KHS is a global manufacturer of filling and packaging systems for the beverage, food, and non-food industries. Our products comprise filling lines for PET, for refillable and non-refillable glass bottles, and for cans. KHS is the result of the fusion of a number of specialized German companies with a rich tradition, such as Holstein & Kappert, Enzinger and, more recently, Corpoplast and Kisters. We have manufacturing facilities in several locations in Germany, but also in the US, in Sarasota, Florida, and Waukesha near Chicago. The Asia-Pacific area is covered by plants in China and India.
KHS products comprise a large choice of turnkey lines that typically combine several machines and groups of machines. A typical configuration could comprise a depalettizer for refillable glass bottles, a glass washing station, a filling station, a labelling station and finally packaging and pallettizing. When PET bottles are used, often times even the bottles themselves are produced in-line in the filling plant, on stretch blow molding machines that are combined with labelling, packaging and palleting stations.
The beverage industry is a highly marketing driven business. Typically, in a super market consumers make buying decisions in fractions of a second and packaging plays an important role in that decision. For that reason, the introduction of PET bottles has triggered a wealth of new shapes, sizes and variants. In order to fill these bottles in an automatic filling line, we need to fine tune our machines to meet the specific requirements. Overall, this leads to a growing amount of custom engineering, spawning a wealth of variants and a growing degree of complexity throughout the enterprise.
As a manufacturer of industrial equipment we are addressing this growing degree of complexity with a set of clearly defined strategies. Specifically, we are adopting the principles of a modular product architecture. In other words, we organize and map a customer’s requested application into a pre-defined set of capabilities, which in turn can be mapped to specific design options. For example it‘s quite evident that there will be specific differences between a filling station for between beer or sparkling wine and a filling station for mineral water, for the simple reason that beer and sparkling wine are filled with pressure. Another major functional difference is introduced by the capacity of the bottle, which can vary between half a litre and 2 litres, with specific consequences on the handling characteristics.
Overall, the growing number of bottle designs and shapes has lead to a growing degree of variance in our machines. As a consequence we have started building our filling lines using a modular approach so that specific customer requests can be answered by selecting from a set of standardized solution elements, rather than designing it from scratch. As a secondary benefit, these elements can be purchased as pre-assembled components, which in turn will also help to reduce process costs and turnaround cycles for complex equipment.
As already mentioned, a modular product structure has substantial effects on the reduction of process and cycle times. To support our modular product architecture on an operative level, we have deployed a number of dedicated IT solutions and it is apparent that today as a manufacturer of industrial equipment you need to rely on standard software which is provided by specialized vendors, rather than writing programs and tools in-house. In addition to ERP, the introduction of 3D-CAD in conjunction with product data management and, more recently Product Lifecycle Management –specifically we are using Windchill from PTC – have provided important milestones.
Looking into the future, we will provide tools to our sales force that will enable them to sell only components that are preconfigured in a way that they can be assembled without customization. Eventually, our sales force will have access to Relationship Management Solutions and configuration tools that will complement PDM and 3D-CAD in engineering and ERP in the manufacturing domain.