While plastic may be the king of containers in the U.S., glass still plays an important role in Mexico. Embotelladora de Toluca S.A. de C.V. was established five years ago to produce Coca-Cola. Sprite. Fanta. and Mexican soft drink Onda. When Armando Ortiz Sanchez was appointed production manaer of the Toluca facility in 1991, its production record placed in the bottom 20 of 100 Coca-Cola bottling plants in Mexico.

Ortiz' analysis of the situation revealed many inefficiencies due to plant layout and limited capability of existing equipment. The conveyor lines were originally built to handle a single bottle size, but the plant now filled a variety of sizes, so most of the equipment had been revised at various times. Inherent high moisture content in ambient air from the required frequent washdowns adversely affected operation of many electromechanical drives. The result: jerky conveyor motion and trequent stoppages—causing fretting, chipping, and breakage of glass bottles, with production halted for cleanup.

Another problem area was hydraulically powered rotary tables, where bottles were filled. Over the years, every component installed by the original equipment designer had been replaced by products from competitive companies. This potpouri of devices now was difficult to control, adjust. and maintain; and its jerky movement made the fill level in bottles inconsistent. Also, motor shafts broke frequently.

Working with hydraulics distributor Vycmex, Ortiz established an education and training program for his technical and maintenance personnel to prepare them to work with the retrofit and new hydraulic units he needed to meet his production goals. The next step was to design and install a replacement for one of the two bottling lines. It was decided to convert the electromechanical drives to moisture-resistant hydraulics. Improved energy efficiency was necessary to help subsidize the cost of this new equipment, so load sensing pumps were incorporated into the new design. To protect these pumps, a systemic filtration system was installed. New valve stands were assembled, and hydraulic motors with heavy-duty shafts were specified.

The new conveyor line immediately showed significant gains in up time and line speed, with smooth starts and stops; bottle breakage was virtually eliminated. This success led to an order for new hydraulic equipment on the remaining bottling line.

Salvador Smith, sales director, Vycmex, Mexico City, described this retrofit project. His company distributes Vickers products.