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A spirited journey: Jim Beam + Gray Solutions

Bourbon, the rich, amber spirit, has become an all-time favorite over the past two decades. There's just something about sipping an old fashioned on a Friday evening after a long workweek. In fact, since 2000, bourbon sales have skyrocketed by a jaw-dropping 360%, reaching a staggering $8 billion annually in 2021. This surge is driven not only by the old fashioned being one of the most popular cocktails in the world, but also by the growing preference for high-end premium and small-batch spirits.

With demand reaching unprecedented levels, Jim Beam, the parent company of the Booker Noe Distillery, invested $400 million into expanding their facility in Boston, KY. At the heart of this ambitious undertaking was one critical objective—increasing their feed rate by 50% to 600 gallons per minute (GPM).

Our decade-long track record of successful collaboration with Jim Beam made us the natural choice for a massive and innovative production solution. Our history of delivering results speaks for itself, and Jim Beam knew they could trust us to get the job done. 

Preserving tradition and embracing challenge

When it comes to the Booker brand, tradition runs deep. One of the primary requirements for this project was to honor the distillery's rich history by fitting the new production system within the footprint of their original building that dates back to the 1800s. Working in such an old facility presented its fair share of challenges. With limited documentation available about the distillery and its utilities, we knew we had to tread carefully. That's why we brought in a top-notch civil engineering firm right from the start to investigate underground and perform utility marking, ensuring we could forge ahead without disrupting any necessary infrastructure. 

A project of this scale requires the top-notch expertise of various subcontractors, which can be difficult for system integrators to find. We have a notable advantage, however, with direct access to that expertise throughout our Gray Inc. family of companies as well as our vast external network of reliable vendors—plus, we have a lot of prior management experience.

After the Booker Noe facility finished an expansion project with another integrator that boosted their still capacity to 400 GPM, we closely examined the previous firm’s initial design to identify any gaps that could hinder our progress during the larger expansion. Armed with an in-depth analysis and our creative problem-solving skills, we were ready to turn obstacles into stepping stones.

Beyond expectations: 3D process modeling

From the get-go, we eagerly embraced the challenge, diving headfirst into the project. A tight eight-month timeline? No problem! We thrive under pressure. In addition to standard drawings and P&IDs, we created a comprehensive 3D process model of the facility, fulfilling the customer's requirements. Our proficiency with this cutting-edge technology impressed Jim Beam, as it's a capability not commonly found among system integrators.

To make sure the facility and all equipment were accurately represented, we enlisted the support of a trusted partner to conduct a thorough scan. The 3D model that we created from it was an invaluable tool that let us preemptively tackle potential issues before they could escalate into major problems.

By performing clash detection, we verified that all elements of the system would fit within the existing facility, saving us from costly chaos during installation. This proved crucial when we needed to demolish an existing fermenter to make room for two new cookers in a congested area of the plant. Without the 3D model, routing all the piping through this tight space would have been a nightmare.

Bridging the gap between the process design and automation team, we also delivered a Description of Operations (DOOs) for the project. A blueprint for the facility's functionality? Check. Material flow, valve operations, pump startups, and speed regulations? Covered! With these comprehensive DOOs in place, we ensured a seamless transition from design to real-world operation.

From virtual visions to drinkable reality

With the design specs locked in, it was time to take a crack at the infamous bid process. Anyone involved in developing production systems during the post-pandemic era understands the hurdles we faced, particularly the pandemic-related staff shortages and lead time issues. Undeterred by obstacles, we leveraged our extensive network of reliable vendors and rock-solid relationships to generate competitive bids.

Once the vendors were selected, we took our game up a notch by evolving the 3D model. By smoothly integrating vendor drawings and equipment specs, we ensured that every piece of the puzzle would fit perfectly into its designated spot before releasing the shop drawings. Saving time and money? We're here for it!

Jim Beam was pretty impressed with the accuracy of our 3D model. As the architects of their bourbon dreams, we transformed our vision into a drinkable reality.

As the phased implementation of the new system kicks off, we’re here to offer guidance and essential document control assistance. We’re committed to ensuring the construction team has everything they need to keep the project running efficiently so that all the required work fits within strict shutdown windows. Throughout the design execution phase, you won't find us slacking. We’re always available and ready to help answer design questions and keep those as-built plans updated as equipment finds its home in the facility.  

We’re excited for Jim Beam and we look forward to raising a glass and toasting the success of this massive project. Here's to a future that's as smooth as the bourbon we helped craft.