Since 2013, Rwanda’s leading producer of beverages and the largest shareholder of the beverage market BRALIRWA has been making significant investments in its production facilities both for the soft drinks and beer plants in Kigali and Rubavu (Gisenyi) respectively.
The latest in these investments is the instalment of a brand new, state of the art automated assembly line at the Gisenyi based brewery which is now already operational.
The first few minutes inside the facility are rather deafening like in any other industry with the clatter of machinery as they move the bulk of beer that flows from this brewery to only serve the local Rwandan beverage market but also Easter D.R Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, and other neighbouring markets whose demand for Rwandan brands like Mutzig, Primus, Turbo King etc has been augmenting in the recent past.
But once settled into the facility, falling in love with it is instant. The movements of crates of empty beer bottles as thye arrive into the cleaning area and then bottles and crates are separated to go to different directions following through their various cycles of cleansing before they can be reunited clean, and filled with quality beer products ready to be shipped out to eager enthusiasts waiting in bars across Rwanda and the region.
The cleaning process of the bottles is an immaculate and convincing one, ensuring that no probability of retaining contamination of any sort is given. The bottles go through several compartments where they are washed with hot water and detergent, then leansed with clean water and into an inspection area.
At the cleaning level and in all other levels of the production process, automated checks and balances remove all those bottles whose quality or the quality of their contents do not fit within set standards.
Bottles with cracks, water or any other liquids that may have been retained at the washing point are eliminated from the harmonious flow towards the filling level.
Watching the machine work and the technical personnel feeding it with commands and responding to notifications, there is little room that one will not be drawn into its clatter amazed by the efficiency with which it operates and of course the economic impact this standards to have on not just BRALIRWA but Rwanda’s nascent manufacturing sector.
Commissioned into service early this year, BRALIRWA’s automated assembly line at the Gisenyi brewery has an installed capacity of outputting 40,000 and 35,000 beer bottles per hour of 33cl and 50cl respectively.
The increase in terms of hourly output capacity if compared to the old facilities is not very huge but the efficiency that comes with the new automated facility and the assurance of uncompromised quality standards is a great boost to BRALIRWA’s capacity to satisfy the beer market in Rwanda and the region.
Smoothly operating, lesser noise and limited human interaction in its operation except through computerised commands, the new assembly line has brought procedures at the Gisenyi plant to international standard, significantly limiting human error and reducing the possibility of occupational injury to the 15 staff it employs.
From observation of the operation of the new assembly line and conversations with staff working at the facility, the automated assembly line is a source of relief for technical staff operating the plant’s production lines.
Increased production efficiency
Regarding improved production efficiency, the first feature of the new production plant is that there is limited human interaction with the production cycle which in turn minimises the probability of making errors in the process.
From the loading of crates of empty bottles, cleaning, verification of bottle standards, through the whole bottling process, packaging and branding, and to the last phase of gathering full crates filled with Rwanda’s most popular beers, human involvement is only at the stage of loading crates of empty bottles onto the system’s conveyer and at the end when they crates now full with beer-carrying bottles are offload and readied to be transported to the brewery’s storage area and consequently to the consumer market.
The rest of the procedures are handled by an automated line, working on commands fed into the system by a highly skilled technical team.
A good example of this highly automated state of the art equipment is on the lubrication of the system which was one source of intermittent headaches to technical staff operating the old facilities. On many occasions, the system would stop operating or several bottles would break as a result of increasing friction.
With the new system however, this is a story of the past. Lubricants are splashed on where they are meant to be by specialised nozzles installed on the line ensuring that the gigantic robotic structure continues operation with minimal distractions.
As a result of the reduced production downtime, there is founded optimism that the production capacity of the facility will be efficiently utilised.
In the past, operators of the old assembly line note that there were times the machines stopped working for more than four hours as technicians worked to find out what fault in the system was causing trouble.
Such downtimes explain why at some occasions, the beer supply especially during peak seasons of the year like in Christmas and New Festivities would be insufficient to meet the high seasonal demand.
The optimism that there will no longer be downtimes as a result of faults in the production line is premised on the fact that the assembly line generates notification alarms whenever there is a fault, clearly detailing which area on the facility has a problem. This implies that time which would be spent identifying what the cause of a system failure is has been eliminated.
This production efficiency is then reinforced by the efficient use of utilities particularly water and the reduced waste of beverage, both of which represent a significant reduction in the cost of operating the beer assembly line.
Reduction in risks to occupational injury
Another area that the automated production line has significantly impacted is the safety of personnel that operate it.
Severity, frequency and probability of occupational injuries have been significantly reduced as staff at the facility shared.
The most vivid testimony to the reduced risks to injury is the production lines Lock out tag out (LOTO) system which requires that the whole system be fully closed for it to run. This literally eliminates the chances of any person being in harm’s inside the production system for the only time they are inside is when the system is not operating.
Also, given the automatic cleaning system of the assembly line, there is no longer need for staff to climb the gigantic robot to clean its various features, which on old systems was a great cause for injuries suffered.
After 57 years of existence, the automated assembly line at the Gisenyi brewery is a significant milestone that will certainly continue to ensure that BRALIRWA stands as Rwanda’s leading beverage producer.
BRALIRWA Ltd is a Rwandan company producing and selling beers and soft drinks. The Company beer portfolio includes Primus, Mützig, Guinness, Amstel and Turbo King produced in our Gisenyi brewery and Heineken beer which is imported. We produce Primus beer, our main brand since 1959 and our soft drinks plant started operating in 1974 in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company. We produce Coca-Cola brands; Coca-Cola, Fanta Orange and Fanta Citron, Fanta Fiesta, Sprite, Krest Tonic and own brand Vital’O.
The company was founded in 1957 with the construction of a brewery in Gisenyi, located at Lake Kivu. Since 1971, BRALIRWA Ltd is part of the internationally renowned Group Heineken which holds 75% of BRALIRWA Ltd shares while the 25% remaining shares are hold by independent shareholders. As a socially responsible company BRALIRWA Ltd supports a variety of projects from Education to Health and Environment.