For anyone in the fabrication business, Spectac may well be a familiar name. The company has been featured in the media for all the right reasons in recent months. It has a packed order book, it has doubled its employees to a team of 54, it has moved to a larger premises with over 45,000 square feet and turnover exceeded €3.2 million in 2013, after years of struggling for survival in Ireland’s flat economic environment. From this good news story, there are lessons to be learnt for manufacturers on how this small business turned its fortunes on its head. In business for over 25 years, Spectac has traditionally manufactured stainless steel vessels, tanks and equipment. However, it was the move to supplying turnkey, comprehensive brew houses and distilleries that has given this family business a new lease of life. Two of its recent high-profile turnkey projects include a 25HL complete Brewhouse solution for Rye River Brewing (McGargles’ beers) and a turnkey distillery for Teelings Whiskey (a project which will be featured shortly on a TV3 documentary). [caption id="attachment_19914" align="alignright" width="300"]Spectac's 25HL brewery system with PLC automation Spectac's 25HL brewery system with PLC automation[/caption] One of the key components of the turnkey solution that works well from the customer’s perspective is the integration of programmable logic controls (PLC controls) for effective industrial automation. Although Spectac has mainly installed turnkey solutions in breweries and distilleries, demand is now growing for the same approach in other sectors such as food and dairy, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. All products are manufactured to order for customers across the globe, although the UK and Ireland are currently the main markets. The company has also exported to overseas facilities in France, Denmark, Holland, Germany and Singapore and it hopes that its recent partnership with Frilli Distillation Technologies, a manufacturer of copper stills based in Italy, will see a further drive in export sales.

Complete systems – the way forward

The business has a number of divisions within its organisation. While individual products such as tanks and piping are still fabricated as required for customers, separate departments work closely together and are aligned to offer a streamlined service in the planning, fabrication, installation and commissioning of turnkey solutions. “The engineering division has obviously always been an integral part of the business but as we’ve grown, we now have a number of other departments including design, electrical and pipework installation,” said director Faye Healy. “Our software engineers also play a critical role. We work very closely together to deliver a complete brewery or distillery and there are a huge number of inter-dependencies. But it’s actually easier for the client to deal with one supplier than to have to manage a number of different third parties – it’s a lot less hassle and there’s an economic advantage also.” Capabilities at Spectac include computer numerically controlled (CNC) sheet metal bending, profile ring rolling, CNC tube bending and plasma cutting. “While some of the work can be straightforward – like manufacturing a single tank or clean-in-place (CIP) unit to order – when it comes to complete systems, the level of complexity is higher and there can be a vast number of processes,” said Healy. “It’s essential to keep an absolute emphasis on quality in the manufacturing procedures. “We’ve always engaged in securing relevant quality certifications and we’ve an arm load of approvals at this stage – British Standards Institution, International Organisation for Standardisation, Royal & Sun Alliance and more. We can CE [European Conformity] stamp and TUV [Technical Inspection Association] certify products and we’re an Engineers Ireland corporate partner. We’ve found that we really benefited from having these quality processes in place when the work got more complex – they’ve given us robust systems to work through. Also, of course, they give customers great peace of mind and are really essential when it comes to pitching for large-scale projects.” Spectac has secured some significant projects in the UK and Ireland in recent years. “Besides the fact that it’s easier to deal with a single supplier, customers who buy complete solutions from us get a real commercial benefit as there are significant economies to be achieved for us as a supplier when we deliver a complete system,” Healy explained. “We’re cutting back on project management time, as much of the liaison is internal and we can make sure resources are available on a timely basis. But there’s more to it than that: when we handle the entire project management and design process, as well as all the other aspects of a complete system, we have full visibility on all the contingencies and can ensure all the pre-ordering of essential equipment such as instrumentation from overseas is done in line with manufacturing and installation requirements,” she continued. “This minimises the risk of down-time on a project, which is a real threat to any business. The quicker we can get the client into production, the more commercially advantageous it is for the brewery or distillery. That’s a key aspect to making a project a success – from everyone’s perspective. The cost benefits of turnkey solutions are proven, so we believe it’s the way forward for these industries and many others.”

Teelings Whiskey challenge

It took just 16 weeks from the time the company won the contract for the Teelings installation, as mentioned above, to the date the distillery went into production. This was particularly impressive given the scale of the job. The fabrication of the tanks alone was a huge task, as the products required included:
  • [caption id="attachment_19916" align="alignright" width="300"]Brewing fermentation vessels Spectac brewing fermentation vessels[/caption] Four fermenting vessels;
  • Three liquor tanks (hot, cold and warm);
  • A spent grain tank;
  • A pot/ale tank;
  • A CIP tank; and
  • A condensate recovery tank.
This work took about 20 experienced welders the guts of four months and all the other work was implemented during the fabrication process. This was no mean feat, as the other jobs included everything from detailed design work, finalising manufacturing drawings and installing the tanks and the equipment, to the electrical installation which ran parallel with the pipe installation and the integration of PLC controls. Ultimately, the entire system was commissioned by Spectac. The first drop of whiskey to be produced arrived a few days before St Patrick’s Day and two weeks ahead of schedule. Besides the tight timeframe, another critical challenge for the project was the logistics of working in the Liberties in Dublin. This historic location has a long history of distilling whiskey, but it is also right in the centre of the city. This meant small access roads and a facility that offered no easy way in for tanks this size. After careful consideration, the Spectac team came to the conclusion that the only way to install the distillery was to take the roof off and a 300 tonne crane was deployed for the job. Health and safety considerations had to be considered in detail but, happily, the entire process went to plan. “It’s not often you need to literally take the roof off a building to install a solution but it was the only practical option in this case,” said Healy. “It caused quite a stir in the area and it was a great sight to see tank after tank being lifted into position.” Spectac sees the distillery business growing internationally and believes that it has the credentials to take advantage of this opportunity, having worked with customers in this market since 1986. Other client brands include Jim Beam, Bushmills and Cooley Distillery.

Brewing capabilities

The explosion of the craft beer industry has marked another growth area for the business and Spectac has a relevant product range that includes mixing, brewing and fermentation vessels, as well as bright beer vessels, CIP units and skid units. Brewing clients include multi-nationals like Diageo, MacArdle’s, Smithwicks and Harp, as well as local micro-breweries and craft breweries. Spectac recently displayed an entire brew house system at the Alltech Expo in Dublin and the business is the only manufacturer of turnkey brew houses for the craft brewing market in Ireland. It successfully delivered a complete solution for Rye River Brewing recently – the first commercial brewery to be manufactured in Ireland for over 100 years. Again, there was an extensive list of requirements, which included:
  • [caption id="attachment_19919" align="alignright" width="300"]The Brewing Process The brewing process (click to enlarge)[/caption] Malt mill;
  • Mash-mixing vessel;
  • Lauter tun;
  • Kettle;
  • Whirlpool;
  • Pump systems;
  • Heat-exchange chillers;
  • Fermentation vessels; and
  • Complete PLC software and control panel for fully automated brewing.
A steam boiler was also installed and the piping and electrical work was implemented by Spectac. The software in the facility supplied was devised specifically for brewers. It is a recipe-driven solution, easy to manage and offers an unlimited number of possible products to be brewed within the plant. This project represented the complete turnkey brewery solution.

Future plans

Besides the strategic focus and related up-skilling that was required to evolve the business into manufacturers of complete systems, two other influencing factors have helped drive success. The first of these has been effective succession planning – founder Tony Healy introduced his daughter Faye to the business, with a view to growing it into the future. She was instrumental in the new focus and she also brought a keen eye for marketing opportunities to the business. So, what next for Spectac? Dynamic growth prospects are forecast for distilleries and craft brewers across Europe, which the company hopes will mean significant turnkey projects in coming years. However, Healy feels that this turnkey approach will also become more popular in other markets and Spectac already has long-established relationships with clients such as Lakeland Dairies. Glanbia, Henkel and Tetrapak. “We consider the business ideally placed to grow into a significant European player,” she concluded. See for more information. Teeling Pot Stills Come Home to Dublin City from The Teeling Whiskey Company on Vimeo.