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College of the North Atlantic students devise effective ways to label Crystal Head Vodka bottles


It’s a unique design — it’s easily recognizable, but it also brings with it a unique set of characteristics and issues when it comes to labelling it at the factory.

Crystal Head Vodka, a distillery owned by Canadian comedian/actor Dan Aykroyd, uses a skull design as its bottle for the vodka that is packaged in St. John’s.

Students at the College of the North Atlantic’s Prince Philip Drive campus were charged with finding a way to keep the bottle positioned on the assembly line in order to apply labels to complete the bottling process at Rock Spirits.

CNA students, as part of an Innovation @ Work event Tuesday, were asked to brainstorm potential solutions to the production problem and identify three solutions they consider worthy of further exploration and development by Rock Spirits in partnership with Proax Technologies Ltd.

“We produce and ship 350,000 cases of products annually,” Kristina Stevenson, operations manager for Rock Spirits, said prior to five groups of students setting off to find a solution to the production issue.

Some of the brands include Crystal Head Vodka, Iceberg Vodka and Golden Wedding whiskey.

“There are unique challenges with their bottles,” she said of the Crystal Head design for the 50 ml bottles.
“They are not asymmetrical, so they present challenges in packing and labeling.”

Although a mechanical labeller used in the bottling line performs as required, the orientation of the bottle on entry to the labeller is not consistent, thereby resulting in inconsistent location of the label on the bottle.

A short-term solution has an operator assigned to manually re-orient the bottle prior to labelling. In an effort to find a longer-term, more cost-effective solution, Rock Spirits engaged the services of Proax Technologies Ltd. to find a solution.
Progress is being made, but a viable solution has yet to be achieved.

“There is an over-rotation of bottles in the process,” Darren Wood of Proax Technologies explained to the students and faculty on hand.

“At first we used three pieces of weather stripping to get the bottles to turn into position with a guy on the line getting them in place by hand,” Wood added.

This process has developed further with the use of five pieces of media foam from headphones attached to five bolt pegs to get the bottles to turn into position.

But there are always other solutions, and the students at the College of the North Atlantic were given the opportunity to find one — but they had to stay within certain parameters.

Those included working with a budget of $5,000, eliminating repeated motion, ensuring an easy and quick setup and tear-down for removal from the line to switch to other products, and the use of the KISS principal — “keep it simple, silly.”

Of the five designs, two teams emerged as favourites.

Group 5, comprised of students Winnie Zhang, Ethan Whelan and Erica Porter, designed a piston and mould device that would push the face of the bottle into a mould and get it to line up with the labeller.

Group 3 also drew the attention of the five-judge panel with a pneumatic piston design that sits behind the skull on the assembly line, is detected by a laser when it is in position, and the piston is fired holding the bottle in place and the label affixed.

Members of Group 3 were Malcolm Bremner, Ephraim Messele, Jessica Fahey and Sean Purchase.

This day-long innovation showcase highlighted a number of projects and applied research and development at the college that are having a real impact on businesses, communities and post-secondary education throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

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