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Project Ginger - AG Barr

Soft drinks brand, AG Barr are the company behind the legendary Irn Bru name – a drink that has embedded itself within the culture of the Scottish Nation and become a firm favourite across the UK.

The FTSE 250 business was established over 140 years ago in Scotland and has grown to employ over 1,000 employees across 10 UK locations as well as operate on an international scale. With a number of brands under the AG Barr Belt including Rubicon, Strathmore Scottish Spring Water, Tizer and Snapple – the carbonated soft drink Irn Bru remains the biggest and most elusive brand with the original recipe remaining a family secret which contains 32 flavours.

Whilst the formula remains a secret, what we can share with you is how the manufacturing process is enhanced with a custom-designed ventilation system that provides a working environment to maximise the efficient operations for both machinery and staff.

Colt were initially contacted by AG Barr in August 2018, when the company were in the planning stages of extending their processing facility and with the addition of a material store, to provide consultation on the ventilation requirements needed for the space. Following the standard industry procedure whereby the project went through the design team, from architect to consultant to contractor, consulting engineers Blyth & Blyth won the tender and Colt worked with the consultants on ‘Project Ginger’ – Ginger being the colloquial Scottish term for any form of fizzy drink, to develop the ventilation strategy.

At first Blyth & Blyth proposed a simple exhaustion and inlet system utilising the high capacity Coltair industrial air handling system, ideal for localised cooling, heating and heat recovery. The discussions around the requirements evolved, as did the design approach. AG Barr had some concerns about the high heating load during the warmer summer months owing to the dense array of machinery. In addition to this, it came to light for the majority of the working day, workers were sedentary, this therefore ushered the comfort of the workers to the forefront, as one of the priority pains.

The client was familiar with the process of adiabatic cooling, as this had been used to an extent in the existing facility and it was from this point that Colt worked closely with Blyth & Blyth to capture the pain points and design a more sophisticated system that moved beyond exhaust and inlet, incorporating the adiabatic cooling technique otherwise known as ‘evaporative cooling’. In a direct evaporative cooler, dry warm air is passed across a wetted desorption medium, whereby the water evaporates from the media and is absorbed by the air. The energy needed for evaporation is taken from the air, whereupon the cooling takes place. After the humidification, the latent energy contact is higher, the sensible energy content is lower and therefore so is the temperature. The system utilised a number of Colt products such as CoolStream and Tornado in order deliver on the requirements of AG Barr.

This method of ventilation provides a cost-effective and pragmatic alternative to traditional refrigerant based cooling as the system is 4-7 times more economical than a conventional air conditioning unit with a higher cooling capacity and free of refrigerants. A key feature of the system is that the evaporative cooler is fundamentally prepared for warmer summers as predicted by many organisations and establishments, therefore not only addressing the issue of overheating machinery and workers that AG Barr had been previously experiencing but also aligning with AG Barr values and efforts to minimise their environmental impact and reduce energy usage across manufacturing sites.

For the reasons outlined above, the newly proposed design specification was well-matched to the client requirements and resulted in AG Barr placing an order with Colt in February of 2019. The system was commissioned and demonstrated 11 December 2019, with some minor subsequent design “tweaks” requested by the Consultant.

As a new Process Building, which was erected for a new production line, the new manufacturing machine and process commissioning began early 2020, with a series test runs. The area is now in full production.

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