Lightweight metal crowns help brewer make savings

SABMiller has announced that its Peruvian subsidiary, Backus, has developed a new lightweight metal crown for beer bottles that could save the brewer US$12.6 million every year.

In cooperation with Packaging Products Peru, Backus has developed a new, low-gauge bottle crown that will significantly reduce the amount of steel used in production and have a positive impact on the group’s raw material costs and CO2 emissions.

SABMiller currently uses around 42 billion crowns every year to top bottled lagers and carbonated soft drinks, with an equivalent weight of 100,000 tonnes – nearly twice the weight of the steel used in the Empire State Building.

Using conservative estimates, the new lightweight crown could reduce the amount of steel required across SABMiller’s global production platform by at least 10% a year.

The standard thickness of steel used to create bottle crowns across the brewing industry is between 0.22mm and 0.24mm. Backus’ new, low-gauge crown uses 0.17mm steel, thanks to a unique design which embosses a ring around the bottle lip to prevent a ‘spring back’ effect that can lead to leakage and contamination. In the 12 months to 31 March 2010, Backus used around 20 million low-gauge crowns in production at its San Juan plant in Pucallpa City. Following this successful pilot, the low-gauge crowns have been rolled out across the remaining four breweries in Peru, with approximately 80 million low-gauge crowns being used in the 12 months to 31 March 2011.

If the Peruvian initiative can be rolled out across SABMiller, it could potentially deliver annual cost savings of $12.6m in material costs alone.

The reduced weight of the bottle crowns will also have a positive impact on the environment. Today, a standard bottle crown weighs approximately 2.38 grams. The low-gauge bottle crown will weigh around 2.14 grams, which will mean a 360 gram weight reduction in every pallet being transported to the group’s breweries and from the brewery to retailers and distributors. In addition, reduced weight in transport will deliver as yet unqualified cost savings and reductions in C02 emissions through transportation.

Maurice Egan, group head of manufacturing at SABMiller, said: “The low-gauge crowns programme is just one example of a cumulative effort across the group to innovate in every aspect of production. Across the globe, we continue to encourage blue-sky thinking that will increase efficiency, improve costs and reduce the impact our business has on the environment.”

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