Reduced-volume bottle cases

bekuplast Flaschenkästen
Cross-section of the redesigned, stackable bottle cases (Picture: © bekuplast GmbH)

When it comes to stacking the current crates and bottle cases, a lot of space is left in between. The available transport and storage volumes, for both empty and full containers, could be put to significantly better use. Tim Siebels, from the Office for Logistics Research in Dortmund, presents a new development that utilizes the narrower bottleneck diameter for optimized packing density.

Improved packing density thanks to innovative crates

Transporting empty containers within reusable processes in beverage logistics is often associated with increased process costs and negative environmental impacts. For example, this takes the form of the unnecessary consumption of natural resources and avoidable CO2 emissions.

To counteract these problems, the Office for Logistics Research, headquartered in Dortmund, has designed the patented, reduced-volume bottle cases. These are currently being brought to market-readiness in collaboration with industrial partner and plastic injection molding specialists bekuplast GmbH, headquartered in Ringe (Lower Saxony). This innovative stacking arrangement and construction method, when compared to existing bottle cases, makes it possible to transport and store significantly more bottles and cases per EUR-pallet. Furthermore, process and resource efficiency can be increased for the user, while simultaneously reducing the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from beverage transport.

The previous state of technology

In previous years, reusable plastic crate development hardly ever focused on volume optimization within logistical processes. Occasional exceptions presented solutions in this area, such as in 2016 with the pro-K award-winning “Kubi-Kasten”, or the “Trays” for returning empty containers developed to increase reusable processes’ efficiency in beverage logistics. However, the fundamental advantage of optimized packing density for these products only applies when the crates or “trays” are empty.

Solution in the form of deep-stacked bottle cases

For the first time, the novel volume-optimized bottle case concept now enables improved packing density, even when the crates are full. This is achieved by using an offset arrangement of the bottle compartments.

Therefore, the lower-case bottlenecks can be slipped or nested into the spaces between the bottles in the upper case, as demonstrated in the image above. The upper case stands on the partition and, if desired, on the side walls as well. The achievable “nesting depth” when using 0.33-liter longneck bottles with a full crate is approximately 97 millimeters. While a nesting depth of as much as approximately 121 millimeters can be achieved by turning the crate 180 degrees beforehand when empty.

Promising potential for optimization

Improvement for full-bottle cases

In most cases, conventional crates that hold 0.33-liter longneck bottles have external dimensions of no more than 400 x 300 x 270 mm (length x width x height). A EUR-pallet can hold five stacked layers, with eight crates per layer and 24 bottles per crate. In other words, each pallet can hold 40 crates and a total of 960 bottles.

To achieve the desired volume optimization, the number of bottles per crate (based on 0.33-liter longneck bottles) must be reduced from 24 to 20 bottles. However, the 97 millimeter nesting depth allows an increase of the number of stacked layers per EUR-pallet – with the same stacking height – from the previous five layers to the now seven stacked layers.

In other words, this fundamentally improves the packing density per EUR-pallet when compared to existing bottle cases. And in numbers, this means 56 cases or 1,120 bottles per EUR-pallet.

That is an improvement of 40 percent in relation to the number of cases, and approximately 17 percent for the number of bottles.

Packdichte bekuplast Flaschenkästen
Conventional and redesigned cases stacked next to each other on a pallet illustrate the improved packaging density (Picture: © bekuplast)

Furthermore, the lower number of bottles per case results in an ergonomic advantage along the entire logistics chain, as the weight per case, for example, is reduced from the current approximately 17.5 kilograms to approximately 15 kilograms.

Improvement for empty bottle cases

Kompatibilität bekuplast Flaschenkästen
Completely compatible with existing crates (Picture: © bekuplast)

When the crate is empty, the nesting depth of approximately 121 millimeters that is achievable through rotary stacking – with the same stacking height – allows for as many as eight stacked layers or 64 crates to be stacked per EUR-pallet. This means an increase of 60 percent when compared to conventional bottle crates.

Moreover, this adheres to the specified maximum external dimensions of existing beverage crates, thereby ensuring the reduced-volume bottle cases are completely compatible with existing crates with a basic measurement of 400 x 300 mm.

Reduced stacking height and weight savings in beverage transport

Generally speaking, there are three types of transport: empty frame transport (empty cases), empty container transport (cases with empty bottles) and full container transport (cases with filled bottles).

The transport capacities required for transporting empty frames, and the resulting costs, could be reduced by up to 60 percent through the practical utilization of the innovative, volume-optimized bottle case, as described above.

When it comes to transporting empty containers, which composes the largest proportion of transport kilometers in the reusable beverage crate cycle, the relevant variable for determining the available potential for optimization is the number of bottles that can be handled per EUR-pallet. When compared with the example of 0.33-liter longneck bottles, the potential savings are approximately 17 percent.

Since the transportation of full containers in beverage logistics is generally already at its weight limit, this further improvement potential of approximately 17 percent can only be utilized in exceptional cases (for example, in the case of transporting full containers that are not fully utilized by truck, or in the context of beverage distribution, via freight trains).

However, utilizing the new, reduced-volume bottle case in connection with full-container transport offers the promising possibility of reducing the stacking height per EUR-pallet by around 17 centimeters – while the number of transportable bottles, 960, remains the same.

In turn, this results in the fundamental advantage of the load having a lower center of gravity, which generally means improved or simplified load securing. In addition, due to the significantly lower stacked height, the end consumer at the point of sale has easier, and therefore more ergonomic, access to the upper stacking layer of a pallet.

Ladehöhe bekuplast Flaschenkästen
Lower loading height for transporting and storing full containers with the same number of bottles (Picture: © bekuplast)

Various other possibilities

The basic principle of the patented bottle case can be applied to numerous other bottle sizes, drink types or crate formats.

For example, a box with basic measurements of 600 x 400 mm is also possible, which could be used as an empty container replacement packaging at the process interface between (beverage) retail and beverage wholesalers. This could increase efficiency and quality regarding the handling of single bottle overhangs.

When compared with the “trays” often utilized at this process interface in logistical practice for returning empty containers, the “nestable” bottle case – in addition to volume optimization for empty container transport – has the decisive advantage that an upper crate will not fall on the bottles underneath. As a result, above all, the stacking stability and bottle protection can be significantly improved.

Want to share your developments and innovations in the beverage industry to an international specialist audience? Then we would very much like to invite you to take part in the next drinktec from September 12 to 16, 2022 in Munich.

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