More flexibility in wine-bottle labelling

New generation of labellers impresses winegrowers’ cooperative

Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany has an affiliation with wine production, one that remains unmatched by practically all the other federal states. The state emblem even bears a crown of vine leaves. Six of the 13 German cultivation areas belong to Rhineland-Palatinate: Ahr, Middle Rhine, Mosel, Nahe, Palatinate and Rheinhessen. Here, 6,550 wineries produce around six million hectolitres of wine on a total of 64,845 hectares of land each year. This means that every third bottle purchased in Germany stems from this region.

A pioneer of viticulture in Rhineland-Palatinate is the winegrowers’ cooperative Vier Jahreszeiten Winzer eG in Bad Dürkheim. Founded in the year 1900, it was one of the first cooperatives of its kind in this area. Today it joins together 300 wine producers and four cooperatives, all of whom have one thing in common - a focus on providing high quality.

Vier Jahreszeiten Winzer eG not only places great importance on the quality of its wines, but also on having a modern production plant. Only 20 kilometers away from its headquarters in Bad Dürkheim and surrounded by vineyards, the winegrowers’ cooperative set up another production site in 2021/2022 - equipped with the latest machine technology. For its bottle labelling, Vier Jahreszeiten continues to place its trust in the Bavarian labeller manufacturer Gernep, whose combination machine for self-adhesive and wet-glue labels has already been in use in Bad Dürkheim since 2006. 

Technical and visual upgrades of the new machine generation
The new bottling line is equipped with modern machinery. One of the line’s many highlights is the Gernep labeller with its visual and technical innovations. “For us, this contract was special – not only because it was our largest winery project in Rhineland-Palatinate, but also because it was one of the first new-generation combination machines that we manufactured,” is how Martin Hammerschmid, CEO of Gernep, remembered it. The product range of such a major winegrowers’ cooperative is so extensive that only one combination machine will do: the Labetta 3/3/18 1440 2A 3SK SD equipped with three self-adhesive and two wet-glue labelling stations. As a result, the wine producers benefit from the flexible and diverse design options offered by self-adhesive labels, as well as from the less expensive wet-glue option often used in the wine industry for back labels. 
Gernep was asked to design a labeller for five different bottle formats: 0.75 litre Bordeaux, 0.75 litre Burgundy, 0.75 litre Schlegel, 1.0 litre Bordeaux and 1.0 litre Schlegel. The individual formats with 18 different label sizes (front, rear and neck-around labels) can be saved in the type memory and simply called up at the touch of a button. All in all, it is used to apply labels to 200 different wines, sparkling wines and seccos. All the other products, such as the small 0.25 litre bottles, continue to be labelled with a Gernep labeller. 
The new generation of Gernep combination machines is unique in its ability to integrate a variety of gluing systems on just one machine. The reason for this is the newly developed pre-modular labeller suspension system which catches your eye immediately. From a technical viewpoint, it has the advantage that the labeller offers the customer a high level of flexibility thanks to its pre-modularity. The labelling stations can be attached at a variety of positions so that they can be easily moved or swapped and allow the customer to remain flexible for any future changes. For Gernep on the other hand, this engineering concept is a type of serial production. The development also focussed on improved operator usability. Thanks to the closed housing around the labelling station, all cables are securely stored away and the exterior of the labelling stations is easy to clean. A further major benefit when it comes to the operation of the new labelling station suspension is the fact that the wet-glue labelling stations are no longer installed inside the machine. As a result, the automatic gluing system can also be adjusted while the machine is in operation.
The newly designed SecureLift lift-guard also ensures the labellers can be used with optimum effect. Geared to maximum security, it simplifies maintenance and cleaning work considerably. Thanks to the Gernep pull system, it can be easily opened and closed with just one hand. The accessibility to the machine carrousel has therefore never been so simple. 
The efficiency of the labeller was also very important to the winegrowers’ cooperative. Every year they fill 5.5 million bottles of white, red and rosé wines, as well as sparkling wine and secco. This is why the labeller is entirely equipped with Gernep ServoMotion, meaning that all the main components are driven with servomotors to label 11,000 bottles per hour. As a result, the combination machine is far more energy-efficient as less power is required at the main drive. The servo-driven wet-glue labelling stations deserve a special mention. The Labetta is equipped with a total of two wet-glue labelling stations from the new 207 generation which ensures the highest labelling accuracy thanks to its unique simulated cam control. The cam calculation was developed back in 2019 in a collaboration between Krones AG and Gernep. The orientation and pivoting of the glue pallets are precisely adjustable with a handwheel on the side of the housing. Servo-driven labelling stations can be designed to save considerably more space than mechanical labelling stations and can thus be positioned at the machine table with more flexibility. This results not only in a more compact machine design but can also react more precisely to the length and composition of the labels. The servo-driven infeed worm makes a bottle stop obsolete and allows the equipment to operate more smoothly. Here, the speed can be adjusted in line with the container size which in turn leads to a smooth, consistent container infeed. 

Optimally prepared for future demands 
Gernep’s new machine generation is also flexible when it comes to the label decoration. Inspection systems and code/dating systems, as well as special seal labels, however, do not need to be integrated right from the beginning. In such cases, the labeller is merely prepared for such an option and, if required, can be retrofitted to include the corresponding equipment in the blink of an eye. “In an optimal scenario, a labeller only needs to be replaced every 10 to 20 years. This is why it is extremely important for us to be in a position to perform retrofits and make changes to the machine in the future, in order to meet current market demands regarding product decoration,” Rüdiger Damian, CEO of Vier Jahreszeiten Winzer eG explained. As a precautionary measure, the labeller was therefore prepared for the later inclusion of a camera orientation system, so that the positioning of the labels can also be checked down to the last millimetre. To do so, both in-house and external camera systems can be integrated with ease if required. Furthermore, code printers and laser code/dating devices can also be included, as well as an additional applicator for the labelling of tamper-evident seals. “The pre-modular machine series from Gernep immediately impressed us with its flexibility. We are proud to be one of the first companies to have the new combination machine in operation,” Volker Richter, the technical plant manager, commented. Vier Jahreszeiten Winzer eG is thus best prepared for future demands and can start the new wine harvest in the autumn of 2023 equipped with two Gernep labellers.

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