One of six Coca-Cola HBC sites to have received a new canning line from KHS in 2020 is Edelstal in Austria. The system was delivered, installed and commissioned in a remarkably short time – and under quite extraordinary conditions. KHS had been chosen once again by Coca-Cola HBC thanks to a long and trusting partnership.
Edelstal is an idyllic village that’s home to just 800 people in the north of the Burgenland province. At the entrance to the village stands Coca-Cola HBC Austria’s production and logistics center that covers an area approximately the same size as the whole of Edelstal. In order to gain an impression of just how large the plant is, simply note that the factory roof sports one of the largest photovoltaic systems in Austria.
In 2003, the world’s third-largest bottler of the Coca-Cola brand had taken over the plant from Römerquelle. Following the takeover, the site was gradually expanded and modernised in the space of just ten years until it ultimately replaced the former Coca-Cola production facility in Vienna and a factory in neighbouring Slovakia. Since 2013, almost all of the soft drinks for the Austrian market have been filled at and distributed nationwide from the state-of-the-art filling and logistics center in Edelstal. There are currently eleven production lines in operation in Edelstal: three of these bottle mineral water on a classic PET line, a glass line and an ultraclean PET line for sensitive products. On the other seven lines – three for PET, one for glass, one for bag-in-box and two for kegs – soft drinks, energy drinks, juice and syrup are processed. The latest milestone in the history of the production site is its first-ever canning line commissioned last year by KHS.
“Cans are a completely new category of primary packaging for us, and metal is a material that we haven’t yet used to date,” Patrick Redl, plant manager declares. “When designing the line, we found it very important that the technology is future-proof in all respects and that it gives us the greatest possible flexibility with regard to future market trends and product innovations.” Even at the initial development stage of the new line layout KHS had many constructive suggestions to make as to how this could be later extended with little effort – such as by adding a pasteuriser, an extra packaging machine or a half pallet processing option. “The line wasn’t nicknamed ‘The Iron Unicorn’ for nothing. This implies that our ‘magical creature’ can do practically anything except sing and dance. We even called our production manager ‘Iron Man’ to match!” grins Redl.
The project was extremely complex primarily because it affected the entire plant. The first of many challenges was the tight schedule. “In October 2019, we were tasked with installing and commissioning a canning line by June 2020,” the plant manager recalls. “This was ambitious timing. Not least because of the official approvals needed.” Before KHS could deliver the machines for the new canning line, the old warehouse had to be revamped. This was despite the fact that another complication had cropped up in the meantime – with the Covid-19 pandemic. Right from day one, the top priority was to protect all employees, the KHS installation team and all other subcontractors busy in Edelstal. The restrictions imposed as a result naturally didn’t make work any easier. Nevertheless, a safe space was created where all those involved were able to fully concentrate on the installation of the line.
Ultimately, despite the adverse circumstances, the deadline for the start of beverage production could be met. This is also thanks to the efforts of the committed crew made up of personnel from both Coca-Cola HBC and KHS, believes Redl. “They did fantastic work every single day. What I found most important was that there was permanent coordination, the feeling that everyone was working closely together from planning through preparation to installation – and that they still are. I am extremely proud of the fact that we managed it all under these conditions.”