ACTIVITY: beer and lager brewing
TASK: high-volume brewing, kegging and canning
SIZE: 240 employees
OUTSTANDING FEATURES: cultural transformation under adverse conditions, efficient high-volume manufacture on a difficult sloping site, equipment effectiveness initiatives
Even brewing insiders acknowledge, a little sadly, that their industry tends to lack the manufacturing qualities that are usually celebrated in these pages. The pace, vigour and efficiency of the typical brewery is usually several orders of magnitude below that encountered in, say, the automotive industry. So it's a rare pleasure to recognise the very real achievements of Tennent Caledonian's Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow.
It all began with the Monopoly and Merger Commission's Beer Orders of 1990. At Wellpark, and throughout the industry, the effect was dramatic.
Within two years, the brewery - which is Bass Brewers' second biggest - had seen its export production moved to Birmingham, the closure of a sister plant in Edinburgh and its mission redefined as focusing primarily on the efficient low-cost production of high-volume lines. Project Springboard, explains Neil Talbot, general manager, was to be the strategy for achieving it.
The deal was simple. By 1994, a seven-layer organisational structure had been cut to just four layers, with 430 employees reduced to 235, and rigidly enforced demarcation rules replaced by a culture of flexible working.
Eyes raised heavenwards, Talbot reels off the list of personnel who used to be involved in a simple activity such as changing a pump: mechanical craftsmen, electrical fitters, instrument technicians and pipe-fitters.
Today, a single person carries out the task. Their reward? A job - plus a commitment from Tennent to develop its people's maximum potential: 'We've spent £1,000 per person on training over the past three years.'
The results speak for themselves. By any criteria, the Wellpark operation is sparsely manned, with a high reliance on team members not only controlling complex processes through computer-based control systems, but also undertaking many of the required monitoring actions themselves. A focus on boosting overall equipment effectiveness measures has seen line efficiencies boosted by 8% in some instances, thanks to improved maintenance and slicker changeovers.
At Wellpark high volumes, where a new high-speed canning line is capable of filling 2,000 cans of lager a minute, the benefits clearly flow straight through to the bottom line.