Food Engineering

Surf's down for bottles

March 1, 2011


Specialty lubricants, coupled with an innovative control system, minimize liquid waste and broken bottles. Source: Ecolab Inc.


Slip sliding away applies to both glass bottles and workers in many bottling departments because of the need to keep conveyor belts lubricated and containers upright while they twist, turn and accumulate. As line speeds ramp up, so do the breakage rate and the volume of liquid run-off on the floor.

Engineers at St. Paul, MN-based Ecolab Inc. have been chipping away at the problem for four years, gradually adding new controls and lubrication options that are bundled under the DryExx conveyor management umbrella. The newest element of the program is DryExx GS, a lubricant designed specifically for glass containers on stainless steel conveyors. It complements a lubricant of phosphate ester, amine salt and a nonionic surfactant that is touted as appropriate for multiple conveyor surfaces and container materials, including PET.

Ecolab’s lubrication program grew out of manufacturer requests “to take water out of non-value added applications,” according to Nels Anderson, senior marketing manager, beverage, brewery & aseptic. “We identified [bottle conveying] as one of the water hogs.” Greater precision is required when metering out the lubricants, making the control system a critical component when switching from conventional lubrication systems.

About 1,200 bottling lines around the world have converted to Ecolab’s dry lubricants, with typical savings of 600,000 to 1 million gallons of water per line per year. Those numbers look good in a corporate social responsibility report, but the workplace benefits of fewer slips and falls and less clean-up may be the bigger payoff. “Many customers say they did it for water savings and operational efficiency, but at the end of the day, those are the greatest benefits,” says Anderson, who pegs the average cost of a workplace fall at $4,500.

For more information:
Nels Anderson, Ecolab Inc., 651-293-2233