Three ways to increase efficiency at a spirit manufacturing plant

Manufacturers at a spirit manufacturing plant can increase production and efficiency by setting realistic expectations, simplify their model, and asking for a third-party's input with an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) analysis.
By Scott Baesler, Stellar April 20, 2017

Manufacturers at a spirit manufacturing plant can increase production and efficiency by setting realistic expectations, simplify their model, and asking for a third-party's input with an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) analysis. Courtesy: StellarBottling is one of the biggest challenges in spirit manufacturing. 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 a manufacturer gets its product into its bottle can easily bottleneck your entire operation. Companies wondering why they’re experiencing inefficiency problems might want to look at their equipment, bottle types, and/or overall processing lines. Spirit manufacturers should consider these three tips for ramping up production and boosting efficiency:

1. Set realistic expectations and benchmarks with an overall equipment effectivness (OEE) analysis

Processors sometimes question why their equipment is underperforming, asking, "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.

Don’t expect that 500-bottles-per-minute machine to produce 500 bottles per minute if you haven’t looked at overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). New equipment alone won’t make up for problems in an 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 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 the manufacturer’s current processing and setup. 

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 OEE, ask these questions:

  • How fast are current changeovers?
  • How many bottles actually stay on the line?
  • How fast can the equipment function with a specialized bottle vs. a standard bottle?

If efficient output is a concern, consider switching to a standard bottle type. Designing a packaging line around a standard bottle will decrease changeovers and make stocking easier. While marketing is crucial in spirit manufacturing, standardizing the bottle type may be even more important if it’s the difference between inefficiency and an optimized, profit-maximizing throughput.

3. Have a third-party designer conduct an OEE analysis

If you feel like you’ve hit a plateau in manufacturing, a third-party designer may help you get your processing on track:

  1. Start by understanding your equipment: What are its capabilities? How old is it?
  2. 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.

-Scott Baesler is a senior project manager at Stellar. This article originally appeared on Stellar Food for ThoughtStellar is a CFE Media content partner.