Automating Wild Turkey Bourbon Production

By: | September 10th, 2013

Wild Turkey bourbon has been in production for more than a century. The original batch, created in 1855, is a mix of corn, rye and malt barley. Nearly 100 years later, in 1940, Thomas McCarthy, hunter and distillery executive, acting on palpable enthusiasm of his turkey hunting buddies, began large scale production of Wild Turkey.

Worldwide Surge In Demand For High Quality Bourbon

From time to time during their decades of operation Wild Turkey Distillery (WTD) has had to expand production. But in 2010 they finally ran out of space and in order to “ride the wave” they needed new capacity fast.

WTD considered mass automation as a way to meet skyrocketing demand. Methods that had been used for decades had to be replaced by plant-wide process automation. WTD’s main concern was maintaining its famous flavor.

New Control System Mirrors Actions Carried Out At Old Facility

WTD chose Rockwell Automation (RA) along with RA’s Network partner Bachelor Controls (BCI) to design and build the new facility. The partners worked together to capture all aspects of the production process, designed a new production system and improved overall operational efficiency and flexibility.

These objectives were achieved through the use of state-of-the-art controllers, process automation systems, production intelligence and control strategies, sequencing, centralized databases, a secure control system, systemwide tracking of humans and machines, remote configuration of instruments and assets, wireless communication, and ethernet networks.

Following is a general outline of the project:

  • as many processes as practicable were automated.
  • a factory wide network automation system was set up that could be monitored on large computer screens in a centralized operation room.
  • as many processes from the old factory that could be repeated or mirrored in the new factory were put into place
  • the new plant was built to allow maximum flexibility in day-to-day operations to handle changes in production volume needs
  • WTD staff were thoroughly trained and provided with backup parts, an inventory system and technical support. Enough staff were trained so that operation of the plant would continue smoothly and without incident during unusual times.
  • the entire project was custom designed and built; no boiler plates involved.

A Big Win for Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey Distillery is now producing twice as many gallons of bourbon, 10 mm proof, than the old facility. The objective of maintaining taste while managing resources more efficiently has been achieved. WTD management is pleasantly surprised with the way their tradition has been preserved and enhanced while cutting edge technology has been seamlessly integrated into their business.

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David Russell Schilling

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