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Safe Cellar and Barrel Handling at Fuller’s

Safe Cellar and Barrel Handling at Fuller’s

With its commitment to quality, service and pride, Fuller’s has always aimed for the highest standards across its brewery and pub business. The historic brewery has for many years installed Cellar Lifts from Penny Hydraulics in any pub where barrels are handled between floors. The relationship between the two companies was reinforced during 2006 when Fuller’s again specified Penny Hydraulics equipment at its latest development in the City of London.

“Fuller’s is a traditional family brewer which has extremely high standards,” says Tony Hogan, the Estates Department’s project manager at Fuller’s. “We have specified the Penny Hydraulics Cellar Lift for many years because it helps us promote best practice and health and safety in our dray and cellar operations. The product is very reliable and Penny Hydraulics provides us with advice and support that ensures the equipment continues to provide an excellent solution to our requirements.”

Operating from the historic Griffin Brewery site in Chiswick, Fuller, Smith & Turner P.L.C. (more commonly known as Fuller’s) is an independent family brewer and pub company whose brands include the world-famous ESB and London Pride, the UK’s best selling premium cask ale. Beer has been brewed at the Chiswick site for over 350 years. Fuller’s traditional heartland has always been London and the South-east, but it has pubs in Bristol and Birmingham, and in December 2005, Fuller’s announced the largest deal in its history with the acquisition of George Gale & Co (Gales), of Horndean, Hampshire. This added 111 houses to the estate taking the total number of pubs to more than 360. It also means that another great beer brand HSB has been added to the ale portfolio.

Fuller’s originally introduced mechanical cellar hoists to provide assistance to dray teams delivering barrels to its pubs. From the start it selected the Penny Hydraulics Cellar Lift to eliminate the need to handle barrels from the delivery point - usually the pavement door flaps - down to the cellar by hand. This promoted health and safety but also allowed Fuller’s to reduce the size of each dray team from three to two people.

Cellar Lifts were subsequently installed in all of the pubs where barrels, crates and other drinks related items are handled between two levels, typically a cellar and ground-floor bar, as part of the company’s ongoing retrofit and refurbishment programmes. The delivery of the first Cellar Lifts coincided with a period of expansion at Fuller’s, which saw it build its estate by acquiring successful pubs and converting premises such as former banks. Many of the banks had cellars and the company installed a Cellar Lift in each of these as part of the development.

As the estate owner Fuller’s is responsible for providing appropriate fittings and equipment for its pub managers and tenants. Since 1994 the responsibility for overseeing the specification, installation and maintenance of the Cellar Lifts has fallen to Tony Hogan, the company’s project manager. Fuller’s is still installing around three new Cellar Lifts a year, and currently has 185 in total.

“It is a matter of policy at Fuller’s to install Cellar Lifts in all pubs that require handling between two levels, which usually means the basement and ground floor,” explains Tony Hogan. “When we’ve bought pubs with no provision we immediately look to install a Cellar Lift.”

The newest installation is at The Vintry, which forms part of the redevelopment of the Sherborne House office building near Cannon Street Station in London’s financial heartland. It opened in the summer of 2006 as part of the company’s prestigious Premium City Pubs portfolio.

The process that leads to the installation of a Cellar Lift illustrates how Fuller’s and Penny Hydraulics work together to ensure the right equipment is used at each pub. When Fuller’s identifies the need for a Cellar Lift it appoints a designer who liaises with its internal estates and retail teams to discuss the overall requirements. A key consideration is to ensure that access is easy and convenient for the draymen. The company’s distribution team - responsible for draymen and deliveries - visits the site to complete a risk assessment which includes identifying suitable access.

The estates team then takes charge of the installation. When considering how deliveries will be made they always aim to make handling runs as short as possible. In most London pubs the delivery is made through street flaps although there are exceptions. At The Vintry, for example, street access was not possible so the design called for barrels to be rolled into the pub and then lowered into the cellar once inside.

The Penny Hydraulics Cellar Lift can be installed in virtually any basement or first floor cellar to provide an effective solution for lifting all types of barrel or drink related products. The range includes vertical, sloping and compact designs that combine low cost of ownership with efficient, reliable and safe operation in any application. The most common configuration of the Cellar Lift is the vertical unit that can raise and lower any barrel weighing up to 300kg, equivalent to a full 54 gallons, or a double stack of crates whilst occupying the minimum of cellar space. The sloping cellar lift has the same performance and is designed for applications where a vertical lift is not practical, for example where cellar access is awkward or where a concrete skid is present. The sloping lift can be installed at any inclination from vertical to horizontal which means it can be fitted almost anywhere. Each Cellar Lift is based on the same basic design although Penny Hydraulics matches every installation to the specific requirements.

“We prefer a vertical solution when possible because it’s the shortest and cheapest option and most readily understood but if we have to provide a sloping lift then its no problem,” says Tony Hogan.

Once the overall concept is agreed, Penny Hydraulics provides a budget estimate and undertakes preliminary surveys to identify the most appropriate configuration of the Cellar Lift and highlight any potential health and safety issues related to cellar handling. This includes taking detailed measurements on site and providing information for use by builders and contractors such as the size of any apertures required and the electrical services that must be installed. An installation date is agreed with contractors and once the equipment is in place it is commissioned by Penny Hydraulics and readied for use.

“The process works well and there have been virtually no problems in 12 years,” says Tony Hogan. “We are driven by a performance brief of getting barrels from A to B. We look to Penny Hydraulics for solutions and advice on the latest health and safety regulations.”

Fuller’s recognises the need to provide training to its staff and has incorporated instruction on the operation and use of the Cellar Lift into its in-house Master Cellarman courses. This ensures that all of its tenants and managers are certified to use the Cellar Lift.

“It’s simple to operate and easy for us to instruct and train managers how to use,” says Tony Hogan.

“The Cellar Lift is very reliable assuming you carry out routine maintenance like we do. We have a formal service and planned maintenance contract with Penny Hydraulics, which ensures all the equipment is checked regularly or fixed quickly if there is a problem, which is extremely rarely. The Cellar Lift is fundamental to the business because if we cannot deliver we cannot sell beer and make a profit.”

The acquisition of the Gales business in 2005 added more than 100 pubs to the Fuller’s estate and most of these did not have a mechanical cellar hoist. Fuller’s is currently finalising its plans to upgrade the cellars in these pubs with the addition of a Cellar Lift where this is the most appropriate solution.

Penny Hydraulics designs and manufactures lifting and load handling equipment for use in a wide range of applications. Products include the Swing Lift range of medium duty cranes for use on pick-ups, drop-sides and flat-beds and the Step Lift, Load Lift and Tail Lift lifting platform ranges for use on pick-ups, drops-sides and vans. The company also manufactures the Mezz Lift for handling loads between ground floor and mezzanines and specialist equipment for handling wheels, tyres and barrels in vehicles and at customers’ premises. Penny Hydraulics is a privately owned family business based in Clowne, Derbyshire.

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