along on a journey to the centre of the machine.