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Scottish Courage uses WITNESS simulation software from the Lanner Group to understand container and keg handling processes at the redeveloped Edinburgh brewery

Background

Scottish Courage was formed in 1995, following Scottish & Newcastle’s acquisition of Courage. With brands including Foster’s, Kronenbourg and John Smith’s in their portfolio, Scottish Courage is the UK’s leading brewer. The Fountain Road Site in the heart of Edinburgh is undergoing major redevelopment. An area within the existing brewery is now to accommodate a new high-capacity carousel keg line. However, space is a major constraint, not only for the line machinery but also for the activities associated with servicing the line. Efficient use of this area is therefore essential to ensure the facility meets performance targets.

As part of the project, Scottish Courage asked Lanner Group to build an interactive process simulation tool to enable site staff to fully understand the processes relating to container and keg handling on site and to ensure that the correct resource and logistics strategy could be implemented. An initial meeting produced a proposal that detailed the model scope and report output requirements. Due to the complexity of the process defined in the scope, it was clear that traditional static calculation methods would not offer the possibility of accounting for the interrelationships between all of the variables that needed to be taken into consideration. For this reason, Lanner used WITNESS, its world-leading simulation software to ensure correct process representation.

The key requirements of the simulation tool were twofold:

1. The user interaction had to be:

  • intuitive, with clearly defined process parameters that could be changed
  • easy for project managers and team leaders to understand with minimal training
  • able to produce clear reports

2. The model had to answer the following key questions: 

  • How many forklift trucks will be required to sustain production at the required levels
  • How busy will the forklift trucks and their drivers be?
  • What will be the impact of the proposed safe working method in the trailer bay area?
  • What will be the impact of different operating policies? (e.g., forklifts dedicated to specific duties, additional tasks carried out by forklift truck drivers).
  • What is the optimum size of the conveyors, or level of line-side container storage?
  • What effect will different shift patterns have on staff and production?
  • What impact will different production schedules have on production output?
  • What will be the utilisation of the keg filler (the bottleneck) as a result of all the parametric changes?

A number of parameters could be “stress tested” in the model; for example, what would happen when the plant was ramped up to “over-speed?” Different keg sizes and the consequences of the associated number of lifts that are required to load a truck could be fully quantified and understood in the context of plant performance.

Lanner’s Approach

The majority of the work was undertaken onsite at the Fountain Brewery. This facilitated close communication with the process owners and maximised bilateral understanding of all aspects of the project. It also ensured that Scottish Courage’s expectations were met, and that the terminology used within the model interface was correct.

Because the solution was to be left in the hands of several potential users, it was essential that the user interface was clear and simple to understand. To facilitate this, a front-end was developed in Microsoft Excel to enable seamless manipulation of the desired model parameters. Examples of the user interface screenshots are shown on the first page and below.

To assist in data entry, simplified schematics of the process were used where appropriate. The user could only change the values (in the white cells) that are relevant to the project scope. Other information required was entered into clearly defined tables. The user could change as little or as much information as they liked between model runs.

The WITNESS Model

The simulation model constructed in WITNESS references the values in the Excel file. Although the WITNESS model is pivotal in mimicking the proposed process with many logic rules and complex conditions, there is no need for the user to be a WITNESS programmer. The only training requirement is a five-minute familiarisation with the Excel user interface. Once the user is happy with the settings for the run, the WITNESS model is simply run.

As the model runs, an animation of the process is displayed showing the movement of the forklift trucks around the yard and the movement of kegs along the production line. Icons representing the machines change colour to indicate their status: running, idle, broken-down, changing over, blocked or waiting for labour. In addition to this a number of graphs are plotted showing “Work in Progress,” conveyor levels and Operator utilisation. A pie chart indicates the key filler statistics as required by the project scope.

The WITNESS model runs for a complete day of production. At the end of the day, the model stops and records a number of statistics. These statistics are written directly back into the Excel interface for the user to review.

A screen shot of the WITNESS model and the Model Output summary is shown below.

Benefits to Scottish Courage

  • Full understanding of the process and its constraints
  • A realistic expectation of production output under different conditions
  • The number of forklift trucks required and the utilisation of their drivers
  • Level of service required from the logistics provider
  • Required capacity of keg stack conveyors
  • Benefits related to driver shift patterns (e.g., recovery time between breaks)

Results

By constructing computer models of the site, Lanner effectively enabled the plant to be run before it was built. The model is now being used at several management levels to provide Scottish Courage with tremendous insight into plant performance, its capacity and its constraints. Changes in the planned operation of the plant have already been made as a result.


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