case study

Real-time data collection and display enables efficiency improvements

Established in 1887, family-owned William Grant & Sons is a premium spirits company with a portfolio of award winning brands such as Balvenie and Glenfiddich, the world’s most awarded single malt Scotch whisky.

When the company began, it was the dream of its founder to make the ‘best dram in the valley’ and 5 generations later this still holds true. In a world where tradition reigns, William Grant remains true to its heritage, but has a vision to become the most coveted branded spirits company in the world. The company’s values underpin its culture, and include a stated need to recognise innovative thinking and continuous improvement.

William Grant’s involvement with Gemba Solutions began initially when Brian Gray (Team Leader, Spirit Supply) had begun measuring OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) using spreadsheets to log data and reviewing performance retrospectively. Brian was interested in real-time data collection and was looking for ways to progress the initiative further.

"Prior to working with Gemba, we had been spending more time maintaining our spreadsheets than we did actually doing anything about what the data was telling us."
Brian Gray, Team Leader Spirit Supply

"The Gemba team were truly interested in the processes we were following and in supporting us on our journey." Brian’s initial aim was to display real-time data so that his teams could see how they were performing and influence efficiency in real-time. 

The Pilot


William Grant decided to pilot Gemba Solutions software in the Cask Filling & Disgorging area at its Glenfiddich Distillery.

"We use large shop-floor display screens to display our real-time throughput in casks per minute across 3 lines, showing in green when we are ahead of target and red when we are behind", said Brian. "We also use the data at daily production meetings and monthly team meetings, analysing the data further, looking for improvements and tracking these to completion."

One of the first problems to be highlighted by the system was on the traditional filling line, where the data highlighted an inefficiency in the Cask In-Feed area - gaps in the feed were occurring and therefore throughput became inconsistent. The William Grant team increased the speed of the lifters at the In-Feed, and were able to improve the situation immediately.

Recognising an area as a bottleneck also gave supervisors the opportunity to focus more experienced resource on that area, and the data is also used to highlight training needs, leading to the creation of development plans for individual operators. Any initial reservations that the shop-floor staff had concerning detailed monitoring of production progress soon gave way to them seeing a benefit in removing the excessive admin activities that had been needed to maintain the previous, spreadsheet-based approach to monitoring efficiency.

"Prior to the Gemba software implementation, we were logging details manually on paper and then entering on to spreadsheets on an office PC the following morning", agreed Brian. Coupled with the excessive admin activities, any data the team looked at was therefore at least 24 hours out of date.

William Grant have worked hard on developing a CI (Continuous Improvement) strategy based around lean manufacturing, Six Sigma and visual management, with a focus on developing the CI skills of the teams.

"The Gemba software fits in well with this, particularly around the areas of operational performance and visual management and delivers an excellent platform for CI."
Brian Gray, Team Leader Spirit Supply

The Benefits


Along with the huge reduction in admin tasks that Gemba’s automated data collection has brought, displaying progress against target on the shop-floor brought an immediate upturn in efficiency.

"Just giving the teams visibility of how they were performing in real-time against the standards gave us huge benefits." commented Brian.

Brian’s team have also secured a sustained 15% improvement in efficiency. As new performance levels were rolled in to forward budget assumptions, a reduction in the need for temporary staff was also identified and has now been realised, which has had a significant impact on the overall cost per cask.

"I have developed a good relationship with the people at Gemba," commented Brian, "and I’ve had a great experience of their implementation and support services." An expansion of the Gemba system has now begun."

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