Tooheys is a high-performance manufacturer of well-known beer brands, operating 24 x 7 at Lidcombe NSW. Their need for continuous improvement is a major focus. A percent here or there can have major impact, especially at filling speeds in excess of 1,000 bottles per minute.

mQ Intelligence previously improved the performance of their inline equipment, the latest being a 25-year-old depalletiser that supplies one of their main filling lines.

With a cycle time of over five minutes per pallet on a good day, it was a bottleneck (pardon the pun)! To really keep up with the line, its cycle time needed to be below four minutes.

Over the years, many internal and external software engineers tried to improve the performance using ad hoc approaches, all the while creating tangled PLC code with minimal improvement. Slightly improving one function would often adversely affect another.

Our first analysis confirmed once again that we had found “spaghetti junction”: poor structure, absent documentation and scattered latching logic, all contributing to lack of performance. The tangled logic also hindered speedy issue resolution.

Although a full rewrite of the PLC code would have been the ideal path, the fast-approaching beer drinking season required a more pragmatic approach. We consolidated, restructured and documented key areas of the code, so that it could be maintained and serviced.

The depalletiser now performs at a cycle time of 3.25 minutes per pallet, which is an extraordinary 35% improvement!

This improvement also means the depalletiser is more capable of self-recovery, leading to significantly reduced downtime.

A double bonus.

Finally, the fact that absolutely no mechanical modifications were made might start you thinking about what possibilities and opportunities might be hiding in the lines of code in your factory.

Are you spending your improvement dollars wisely or sweating old assets?