“You don’t want to get stuck with grapes in a press and have it go down. That can be disastrous when you’re in the middle of crush,” says Ron Varner, Director of Operations at ColloPack Solutions. He knows wineries understand that, but he warns not to wait until the last minute to get a checkup scheduled. “Harvest is coming, and it’s important to schedule them early in case any maintenance or repairs need to be made, allowing time for parts to come in and the work to be done.”
Wineries use their crush equipment heavily during harvest, but afterward it usually just sits, fixed in place or rolled off until next year. “Often the equipment gets neglected during the year,” says Varner, “so our pre-harvest checkups typically find several things in need of maintenance or replacement.”
ColloPack has been offering their preventative maintenance program for wineries for 15 years and about 200 wineries have ColloPack field technicians come out and check their equipment before harvest. “We look at everything that has to do with harvesting the grapes; presses, destemmers, pumps, and we will do full inspections of the systems and make sure everything is working,” says Varner. “We check that the membrane is good, how the pump is working, grease bearings, PMs, and make any recommendations for parts.”
ColloPack offers a similar preventative maintenance program to ensure the bottling line is tuned up prior to bottling, but in Varner’s experience wineries are less proactive with their bottling. “Many wineries have more flexibility around their bottling schedule, so there is a tendency to be more on the reactive side. Wineries should take advantage of preventive programs for their bottling lines, just like they do on the processing side.” A bottling line tune-up can not only avoid disastrous breakdowns, it can make the line run more efficient with less wine loss. Maintaining the bottling line can also have a positive impact on wine quality, by preventing unwanted oxygen ingress.
“Bottling lines have more pieces of equipment such as fillers, palletizers, drop packers, capsule machines and labelers, plus any type of surge equipment that you might have, so the bottling operation is a lot more complex. There are more factors impacting efficiencies and quality,” says Varner. “If we’re going to come in and take over your maintenance, it’s very customized. We have to see what model you have for every piece of equipment, and then come out and really customize the maintenance program to your needs. ColloPack’s engineering team can also help optimize that automation and make sure all those different pieces of equipment are tied together well.”
The maintenance program is mainly for machines provided by ColloPack from over 16 world-class suppliers like Diemme, Bertolaso, Francesca, L&C and others, but it’s not outside of their capability to work on other equipment. “We will work on other equipment depending on the situation. We routinely do panel retrofits on older presses if wineries want updated controls, regardless if the press is Diemme or not,” says Varner.
Even though ColloPack carries the largest spare parts inventory in the wine industry thus significantly reducing wait times for repairs, Varner warns wineries not to wait until the last minute to have their equipment checked. “We just get booked up solid as we get towards harvest trying to get all these inspections in,” he says, but also emphasizes that if someone has an emergency, ColloPack has the flexibility to work around schedules and get it addressed.
During the harvest ColloPack offers 24/7 harvest assistance with local technicians in California and the Pacific Northwest. With their large stock of spare parts inventory, they can quickly respond and repair and reduce downtime. This service will also be extended to serve the Central Coast in January 2020.
“We do the pre-harvest inspection to avoid emergencies, but when emergencies happen we don’t want anyone to lose product. We try to leave a certain amount of technician hours unscheduled because we know they’re going to get called for breakdowns,” says Varner.
The certified field technicians on ColloPack’s 14-member team are cross trained to handle all the issues generally encountered, and each is also specialized to handle more complex problems in specific areas. “We definitely have some process specialists, some bottling specialists, and some guys who are more on the controls side, and now we even have engineers that we work with,” explains Varner. “If there is a problem that goes outside a field technician’s scope, like PLC (programmable logic controller) and programming, we now have an engineering team that can step in.”
ColloPack Solutions is known in the industry for its strong technical service, after-sales support, and the largest spare parts inventory in the wine industry. For more information visit ColloPack.com or schedule a tech visit now to confirm appointments prior to your bottling or harvesting.