Innovation by Students

During the annual Manufacturer’s Summit, a special award ceremony is held to celebrate the most innovative businesses and leaders in the Inland Empire. These leaders have great ideas for growing the business, dramatically improving performance and addressing some of the toughest challenges in today’s manufacturing industry.

E=mc² Innovation Awards will be presented to local manufacturers who submit the best innovations that result in tangible business improvement.

Congratulations to our recent award winner!

2017 Innovation by Students

Address: 301 Platt Blvd, Claremont, CA, 91711

A team of nine students from Harvey Mudd College worked alongside Niagara Bottling, LLC, to develop mechanical, electrical, and operational solutions in order to reduce the changeover time for Niagara’s Krones packing machines by at least 50%. The team worked on a budget of $8,800 in order to develop prototypes and operational changes, covering four areas of the packer. This project ran from September 2015 to May 2016, and resulted in a projected 70% of total savings for the changeover time, amounting to $1.3 million annually.


Description of Project:

The team performed time trials and operator interviews in order to gauge problem areas in the process. The five areas in most need of improvement were the nesting bars, film puller, infeed rail, nesting guide rail, and the operation procedure itself.

  • For the nesting bar area, the team developed a functioning testing bed and prototype that would automatically remove and replace tools to prepare for a new pack size. The original process was completely manual, whereas the new design involved automated electrical and mechanical systems. This dramatically decreases the amount of time the operator spends inside of the machine, especially in an area with confined space and bump hazards.
  • For the film puller area, the operator would need to uncomfortably reach and pull inside the machine to occasionally remove excess film. The team designed a manually operated tool that not only reduce the ergonomic strain on an operator’s back, but one that also reduced the time to remove excess film.
  • The infeed rail system directs bottles into six, seven, or eight lanes depending upon the width of the desired bottle packs. The team designed a manually operated mechanism to reduce change-time by 67%, while preserving the accuracy of the rail system.
  • The nesting guide rail area further directs the bottles down six, seven, or eight lanes. To adjust to and from six and eight bottles, the operator would remove or replace parts inside the guide area. Upon inspecting the machine, the team discovered that Krones had already incorporated a solution to this problem in their machines of which the Niagara operators were not aware. The team included this procedure change in their operations report. Changing this part of the procedure saves potentially over 75% of time the operator spends in the nesting guide rail area.
  • The team suggested myriad improvements to the operational procedure during Niagara’s pack changeover. These involved SMED and 5S techniques as well as parallelization of tasks, reducing overall changeover time by about 30%.


After completion of the project, the team presented all prototypes to Niagara’s VP of Manufacturing and Krones’ Engineering Design Team. Many of these improvements were handed off to Krones, who is now working with Niagara to implement these changes on a large scale. The operations report was distributed to all Niagara plants in order to standardize their changeover process. These changes amount to a projected 70% time savings on Niagara’s packer changeover process, equivalent to $1.3 million annually. Further, both the machine and operational changes improve operator safety while upkeeping machine changeover accuracy.