Bottling is one of the biggest challenges in spirit manufacturing. In fact, it’s the most common issue our team encounters when working with clients in this space.
For spirit manufacturers, it’s not usually a question of “Can we make this product?” but rather “Can we get it into a bottle fast enough to fulfill all our orders?”
How you get your product into its bottle can easily bottleneck your entire operation. Are you experiencing inefficiencies at your plant? Wondering why your output isn’t what you estimated? Your problems may stem from issues with equipment, bottle types and/or overall processing lines.
You can ramp up your production and boost efficiency by:
- Setting realistic expectations and benchmarks with an OEE analysis
- Considering a switch from a specialized bottle to a standard bottle
- Identifying a third-party designer to conduct an OEE analysis
1. Set realistic expectations and benchmarks with an OEE analysis
I sometimes hear processors question why their equipment is underperforming: “We bought a machine that can produce 500 bottles a minute, so why won’t it?”
Of course, this could involve a host of variables, but it’s easy to immediately blame the machine itself. Yes, sometimes increasing throughput is a matter of buying more equipment, but before you invest in new technology, you have to establish realistic key performance indicators (KPIs). Don’t design for the impossible.
So don’t expect that 500-bottles-per-minute machine to produce 500 bottles per minute if you haven’t looked at your overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). New equipment alone won’t make up for problems in your OEE.
The first step in improving efficiency is understanding your baseline and establishing realistic goals. One of the best ways to do that is through an OEE analysis, which incorporates virtual simulation to study your plant’s existing processes and packaging.
This type of analysis factors in all the variables that determine how your plant operates — not just your equipment — and compares it to what your potential, ideal output could be. For example, a simulation may determine your equipment is capable of producing 1,000 bottles in a minute, but an OEE analysis can reveal how this will actually play out given your current processing and setup. Sure, you might be able to achieve that optimal level of production, but it may only be for one hour or one day.
A variety of factors can affect your plant’s efficiency, whether it’s cumbersome changeovers or an unproductive number of meetings. Simple revisions to your facility’s everyday activities can often times boost efficiency without buying new equipment.
2. Consider switching from a specialized bottle to a standard bottle
One of the most unique elements of spirit manufacturing is the packaging. When it comes to liquor, the bottles themselves are often elaborate marketing tools. However, producing a variety of SKUs means packaging lines have to be designed to handle changeovers for a number of these specialized bottles.
If you’re producing multiple products and considering your OEE, ask yourself these questions:
- How fast are current changeovers?
- How many bottles actually stay on the line?
- How fast can my equipment function with a specialized bottle vs. a standard bottle?
If efficient output is a concern, consider switching to a standard bottle type. Designing your packaging line around a standard bottle will decrease changeovers and make stocking easier. While marketing is everything in the world of alcoholic products, standardizing your bottle type may be even more important if it’s the difference between inefficiency and an optimized, profit-maximizing throughput.
3. Identify a third-party designer to conduct an OEE analysis
If you feel like you’ve hit a plateau in your spirit manufacturing, a third-party designer may help you get your processing on track:
- Start by understanding your equipment: What are its capabilities? How old is it?
- Then analyze how your plant is operating: What’s going wrong? What’s being done right? What are your output numbers?
You’ll need this information when researching a partner for an OEE analysis, but how do you know if it’s worth your time? Here are some basic signs that it’s time to call a designer:
- Lower-than-expected production rates from equipment
- Lower-than-expected plant production rates overall
- Excessive changeovers
- A multitude of floor problems on the lines
- Extensive bottle breakage
- Extensive shutdowns
- Extensive downtime
These red flags are usually easy to spot, but many times they will go unaddressed or accepted as the norm. Spirit manufacturing is a unique space with unique needs. Before approving the purchase of major equipment or other significant changes, do your research to understand where you should invest your money to get the best ROI.
Stellar is a fully integrated firm focused on planning, design, pre-construction, construction, refrigeration, mechanical & utility, building envelope, and total operations & maintenance services worldwide. Visit the company's blog at www.stellarfoodforthought.net or learn about its projects at stellar.net.