Upgrades improve the flow at Chivas Brothers

Renowned distillers Chivas Brothers could raise a glass themselves to celebrate the success of the upgrades to their Kilmalid bottling plant.

The Scotch whisky and premium gin arm of the drinks giant Pernod Ricard, Chivas Brothers markets a range of famous spirits, producing some 20 million cases per year. From its bottling plant at Kilmalid, northwest of Glasgow one of the largest in Scotland Chivas Brothers distributes leading brands including Ballantines, Beefeater Gin and Malibu to more than 150 countries around the world.

Modernisation programme

To ensure that Chivas Brothers could continue to support the increasing worldwide demand for its products, the company decided to invest in a multi-million-pound refurbishment of its conveying, palletising, shrink wrapping, storage and dispatch systems at Kilmalid. In a carefully planned 3-year upgrade programme undertaken in four phases, each tendered for separately Chivas Brothers required its 25-year-old equipment to be replaced by equally reliable and robust systems, yet without any disruption to its processing of orders. The control systems for each of the four contracts were supplied by Autotech Controls Ltd, working in partnership with the handling systems main contractor, Excel Automation.

Phased upgrades

Phase one comprised the refurbishment of eight automatic stacker cranes and the new control system specified for the cranes included the latest generation of intelligent Rockwell AC drive system with full closed-loop control via laser positioning devices on the horizontal and vertical movements. This technology eliminates the need for on-board PLC controllers, provides improved functionality and has increased the throughput of the warehouse for Chivas Brothers. The project also included the fitting of two-man manual drive cabs, equipped with HMIs (Human/Machine Interfaces), to facilitate stock checking within the high-bay stores.

The second phase of the upgrade programme involved replacing the seven existing shrink wrapping machines with two new, high-speed wrappers and replacing the warehouse infeed pallet conveyors. Phase three involved the replacement of seven palletisers with eight new ones, and the replacement of case conveyors from the production hall to the palletisers. The final phase saw the twelve dispatch lanes that fed old clamp-type pallet exchangers replaced with an improved pallet exchange system, including laser-guided AGVs (automated guided vehicles).

Improved throughput

Autotechs scope of supply included all the control systems for the carton conveyors, pallet conveyors, palletisers and stacker cranes. The companys proven control solutions combined with careful planning and project management by the Chivas Brothers, Excel and Autotech teams not only allowed order processing at Kilmalid to be maintained seamlessly throughout the upgrade programme, but also resulted in an increase in throughput at the site.

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