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Spirits raised as obsolete bearing is reverse engineered

Spirits raised as obsolete bearing is reverse engineered

When a potential issue was identified with a slewing ring bearing on a bottling machine at the oldest continuous gin distillers in the world, the company turned to the expertise of R.A. Rodriguez (UK). Warrington-based G&J Distillers leveraged the reverse engineering know-how of R.A. Rodriguez (UK) to safeguard component availability and guarantee production continuity.

With more than 250 years of quality gin heritage, G&J Distillers is renowned in the industry for expertise in gin distilling, crafting some of the world’s most loved gin brands, including Greenall’s, Bloom, Opihr, Thomas Dakin and Berkeley Square, as well as some of the UK’s leading retailer gin brands. The consistently high standards the company holds itself to have led to them being the first company to ever win the International Spirits Challenge Gin Producer of the Year three times in a row, including in 2020.

A history of traditional skills and distillation craftsmanship is combined with modern bottling facilities to ensure G&J Distillers maintains its reputation for producing and distributing a wide range of high-quality gins and other spirits. For example, a major component of the company’s advanced production process is two Hartness Global Fill bottling machines.

“Our customers, which include some of the world’s leading retailers, trust us to produce and supply a range of outstanding quality spirits,” states Engineering Manager, Stephen Hellam. “With quality being so important to our business, we need suppliers who can support our operation. The two Hartness Global Fill machines are integral to production at Warrington.”

The company held in stock a previously-used slewing ring bearing for the Hartness Global Fill machines. However, as the bearing had been retained in the company’s stores for several years, the team thought it prudent to commence an inspection and potential refurbishment project to ensure it was ready for deployment at any moment.

“The Hartness Global Fill machines are 15 years old and, although there are currently no issues with the slewing ring bearing, we did not have a serviceable spare,” explains Production Manager Stephen Swinney. “Our existing spare had been used at some point in the past and was visibly worn. It was clear that reconditioning was required immediately as, without a replacement, machine failure could mean a shortage of supply to our customers.”

Unfortunately, Hartness no longer produces this version of the Global Fill machine and spares are unavailable. Mr Swinney therefore turned to R.A. Rodriguez (UK) Ltd, asking for assistance in identifying the bearing and making recommendations to ascertain its potential for reuse.

“We had to find a company we had confidence in to take on a large diameter ‘unknown’ bearing in an ‘unknown’ condition and offer a full reconditioning service,” he says.

With no drawings available, initial measurements taken by R.A. Rodriguez (UK) revealed that the slewing ring bearing was not a standard catalogue product from any manufacturer; it was bespoke. Measuring 61" in outside diameter and 52.25" bore, the slewing ring bearing featured 30 through-holes in the inner ring and 30 tapped blind holes in the outer ring. The box was marked with packed weight of 401kg, with no further details obtainable.

Having liaised with Rodriguez GmbH, it was agreed to ship the bearing to Germany for a thorough strip, clean and internal inspection; a process that resulted in a workable drawing. This drawing would allow G&J Distillers to make comparisons with adjacent construction and enable R.A. Rodriguez (UK) to submit a quote for a brand new bearing, as well as refurbish the old one.

“The response and communication from R.A. Rodriguez (UK) was faultless and very professional throughout the entire process,” states Mr Swinney.

Being the quickest option, G&J Distillers initially selected the remanufactured bearing. However, after a short period of reflection, the company also decided to proceed with the new bearing as it would serve as future back-up for this vital part of the bottling line. The competitive price of the new bearing was a further factor in the purchase decision.

Remanufacturing the worn bearing involved thorough cleaning prior to opening up and installing new rolling elements. In addition, seals were greased, and clearances and run-outs checked. This service, along with production of the new bearing, was turned around quickly at Rodriguez GmbH’s facility in Eschweiler, Germany. R.A. Rodriguez (UK) subsequently delivered both the remanufactured bearing and the new one to G&J Distillers, guaranteeing many more years of uninterrupted production.

“Having one of our bottle filling machines out of commission is simply not an option,” concludes Mr Swinney. “For this reason, we were thankful of the quick and efficient response to our request for assistance and are very satisfied with the outcome. In fact, I’d rate the service provided by R.A. Rodriguez (UK). as 10 out of 10. We’ve previously had other products from Rodriguez and the quality is always of the highest order. Both the remanufactured and new slewing ring bearings are now held as spares, which means peace-of-mind for our production team and our customers.”


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