Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Diageo Invests $120M in Three New Bottling Lines
Packaging certainly is not the most glamorous part of whiskey-making, but it's essential. It's also costly, requiring both a lot of labor and a lot of equipment.
Diageo is the only whiskey producer in North America to do its packaging at a facility devoted to nothing else. It is done in a massive but otherwise non-descript facility in an industrial park on the outskirts of Plainfield, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. Roads and rails provide access and the tank farm is the only clue to the plant's purpose. Except for a small hand-bottling line in Tullahoma, used for some Orphan Barrel and George Dickel products, most of Diageo's American whiskeys (Dickel, Bulleit) are bottled here.
This is the sort of thing Diageo rarely talks about. Requests to tour Plainfield are routinely and curtly refused. Diageo did, however, allow the magazine Packaging World to report on its recent addition of three new high-speed bottling lines at Plainfield, including a 300-bpm (bottles per minute) glass bottle line and a 260-bpm filling line for PET (i.e., plastic) flasks.
Since 2010, Packaging World reports, the company has invested more than $250 million in its North American production network to put in place a mix of high-speed, high-volume lines for established brands and lines with greater flexibility for new product innovations.
"Diageo's ambition is to be the best performing, most trusted and respected consumer products company in the world. Our supply chain operations will play a critical role in delivering that goal," said Diageo North America President Larry Schwartz at the unveiling of the company's most recent plant expansion. "The investment we have made in our manufacturing network demonstrates our commitment to developing this important part of our business."
In August 2013, Diageo completed a 90,000-sq-ft expansion at Plainfield, making it the company's largest bottling facility at 531,000-sq-ft The company also added a new cold-filtration system in the processing area, capable of preparing 250,000 gal of liquid per day.
Since it opened in 1966, the Plainfield facility (then owned by Diageo predecessor company Schenley) has been the focus of a number of investments. Diageo added a Brand Technical Center in 2001 to turn new liquid and packaging ideas into commercial products, and in 2009 it created a high-speed bottling area for malt drinks such as Smirnoff Ice. Also in 2009, Diageo partnered with rigid plastic packaging supplier Logoplaste to add a 40,000-sq-ft blow-molding facility adjacent to the plant to supply the majority of its PET bottles. In 2012, Diageo created a flexible production area with two packaging lines geared toward lower-volume, complex production and innovation requirements.
With the latest expansion, Diageo added a pouch filling line for Diageo's frozen cocktail products. That brings the number of packaging lines at Plainfield to 10, with the addition of Line 8 for glass and PET, Line 9 for glass, and Line 10 for PET.
In 2013, Plainfield bottled approximately 31 million cases of product, which is equivalent to 372 million 750-mL bottles. According to Diageo, "if those bottles were laid end-to-end, they would circle the globe nearly three times."