March 2023

Largest producer of Gatorade water bottles manages uptime on plastic injection molding systems with Voxel's machine monitoring.

With AI-Powered Video Analytics, Voxel Achieved…


In the high-stakes world of plastic manufacturing, Innovate International has become a leading player as the largest producer of Gatorade water bottles seen on sidelines at sporting events around the globe. With a contract from PepsiCo, the company is responsible for creating the iconic drink bottles that quench the thirst of NFL players and athletes everywhere. At the heart of their operation lies the sophisticated process of plastic injection molding, which involves heating plastic granules to a molten state, injecting the material into a mold, and cooling it to create the desired shape—in this case, Gatorade bottles.

As demand for their products skyrockets, Innovate International finds itself in a rapidly expanding business, partnering with major retailers and sporting goods stores. With this growth comes the immense pressure to minimize downtime: just an hour of halted production could result in thousands of dollars lost in unfilled orders. In an industry where time is money, maximizing uptime is crucial to meeting customer demands.

To achieve this, Innovate has forged a partnership with Voxel to develop a real-time machine downtime monitoring solution using their existing security camera system. Voxel tracks the operation of injection molding machines and triggers alerts via push notifications, SMS, or e-mail if a machine is down for longer than one minute. This immediate notification allows factory leadership to rapidly address machine or operational failures, ensuring maximum production uptime and minimizing the financial impact of downtime.

Examples of Innovate International manufactured products

Cutting-Edge Injection Molding Automation

Innovate International's Knoxville facility is a state-of-the-art operation, housing cutting-edge machinery for plastics manufacturing. The facility utilizes various techniques to produce the highest quality Gatorade bottles, including injection molding, injection stretch blow molding, and extrusion blow molding. The site’s leadership is committed to using the highest-quality equipment, materials, and automation processes. 

Innovate Knoxville facility.

Injection stretch blow molding (ISBM) is a manufacturing process that combines injection molding and blow molding. In this method, a preform is initially produced using injection molding, and then stretched and blown to create the final shape of the bottle. This technique results in bottles with thinner walls and improved strength compared to traditional injection molding.

Extrusion blow molding (EBM), on the other hand, involves the extrusion of a plastic tube (parison) which is then enclosed within a mold. Air is blown into the parison, inflating it and forcing it against the mold walls to create the desired shape. This method is particularly suitable for producing more complex shapes.

Innovate's Knoxville facility is equipped with Horizontal injection presses from Toshiba, which are advanced machines designed for efficient and accurate injection molding. These high-performance presses ensure precision and reliability throughout the manufacturing process.

Complementing these presses are Topstar robots, which are advanced robotic systems designed to streamline production and enhance efficiency. Topstar robots play a crucial role in automating various tasks, such as part removal, assembly, and quality control, reducing human intervention and ensuring consistent product quality.

Another key aspect of the Knoxville operation is in-mold decorating (IMD). IMD is a process in which a pre-printed film or label is inserted into the mold and then fused with the plastic during the molding process. This integration results in durable, high-quality graphics that are resistant to wear and tear, enhancing the aesthetics and functionality of the Gatorade bottles.

Innovate International's production technology.

Voxel's collaboration with Innovate International extends to all three machines responsible for producing the distinct Gatorade bottles. This includes the machines dedicated to creating the rubber sleeve found on the side of the bottles, which provides a better grip for users. These machines operate at a different pace compared to the primary Gatorade injection molders, making it crucial for them to maintain consistent uptime to stay in sync with the overall production process.

As Innovate International continues to grow and face increasing demand, the facility's leadership understands the importance of automation and process optimization for streamlining operations and ensuring consistent product quality. Their goal is to automate as much of the production process as possible, in order to reap the benefits of increased efficiency, reduced human error, and enhanced scalability.

Computer Vision for Factory Operations and Security

Innovate International also leverages Voxel's advanced computer vision technology for operational and security purposes. A prime example of this application is the implementation of a "no pedestrian zone" in the facility's tool room, ensuring that access to critical equipment is restricted and monitored.

In a plastic injection molding facility like Innovate International's, the tool room houses a variety of essential tools and equipment, such as molds, inserts, and various maintenance and repair instruments. These items are crucial for the smooth functioning of the injection molding process and for addressing any technical issues that may arise during production.

Unfortunately, Innovate International faced challenges related to unauthorized access to the tool room, resulting in missing tools and hindering the maintenance team's ability to perform their tasks efficiently. This issue was particularly prevalent during the late-night hours when fewer personnel were present to monitor the area.

By designating the tool room as a "no pedestrian zone" during specific hours, Voxel's computer vision technology enabled Innovate International to restrict and monitor access more effectively. When an unauthorized individual entered the tool room, an alert was immediately sent to the maintenance manager, allowing for swift intervention and minimizing the risk of tool loss or misuse.

This innovative use of Voxel's technology not only improved operational security but also enhanced the efficiency of Innovate International's maintenance team. By ensuring that essential tools and equipment were readily available when needed, the company was able to minimize downtime and maintain the high-quality production standards expected from the exclusive manufacturer of Gatorade bottles. In this way, Voxel's advanced computer vision solutions continue to play a pivotal role in optimizing various aspects of Innovate International's operations, from production to security and beyond.

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