Part Four - Get Your Layout Right


By this stage, you’ve selected your key suppliers, they’ve been helpful in finding your site and now you need to get planning your layout.

This excerpt from The Founder shows exactly why McDonald’s kitchen layout was key to their success. It may seem like an easy thing, but layout mistakes are incredibly commonplace and costly in the long term. The following is a simple guide on how we encourage people to think when defining the layout of a new site.

Money and Legals

First thing’s first. Before you waste a ton of your time and money on the full consideration of the layout, the money and the legals need to be sorted. These are well outside of what we do here at Ambro so we can’t help other than point you at experienced operators. On the finance side I would have a read of this article on the basics of finance by a solicitor at TLT, a firm representing several of the large brewery and pub groups in everything from licensing to buying and selling companies. You can also read some of their licensing and IP guidance here. Remember that choosing a lawyer is like choosing any other consultant - reference checks and sector expertise are key.

Your Workflow

While the draft layouts will have been decided during site selection, you should now take some real time to look at how your new space need to work for you and your staff.

The best place to start is with a workflow - break down every production step and the processes within each one. For example, for a can line we would consider:


  • Materials arriving on a truck and put into store:

    • Empty new cans

    • Ends arrive on a truck

    • Labels

    • Fridge packs (or similar 4-pack for example)

    • Cases

    • Shrink wrap film (none of us are fans of this stuff but unfortunately retailers don’t hate it)

    • Ink jetter ink

    • Labels (for packs and secondary packaging)

Prior to Operation

  • CIP the system

  • Empty cans out of store and onto depalletiser infeed or next to the depalletiser

  • Empty labels out of store, place next to the labeller

  • Empty ends out of store next to the seamer

  • Check can ink jet coder

  • Fridge packs out of store and into the hopper / next to packer

  • Check final pack ink jet coder

  • Move cases / tray and film out of store, make sure that you have sufficient for the run

During Operation:

  • Move the empty pallet off the depalletiser

  • Move the empties onto the depalletiser

  • Change label reel

  • Top-up can lids

  • Top-up fridge packer

  • Top-up tray and film / case packer

  • Top-up case packer

  • Place empty pallets on palletiser

  • Take full pallets off palletiser

  • Stretch wrap the pallet

  • Move the pallet to the warehouse

  • Empty rejects bin

  • Define paperwork to be completed during the operation

  • TPO and CO2 tests

  • Any product verification - e.g. manual sample weighing

  • Collation area for samples for lab forcing

Workflow Practicalities

Now look at these tasks and the layout as one along with your team. You need to come up with a list of questions to ask when evaluating how successful your layout is and how to improve it. Remember to involve the operators; people doing the job have really valuable contributions to make.

This is our starting point list, but it’s by no means exhaustive:

  • Where does the lorry come onto site and what is its route to the unloading bay?

    • Look at this in the context of every other movement onsite, from staff arriving at work to the public arriving at the tap room to the farmer taking away spent grain

  • What are the forklift truck movements?

  • Where are the walkways and how are they kept unobstructed?

  • Is the course of production linear? (If you have any crossing over of paths, you need to rethink your layout)

  • Is there any double handling (i.e. moving items more than once) that can be avoided?

  • What needs to be kept off the floor?

  • What loads are unstable?

  • Should the cans be moved as-needed or should an entire run’s worth of empties be placed next to the depalletiser?

  • Do you have enough storage?

  • Should TPO / CO2 tests be done in the lab?

  • How can I service the equipment?

    • Get the space requirements from the supplier

Improving the Layout

By the time that you’ve done this for every process in the brewery, from malt-in to a lorry load of full containers leaving your site, you’ll know the best orientation, spacing, amount of storage, location of storage and layout for your equipment. This should dictate what we call the ‘full fat’ layout (the site’s full capacity layout), and from there you can cross out what you do and no not need and how to phase expansion.

Now you need to forget all of the work that you have just done. Put all of the drawings and notes in a drawer and try not to think about the whole thing for at least a week. After the week is up, get your team together and spend an afternoon walking through everything again.You’ll always notice something that could be improved and you’ll regret a few repetitive meetings at the outset a lot more than a poor layout.

After the week’s up and you’re satisfied, now is the time to plan that favourite aspect of all brewers - floors and drains. This is an area best left to experts, so once again do some research and reference checking and go and talk to your chosen suppliers...basically Kemtile, just go to Kemtile.  

As ever, I hope that this has helped a bit and feel free to get in touch with us on