Customer story

Lion: A fear of failure becomes the motivation to digitise

This article was published on Jun 17, 2021, 2:12 PM

Reading time: 4 minutes

With machinery failure always costly, leading alcohol beverage company Lion, used the Digital Lean (Industry 4.0) pilot programme to see how they could predict and monitor equipment maintenance.

What's in this article

    At a glance

    • Keen not to be bitten again when it comes to machine failure, Lion wanted a way to predict when its equipment, especially its centrifuges, needed maintenance.
    • The Digital Lean pilot programme from Callaghan Innovation gave them the chance to try a new system, experimenting with sensor technology and predictive analytics.
    • Lion are making progress towards their ideal solution with the programme also helping them lay the groundwork for automating the monitoring of other equipment, not just its centrifuges. 

    We are trying to move ourselves up the failure curve a bit, and this work [Digital Lean] has helped enormously on that front.

    - Simon Mezzino, Engineering and Process Safety Manager, Lion

    Putting centrifuges at the centre of Lion’s attention

    A crucial piece of equipment in making its famous Kiwi beer, Lion needs its centrifuges to work. Pure and simple.

    But this bit of equipment, the bit that is pivotal in removing hop debris, and in brewing proteins and yeast, is incredibly sensitive and can become destabilised. Unfortunately for Lion, they know it all too well, experiencing a lengthy production outage after an unexpected centrifuge failure a few years ago.

    Ever since, it’s been on a mission to introduce technology that can pre-warn it that its centrifuges, as well as critical pumps and motors, are likely to fail.

    Test, learn and pivot - a constant curve of learning

    Through Callaghan Innovation’s Digital Lean pilot programme, Lion set out to find a more effective way to monitor and predict maintenance for its centrifuges. 

    The ultimate solution is a network of sensors that could be placed on critical pieces of machinery, and transmit status updates about their condition and warning alerts when they’re showing signs of stress. This would provide workers with more timely and accurate information, giving them time to perform maintenance on the centrifuges, rather than having to wait till it fails. 

    But whilst they tried to automate the process, after consultation it became clear that there wasn’t a solution on the market that suited the needs of the business. This proved to be the impetus for Lion to work more closely with GEA Group, the German manufacturer of the brewer’s centrifuges. 

    The GEA system, already used in the European market but not at any breweries, includes additional sensors, and measures specific process flows and temperatures to help provide early warning of any potential failure. The ‘health’ of the machine is also displayed using a Human Machine Interface (HMI), which issues warnings when appropriate. 

    “We’ll be the first business outside of Europe to try this technology,” says Simon Mezzino, Engineering and Process Safety Manager at Lion.

    With a longer-term solution to centrifuge monitoring in the pipeline, the team pivoted to look at how to more efficiently monitor less-critical equipment, and to integrate monitoring into Lion’s enterprise asset management system.

    Lion’s automated system will eventually involve the use of algorithms and predictive analytics to create the crucial dashboard of indicators Mezzino has been seeking. 

    Moving up the failure curve

    The Digital Lean pilot project not only put Lion on the right track to finding predictive analytics on the condition of its centrifuges, but laid the groundwork for automating monitoring of its other equipment and introduced the company to Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

    “We are trying to move ourselves up the failure curve a bit, and this work has helped enormously on that front,” says Mezzino.

    The funding support offered through the programme has also allowed Lion to expand the scope of its manufacturing excellence programme, which has been in place since 2010. Lion’s parent company, Kirin, is closely watching developments, with a view to rolling out innovations at its plants around the world. 

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