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Preactor puts the ‘Phizz’ Back into Drinks Packing
May 2001

Hall & WoodhouseAn independent family brewery founded in 1777 has joined the 21st century with a vengeance by integrating a Preactor FCS into its bottling and canning operation. The result has been improved efficiencies, with cleaning and product turnaround times being scheduled with increased accuracy.  Hall & Woodhouse is located in Blandford Forum, Dorset, UK, where it brews beer and manufactures soft drinks.

“We also offer a contract packing service,” explains Jim Inkster, the Master Planner at Hall & Woodhouse, “and it is in this area that the Preactor is helping to schedule and control the operation.”

Preactor is, in essence, an interactive electronic planning board designed to give companies greater control of their manufacturing operations. It achieves this by helping optimise the balance between demand and capacity.   In the case of Hall & Woodhouse, the Preactor has been integrated into the Small Pack operation, which comprises one bottling line and three canning lines. These lines bottle and can a diverse selection of drinks, including flavoured waters, spirits, spirit mixers, soft drinks, alcopops, beers and ciders.

“The Preactor replaced a manual system which was slow to react to changing priorities,” says Jim Inkster. “The old system relied heavily upon the memories of one or two people and, frankly, was no longer really equal to the complexities of an operation which has developed into a major part of our business.”

Several factors make it a very complex operation indeed. “One such factor is the highly complicated matrices of the cleaning regimes, which Preactor now helps schedule,” continues Jim Inkster. “For example, switching a vessel from soft drinks to water takes all of 8 hours, whereas the reverse process – from water to soft drinks – takes just half an hour. Scheduling the cleaning regime the wrong way could cost us hours and hours of production time. But Preactor now handles this – giving us visibility and avoiding production hold-ups.”

Another complexity, which Preactor now helps manage, concerns the shelf life of products. “When a job is planned for Week 2,” says Jim Inkster, “in our business it’s essential that it actually happens in Week 2, and not in Week 1 – even if there is the available capacity to get the job done early. This is because the products have a limited shelf life and have to be made and delivered accordingly.”

Preactor is also used to schedule the ‘mechanical’ changeover of pack size and type. Packing sizes range from 15cl to 56.8cl (which is a pint). And finally, Preactor helps Hall & Woodhouse operate its JIT system. “A warehouse full of empty cans waiting to be filled is no use to anybody,” adds Jim Inkster.

He concludes: “We’re not yet using the full power of Preactor, but we’re going to implement some additional functions soon. One of these is parallel scheduling, which will allow cleaning to take place simultaneously with line changes – rather than doing one, then the other. We’ll also be using Preactor to help us schedule like products, which will lead to yet more new production efficiencies.”