Heineken opens new production facility in Mexico

Heineken opens new production facility in Mexico

Heineken Mexico has built its largest bottling plant worldwide, in Meoqui in the state of Chihuahua in the north of the country, after taking over the brewery in 2017 and investing €400 million.

This strategic location optimises the company’s production and sales network. The region also has a good infrastructure, provides qualified personnel and a local government which specifically promotes economic development. The Mexican market is very important for Heineken: the Mexican branch contributed 16% to the sales, 12% to the turnover and 15% to the profits of the Dutch brewery even before the new bottling plant went into operation.

With a capacity of half a billion litres a year the greenfield site has now become the largest production facility in the Heineken Group. The brewery has created 500 new jobs on site and 1,500 indirect positions.

The project encompasses six lines, four of which were supplied and commissioned by KHS. These comprise two glass lines for 355ml non-returnable bottles, one for 325ml returnable bottles – all with a capacity of up to 40,000 bottles per hour each – and a fourth line for up to 28,000 947ml returnable or non-returnable bottles an hour. The machine program covers practically the entire KHS product range: from bottle washers through fillers, labelers, pasteurisers and packaging machines to palletisers.

Plant manager Eusebio Reynoso Razo said: “We [Heineken and KHS] have been in the business together for over 40 years. It’s thus clear that we can fully rely on the careful, proven and modern processes which distinguish KHS as a first-class manufacturer of lines and machines with its highly qualified engineers.

“It’s quite a challenge to build such an enormous factory. We therefore only wanted to work with the best so that we could get off to a good start.”

“At Heineken Mexico we have an installed base of around 80 machines spread out across the entire country,” said Mario Perez, sales manager for the north zone at KHS Mexico. “This base primarily consists of fillers, packaging machines and pasteurisers.”

Maximum flexibility

Two types of beer, six beer styles and thirteen different brands are produced in Meoqui – not just Heineken but also Tecate, Dos Equis and Indio, among others. This range, filled into various containers of differing size, results in a vast diversity of SKUs and a large number of possible combinations. This calls for the shortest possible setup times for format changeovers and maximum flexibility in labeling. In addition there is also a slightly unusual requirement regarding the secondary packaging; instead of plastic crates, returnable cardboard boxes holding 12 or 20 bottles are used, the handling of which presents a certain technical challenge.

In the first few months alone over 30 different SKUs were processed on the 4 KHS lines and over 120 million litres filled into glass bottles and packaged.

Exemplary use of resources

The second major challenge was sustainability. The factory in Meoqui was erected according to the latest principles of the circular economy – with the focus on renewable energies and an efficient use of water. Electricity comes from renewable sources: Photovoltaic cells installed in the brewery windows, and wind power. Treatment of wastewater means that all facilities and green spaces can be supplied and biogas is used in the boilers. The declared objective is to become the Heineken brewery with the lowest consumption of water in the world – by 2020 the Meoqui plant plans to work with just two litres of water for one litre of beer.

In order to achieve this target, among others, the decision-makers therefore opted for sustainable systems from KHS. The bottle washing machines and pasteurisers, which are usually the biggest consumers of water on a line, are equipped with cutting-edge technology which drastically reduces both the amount of water needed and the energy consumption. On the fillers, new vacuum pump cooling systems consume much less water.

“By sustainability we not only understand that we have an ecological responsibility but also see this on an economic level. Here, KHS was one up on its competitors as it offered the most attractive total cost of ownership (TCO). In the long term this allows us to operate our lines sustainably,” said plant manager Reynos.

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