Innovative and Cost-Effective Empties Management

Published on in Digitalization, Food Retail, Logistics of the future, Software, Sustainability, Technology
3 minutes reading time

The trend toward more sustainable use of resources is impacting the beverage industry. Here, the solution is a highly automated sorting system that rapidly processes empty crates and bottles in preparation for refilling. LLS’s installation in Hamm, Germany, features such a sorting system. The empties management solution developed by LLS, LOGIPACK and KNAPP makes it possible to handle all types of empties at a single location with fully automatic sortation.

An empties management solution without rival

Combining the know-how of LOGIPACK and LLS with our Reusables Management Solutions (RMS) creates an economical system that benefits bottlers, food retailers as well as wholesalers in the beverage industry. The system keeps the number of empty crates at the end of sorting to a minimum and increases sorting precision, performance and throughput thanks to the high level of automation.

KNAPP, LLS and LOGIPACK’s business models complement each other perfectly. Our innovative alliance drives the development of Germany’s reusables system.

Torsten Hiller, Geschäftsführer LOGIPACK
Torsten Hiller
Managing Director of the LOGIPACK group



square meter

system size

million bottles per year


crates per hour

bottle-sorting robot

crates per hour

tray repacking robot

crates per hour

depalletizing/palletizing robot

Intelligent empties retrieval

The integrated software tells the system exactly which crates are needed to optimize the sorting process and requests them accordingly at goods-in. Once fed into the system, the automatic pallet recognition checks if the pallet is the correct one and the depalletizing robot unloads the crates. Then they are run through a recognition system, which registers both the crates and the bottles they contain in just a few seconds. Based on this information, the recognition system – the brain of the solution – chooses one of three paths.

Robot for the depalletizing and palletizing process
One robot can handle two processes: The depalletizing/palletizing robot destacks empty crates in the goods-in area and creates unmixed stacks at the end.

From the time of recognition, we always know where each bottle is and in which crate.

Sven Welker, Geschäftsführer Leergut Logistik Services GmbH
Sven Welker
Managing Director of Leergut Logistik Services GmbH

Fully automatic single bottle sorting

Unsorted empties are brought to the heart of the solution: the bottle-sorting robot. It automatically removes single bottles and places them in the correct crates based on the data collected by the recognition system, optimizing the movement of crates and minimizing the number of empty crates that exit sorting. At the end of in-depth sorting, the empties leave the robot in unmixed crates.

Fully automatic single bottle sorting
The bottle-sorting robot is a technological highlight that carries out in-depth sorting fully automatically.

Manual crate sorting

Crates that could not be recognized by the recognition system or are not intended to be automatically sorted are instead automatically brought to a manual sorting area. After processing, these empties are returned to the main sorting system.

Checking for uniformity and fully automatic palletization

All crates containing sorted empties from goods-in or sorting are then brought to a control system that checks for uniform content in the crate. At the end of the process, the palletizing robot retrieves the sorted empties and places them on pallets. The one-of-a-kind, fully automatic process rapidly fills the reusable crates with unmixed empties, which are then ready for refilling.

The recognition systems identify and save data on the empties.
The recognition systems are the brains of the empties solution in Hamm.

The flow of empties from the LOGIPACK empties processes rounds out the sorting concept we developed together in the very best way.

Sven Welker, Geschäftsführer Leergut Logistik Services GmbH
Sven Welker
Managing Director of Leergut Logistik Services GmbH

Repacking robot fills empty crates with empties from trays

A repacking robot completes the unique system. It processes LOGIPACK’s empties on trays completely automatically. The robot removes single bottles from the trays and places them in the empty crates from the upstream sorting process. The system then returns the filled, unmixed crates to the sorting process to be stacked on pallets.

The repacking robot is part of the solution at the sorting center in Hamm.
A class of its own: The repacking robot fills empty crates with empties from trays.

We’re planning on developing and introducing similar concepts in other LOGIPACK centers based on our experiences with the innovative concept in Hamm.

Torsten Hiller, Geschäftsführer LOGIPACK
Torsten Hiller
Managing Director of the LOGIPACK group

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The many advantages of fully automatic empties management

Integrating all flows of empties
At the sorting center in Hamm, different types of reusable crates are brought in and automatically sorted using our empties solution RMS.

Fully automatic empties management
The stars of the solution in Hamm are the fully automatic processes that take place during depalletizing, recognition, in-depth sorting and palletizing.

Empty crates at the end of sorting kept to a minimum
Optimization of in-depth sorting keeps the number of empty crates at the end of sorting to a minimum. If any empty crates do remain, they’re filled with empties from trays.

Artificial intelligence (AI)
The AI performs ongoing analysis of the composition of the empties and optimizes future sorting processes based on this data.

Green added value
The eco-friendly solution makes it possible to efficiently process and sort the increasing number of reusable crates.

Performance and throughput
Our fully automatic empties solution increases performance and quality significantly compared to manual processes.

Learn more about our solution for empties management.

Good to know

LOGIPACK has been developing innovative solutions for marketing beverages in carbon-neutral pool crates since 2006, including reusable trays and crates for the distribution and the return of reusable bottles. Integrating processes into the LOGIPACK cycle has significantly reduced transportation distances and therefore CO2 emissions in returnables processing.

LLS is one of Germany’s largest sorting service providers for bottlers, specialist beverage wholesalers and food retailers. The KNAPP subsidiary specializes in in-depth sorting of returnable crates and bottles, crate transport and marketing these solutions.

The sorting system LLS operates in Hamm sorts all 0.5 liter and 0.33 liter reusable bottles fully automatically with our empties solution, RMS. LOGIPACK operates 45 % of the system and LLS operates 55 %. Currently, the bottle-sorting robot can process nine different types of bottles at once and its sorting capacity will increase in the future. Our returnables solution gives LOGIPACK and LLS the tools they need to succeed as the market continues to develop.

3 minutes reading time
Nina Firgo
Communications Food Retail Solutions
What trends are shaping food retail, and how are these trends affecting food logistics? Nina is tackling these topics for our blog and writes about the freshest solutions for the grocery sector.


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