Puerto Rico-based Cristalia Premium Water thrives on the booming Caribbean tourist trade and the regions need for clean, safe water. A popular namesake brand and successful private-label bottling division have helped boost the companys revenue, which is up 400 percent since 1999. Recently, high labor costs and inefficiencies in packaging operations were making it increasingly difficult to meet demand while maintaining profits. The company commissioned director of manufacturing operations Tom Terrell to evaluate automated palletizing solutions that could help manage the rapid growth. Automation is the Answer
Cristalias Ponce, Puerto Rico bottling plant manually palletizes four lines of bottled water shrink-wrapped trays of 16-ounce bottles, multi-packs, five-gallon cooler bottles and one-gallon jugs. However, Terrell and his team knew that the 20,000-square-foot facility only had the space to automate one line.
The one-gallon-jug line was the most difficult to palletize manually, with its unstable, 27-pound cases forcing employees to take frequent breaks. Four employees worked in an hourly rotation on this line, while the 16- ouncebottle and multi-pack lines only required one worker each. Terrell also noted that the one-gallon jugs were the plants highest producer filling a pallet every two and a half minutes. The team calculated that automating this line would give them the greatest benefits in terms of labor savings and increased efficiency.
FKI Logistex Provides a Solution
Cristalias cramped warehouse did not have the space for the accumulation conveyor required for a standard highspeed palletizer. The company turned to automated material handling solutions provider FKI Logistex and its GS100 series case palletizer for an affordable way to automate its line within the space constraints of the warehouse. The compact footprint of the GS100 series eliminates the need for a long infeed conveyor and allows fork truck access to all points of the facility, including incoming materials, warehousing, production discharge and outgoing product without intruding on personnel. Working with FKI Logistex and Puerto Rico-based packaging equipment representative Inter-Strap Packaging, Cristalia chose the GS140 model, which features a pallet dispenser and a full-pallet handling discharge for complete automation. The GS140 gives Cristalia the ability to palletize at rates of up to 30 cartons per minute and includes a touch-screen operator-interface terminal (OIT) pattern utility.
A Six-Month ROI
The FKI Logistex GS140 system has enabled Cristalia to reduce labor costs and heavy lifting, while producing an extra 1,000 cases every shift, for a capital investment of less than $100,000. The GS140 palletizer also fits completely inside a standard 40-foot shipping container, which saved the company approximately $14,000 on overseas shipping costs alone. With the new FKI Logistex palletizing system we reduced labor costs by 25 percent and increased our total volume by 20 percent, said Terrell. The most important gain came from continuous uptime and uninterrupted shifts now the line never stops.
According to Terrell, Cristalia experienced a six-month ROI with the new palletizer. For the same overhead costs, were getting more cases out the door, he said. The companys President and CEO David Virginia could not be happier with the service and support provided by FKI Logistex. They really stepped up and ensured that we met our goal of 97-percent uptime on the machine following startup, he said. To us, this was the difference between FKI Logistex being an equipment manufacturer and a business partner.
With the new palletizing system, the local bottler is well on its way to meeting its goal of becoming a $100 million bottled water marketer to the Caribbean and the U.S. in the next 10 years.
Puerto Ricos First Totally Integrated Bottling Plant
In order to maintain growth, Cristalia is opening a new plant in Carolina, Puerto Rico, near the San Juan airport. Four times larger than the Ponce plant, the new facility will be the first totally vertically integrated bottling plant on the island. To accomplish this, the company plans to invest $12 million in water processing, bottling and bottle manufacturing equipment. With its own trucking company, Expert Trucking, Cristalia will handle everything from bottle manufacturing to final product delivery.