The new equipment, installed at the company's brewing site in Chiswick, London, more than doubles the capacity of the outgoing, 27-year-old system from 120 to 280 kegs per hour. The new KHS equipment will clean, sterilise, fill and pallet kegs of pasteurised beer.
Pasteurised kegged beer currently accounts for about 13 per cent (1 million litres) of Fuller's production, an increase of over 6 per cent over the last three years. The brewery sells the remainder of its beer 'live', 7 per cent in bottle and 80 per cent with yeast still active and fermenting in cask.
In order to support live yeast, casks are not pressurised as kegs are. As a result, cask-conditioned beer will start to go off within days of the cask being opened, whereas kegs can support a pasteurised beer for many months.
The move shows that Fuller's is expecting to increase sales of kegged beers. Fuller's project manager, Lee Hazell, said the system "will accommodate any future growth."
Iain Low, spokesman for the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), the world's largest beer consumer association, was pleased with the news. "This is good to see. It shows that regional brewers are seeing a growth in sales of ale. Cask condition beer is not always appropriate for a pub with a small turnover."
Hazell explained that the increased capacity could also allow Fuller's to get extra revenue by using the equipment for contracts from other brewers, who would be able to transport beer in tankers to Chiswick in order to be kegged using the KHS till.
As well as generating profit from increased capacity and contracts, savings will be made in labour costs. The number of hours spent kegging in order to fulfil the brewery's needs will be reduced and fewer staff will be needed to operate the system. This will especially be due to the intelligent robot-controlled palletiser, which stacks the kegs ready for transport.
The filling technology of the system is unique, explained Hazell, because it eliminates the time-consuming activity of pumping beer back from a separate tank used to collect fob (foam). In the previous system, fob was given off at the top of each keg as it was filled.
"The advantage of the KHS machine is its counter pressure filling system. By maintaining the pressure of nitrogen and carbon dioxide in the keg as it's filling - doing so slower to begin and slower at the end - you get a negligible fob."
Shepherd Neame, Scottish Courage, Greene King and Interbrew are among other breweries in the UK to have chosen the KHS Till.