Umicore Brugge

This solution in a nutshell:

  • Filling of IBCs, drums, barrels and bidons
  • Chemistry industry
  • Filling above and under level
  • ATEX environment
  • Supply and removal of empty and filled IBCs and pallets via roller conveyors (also in ATEX zone)

Why the customer chose Bascules Robbe …

  • Automation
  • Custom-made flexibility
  • Choice of liquids: silicones, glues, honey, …
  • Paint and alkyd resins

Customer data

Umicore Brugge

State-of-the-art filling line for chemical products at Umicore Brugge.

For many years, Umicore Brugge and Bascules Robbe work closely together. For decades, Bascules Robbe delivers all filling and weighing applications for this renowned chemical company.

In order to fill IBCs and barrels in a cost-efficient and ergonomical way, the company counted on Bascules Robbe for the design and building of a filling line for liquid products. The filling by weight of the IBCs and barrels is done automatically by a weight controller.

The filling line is used in an ATEX zone. But, because of our many years of experience, this was no problem for the engineers of Bascules Robbe.

The supply and removal of IBCs and packages is done via automated roller conveyors, that are controlled by a central PLC. This Siemens controller takes care of the filling process too.

Umicore in Brugge is a renowned manufacturer of metal carboxylates, the dryers for paints and printing inks, that can also be used as catalysts in other chemical processes and alkyd resins, the binding agents which can be found in the same paint. As most of the molecules can be used in many more applications, like lubricating oils or car tyres, the company tries to expand the range. In order to support this diversification, they decided to invest in a new, state-of-the-art filling line and ditto roller conveyor.

Necessity of modern filling line

Back in time

Since 1985 Umicore Specialty Materials is located on a site at the end of the Kleine Pathoekweg in Brugge. Approximately 90% of the 3 to 400 different final products at Umicore Brugge are liquid and leave the site by means of tanker trucks. This happens both in 1,000 litre IBCs or 200 litre barrels, with an order of magnitude of approximately 20,000 barrels and 5 to 6,000 IBC per year. Until recently, the installation was only responsible for the filling of every final product. It goes back to the period in which the factory started. In other words, the installation is already 35 years old, although some (non-fundamental) adaptations have been done.

“For the filling, quite a lot of manual interventions had to be done by the operators” Bram Damman, project manager at Umicore Brugge, says.

“Barrels had to be transferred manually from the pallets, in order to place them on the conveyor. Subsequently, after the opening of the barrel under the filling head and the – automatic – filling, the barrels had to be placed on a pallet in pairs. Then they had to be tied too. After those many manipulations, with often a lot of damaged barrels too, the filling line seemed to be hidden in a dark little corner dating from a time in which not much attention was paid to ergonomics for blue-collars. This situation wasn’t optimal at all. That’s why we got the idea to invest in a new filling line, according to the latest techniques.”

Expansion in 2015

Although there was already a need, it took time to realize the project. “About four years? At least, much longer than we expected”, Damman confesses. “The main reason was that we could purchase the adjacent building in 2015. So, we hoped, to use this extra building as a new central warehouse that met the requirements of a logistics masterplan. But, once an external consultant mapped all logistical flows, it soon became clear that we lost a lot of time with filling the products. Because of that, we developed the idea to convert the old filling line on the original location into a new filling line with a new, more logical location. And this new location finally became the adjacent building, with the objective to control the IBC and pallets with barrels automatically.”


According to the predetermined masterplan, the investment would include much more than just a modern filling unit. It would be about different roller conveyors, a rotary table and an automatic pallet wrapper too. The solution would finally be realized by Bascules Robbe, the old friend of Umicore Brugge. In the past, Bascules Robbe not only realized every scale and some pallet truck weighers, but also a few little filling installations too.

Filling process via filling below level

For this solution, an empty IBC or barrel is placed on the roller conveyor. As soon as the operator places the column in the XY area and presses the start button, the IBC or pallet with barrels is tared. Subsequently, the filling process can begin. The head of the filling column moves along during the process, right under the surface of the medium (filling below level). This way, there is no turbulence in the product nor any foam can occur, with which the risk of product loss would increase. Moreover, no splashes will occur on the inside of the IBC. This is, of course, an esthetical advantage. It looks much cleaner. However, the foam has no consequences on the product. Another option is to decrease the speed of filling. Hence, the efficiency of the filling line would decrease too. Finally, the programming of the sophisticated filling process would be developed in-house at Bascules Robbe.

ATEX and machine directives

In order to meet the ATEX requirements, the filling line is provided with an extractor head with a fan. Hence, possible explosive gases can immediately be removed (the line is located in a Zone 1 and around the filling head there is a little Zone 2). The fan is connected to a secure PLC in order to prevent operators are able to fill when the fan is not working. Also, regarding static discharges, a security system is implemented. A little light on the control panel indicates if a barrel is grounded or not (via a special gripper). Only when this is the case, the filling process can begin. In short, this is an additional safety.


Although there are not many products in Umicore Brugge that can cause pollution, it is very important – especially for products that are transferred via long and warm supply pipes – to go through a CIP rinsing circuit. Hence, the risk of cross-contamination is minimized. Moreover, the filling column can be placed into a special holder after filling, in order to clean it.


With the choice of a new and modern filling line and automated transport via roller conveyors, there is no product loss anymore, in comparison with the unnecessary arriving and departing forklifts from the filling line to the warehouse.

This way, the operators can spend their time more efficiently. Finally, it is much more comfortable to work for them.

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