Diageo invests £105m in Cameronbridge distillery

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Investment

Whisky barrels
Whisky barrels
Diageo has dramatically upped efficiency and production in parallel with a £105m investment programme at its Cameronbridge distillery, which makes leading Scotch whisky and white spirit brands.

In partnership with lean manufacturing and consulting firm MCP, Diageo's 'Project Forth' has driven a host of improvements to procedures, operations and facilities at the plant, which processes 4,000t of grain weekly.

They were outlined at a recent site visit attended by FoodManufacture, designed to benchmark best practice attended by a range of food and drink manufacturers, including Kerry Foods, Kraft Foods, Mars and Warburtons.

“Project Forth is a four year journey that will increase capacity by 60%, due to be complete by July,”​ said maintenance manager Stuart Morrison.

“We are in the early stages of phase four, commissioning the bioenergy plant.”​ The aim was to reach total annual capacity of 120M litres of alcohol by 2012, he said.

Poor asset reliability

Supply manager Neil Murphy said initial investigation showed big procedural changes were needed. “We weren’t using our maintenance programme as well as we could, we had poor asset reliability, inefficent ways of working and we weren’t great at releasing assets at the right time for the maintenance teams.”

In addition, he said maintenance and process teams had been at cross-purposes, with each often blaming the other for faults. Morrison added: “We had plenty of data, but we weren’t using it to our benefit. I don’t think we did any failure analysis and betterment. We recognised this was one of the key areas we needed to tackle.”

However, while recognising there would always be more to do, the turnaround had been dramatic, he said. In the 2011 financial year the site had allocated £4M to invest in continuous improvement of equipment to boost capacity and performance, which is calculated to save hundreds of thousands of pounds annually.

Staff claimed investment in malt clean-in-place improvements costing £96,000 would achieve the biggest saving this year, recouping an estimated £500,000 by increasing yield. “If you can show quick, easy wins it gets the involvement of staff on site and helps with morale,”​ said Gary Simpson, energy and sustainability manager.

Sizeable chunks of cash have also been invested on eco-friendly projects in the past three years, such as a £65m bioenergy plant. Full use of Systems, Applications and Products software had been invaluable in planning and prioritising maintenance and continuous improvement and mapping the benefits, team managers reported.

New production high

And asset care excellence projects had led Cameronbridge to hit a new production high of 1.8m litres a month in April, site visitors heard. Analysis of equipment failure patterns had also provided valuable maintenance insights, showing that most failures happened in the early phase of the lifecycle of kit, rather than much later.

The journey had been tough and there had been obstacles. These included the maintenance planner leaving without an immediate replacement to have a baby and a power cut for almost 24 hours during the harsh 2010-11 winter, which had hit production.

A winterisation programme has been devised to safeguard against similar problems. In its efforts to nail and raise key performance indicators, the distillery had moved from ‘firefighting’ problems as they occurred to preventative maintenance, said Morrison.

This would have been impossible without enabling staff at all levels to take ownership of solutions and lead projects, he said. The most impressive improvement had been made in cost management, scores for which had risen from 34% in an initial 2007 audit to 73% in 2010.

“We were going from firefighting to firefighting and it was more by luck than judgement that we were meeting budgets,”​ said Morrison. Productivity and maintenance effectiveness had also leapt from 41% to 76% in the same period.

Related topics: Drinks

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