Those who think of bourbon, also think of Kentucky. And rightly so. For 98% of all US distilleries which produce this particular whiskey are located in this federal state. This has been the tradition since settlers distilled corn-based whiskey there for the first time in 1770 and allowed it to mature in charred oak casks.
They were joined in 1788 by farmer and miller Johannes Jakob Böhm of German descent, who, in search of a better life, had packed all his worldly goods, traveled west with his family and finally settled in Bourbon County. In 1795, in the meantime having changed his name to Jacob Beam, he sold the first barrel of Old Jake Beam Sour Mash.
His new blend launched the unique success story of a family company, which has continued to the present day over seven generations. Beam has become one of the largest manufacturers of spirits in the USA. The Jim Beam brand family alone accounts for half of the bourbon produced in Kentucky each year, and the Jim Beam brand is the world’s No. One among bourbon whiskeys. Added to this is a wide range of other brands and high-percentage liquors which ranges from Cognac and gin to rum, Scotch, tequila and vodka.
The group’s main production plant is the Old Grand Dad factory in Frankfort, Kentucky, founded in 1901 where 350 employees produce and ship 12 million cases a year – with around 100 different brands of spirits in PET and glass bottles in approximately 1,600 different sales units – in two and three-shift operation on a total of nine lines. And all this with an output which has doubled in the last five years.
It goes without saying that investment in new equipment has to fulfill several criteria. It should be highly efficient, extremely reliable and as flexible as possible in order to process the enormous diversity of products and enable further growth. Where the packaging equipment is concerned, in recent years, Byron DuBois, Manager of Old Grand Dad, has opted for a total of four wrap-around packers from KHS.
The first investments were in two Innopack Kisters WP A-H from the Advanced range for high-capacity lines. At the present time, they process exclusively bottles in 6 and 12-packs – and in doing so display all their advantages.
1. High ease of operation
As a feature of the operator-prompted format changeover, the machine operator panel indicates which parameters have to be reset and where; there is no longer a need for long paper lists. Instead, an electronic display provides information on the new settings required. Other plus points are outstanding accessibility and hygienic design.
2. Improved machine efficiency
Identical servo motors, each with integral servo controllers, simplify troubleshooting in the event of a malfunctions and part replacement when maintenance is required. As the servo controllers are no longer located in the control cabinet, less space is required and the wiring in the packaging machine itself is reduced.
3. Less machine operator dependency
Beam decided to install a blanks feed belt upstream of each of the packers. Here, a belt system removes individual blanks automatically. Special servo-motor-driven belts with particularly slip-proof surfaces index the blanks perfectly into the conveyor chain while optoelectronic sensors ensure reliable production. “The operators load the conveyor and can then get on with other tasks until the blanks have been processed – an important plus point as far as we are concerned,” comments John Ballard, Maintenance Manager at the Frankfort plant.
4. Gentle, custom-fit packaging
Folding chains with attached folding pushers in the front and rear case packing areas initially guide the permanently fixed product groups – and thereafter folding curves on both sides when they simultaneously converge with the blanks after indexing. After the blanks have been closed, glue is applied by means of special hot melt applicators, the front and rear of the case are finally sealed, and the lid is folded and glued. The finished carton then passes through an application pressure station.
5. High flexibility coupled with top-quality service
Beam currently uses only corrugated cardboard cases, but is keeping its options open for the future. This is because the system is also prepared for kraft cardboard cases and, if required, every Innopack Kisters WP A-H can also form tray packs – as long as the edge of the tray is at least 60 mm high. KHS also provides advice regarding particularly suitable cardboard materials. This includes the type and thickness of the cardboard, the shape of the case, perforations to be incorporated, and any conceivable partitions.
Two Innopack WP 030 machines were thus first choice when it came to subsequent investments. John Ballard’s justification is convincing: “It made no sense to use the Advance technology here, as we would not have been able to make use of its numerous advantages, if – as intended – we were only going to pack one size of bottle in 12-pack wrap-around cases.”
Once again, Byron DuBois is extremely satisfied with Beam’s latest decisions. “The two Innopack WP 030 machines also operate exactly the way we want them to. The quality of the products is outstanding and the machines are easy to operate and low-noise. We would opt for these systems time and time again for lines with low capacity and a small processing range.” After all, the world’s No. 1 is the world’s No. 1.
Manager of the Beam headquarters in Frankfort, Kentucky on the collaboration with KHS:
- Our partnership began in 2010. In the light of upcoming investments, we visited breweries that had already been using the Innopack Kisters WP A-H for some time and whose comments were nothing other than positive. The overall concept impressed us, as it is very flexible and well thought out in every respect. It therefore did not take us long to place the first order.
- Four KHS wrap-around packers have in the meantime been installed here in the Old Grand Dad plant. We need technical systems which we can completely rely on in order to achieve the specified high output reliably. Since 2010, we have been ordering one KHS packer after the other; they not only pack our high-quality products perfectly, but also work highly efficiently. We are extremely satisfied.
- Flexibility in production is a decisive factor for us – now and in the future. At the Frankfort plant, we are currently bottling spirits in PET and glass bottles in almost equal quantities. PET bottles are becoming ever more popular, as they have many advantages. They are light, unbreakable and at first glance almost indistinguishable from glass bottles – they also have an attractive appearance.