Case Study

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Demonstrating the Capabilities of an Open, Scalable Control Platform

Leading packaging technology company deploys Rockwell Automation solutions across its range, resulting in significantly reduced engineering effort and greater interoperability

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  • Looking to significantly reduce engineering effort and provide greater interoperability


  • Bradman Lake standardises on Allen-Bradley automation and motion equipment from Rockwell Automation


  • All machines across all ranges can simply plug and play with each other
  • Common designs and spares
  • Reduced development efforts
  • Engineer and customer familiarity with single control and operating environment
  • Worldwide availability of spares and service


With more than six decades of experience, the Bradman Lake Group is a major supplier of packaging technology to the bakery and biscuit, chocolate and confectionery, dry and frozen food, consumer and healthcare sectors.

This technology-focused organisation operates from its headquarters and manufacturing plants in the UK and USA, with regional offices in China and Russia and representatives worldwide.

With an impressive product portfolio, comprising the world-renowned brands of Autowrappers and Europack, it specialises in the design, development and manufacture of packaging machinery for a wide range of global organisations.

It can offer stand alone or fully integrated systems, custom-engineered to meet the exacting standards demanded by today’s fast moving consumer markets worldwide; from distribution and feeding systems to flow wrapping, carton erection, loading, closing and end-of-line options of case packing and shrink wrapping.

The company has taken an innovative approach to its machine design. In all instances its machines have been designed to connect and interact with each other all across a common automation platform.

The automation and motion solution chosen by the company is the Allen-Bradley® Logix platform from Rockwell Automation. By adopting this common, scalable solution, Bradman Lake is able to develop simple machines employing MicroLogix™ programmable logic controllers (PLCs), through medium-capacity CompactLogix™ powered machines, right the way up to full, 1,200 products-per-minute production lines running an Allen-Bradley ControlLogix® programmable automation controllers (PAC). The company also standardises, where feasible, on Allen-Bradley Kinetix® 6000 servo controllers and MP Series™ servo motors for its motion solutions, making its customers’ stock/spares holding far simpler.

Superb Solutions

“Well designed machines, based around a common platform come together to create superb solutions,” said John Marlee, Managing Director at Bradman Lake. “When I took on my role at the company, I introduced an ‘integrated packaging technology’ concept, the result of which now means that all of our brands share common designs, parts and spares; and they all ‘communicate’ to each other over a common network and protocol. As a direct result of this, all of our factories can manufacture units from all of our brands; giving us an immense amount of flexibility when it comes to fulfilling customer orders from anywhere on the globe.

“A lot of our orders come from some of the world’s biggest brand names and they tend to drive a lot of what we do. For instance, one particular confectionery manufacturer, with operations all over the world, has a tight focus on total cost of ownership (TCO); especially with regards to whole life costs and not just the initial CapEx. It is for this reason that we have chosen to standardise on one technology, as the engineering effort required to design, build and commission machines is reduced... and the same can be said for future upgrades as and when the customer requires.”

Bradman Lake has defined its range into two core areas, flexible and rigid packaging machines, which come together to deliver turnkey solutions, and its integrated packaging concept. “All of our machines are ‘glued’ together by a common infrastructure, where the platform, screens and displays are instantly recognisable from one machine to another,” Marlee elaborates. “Rockwell Automation is a fundamental element of the Bradman Lake ethos. We have set ourselves up as a single source supplier and this is driven by our adoption of a single source supplier in Rockwell Automation. I see a lot of similarities between the two organisations, as we both comprise an overall brand with a number of highly successful ‘sub’ brands, which have all been designed to interact seamlessly with each other.”

Transparent Technology

Marlee also believes in transparency. “We don’t hide our technology.” he explains. “Our customers always have our full service and support, however they don’t need to come to us for spares; they can use a local supplier. Something made much simpler, thanks to the off-the-shelf technology deployed from the Rockwell Automation range and the worldwide presence of its support and sales infrastructure. This is one of the primary reasons for our adoption of an open, internationally accepted automation solution.”

Steve Rackham, a Control Systems Engineer at Bradman Lake, explains the technological relationship with Rockwell Automation. “Bradman Lake is always targeting new technology and for this reason we liaise very closely with Rockwell Automation to take advantage of any advances. Thanks to our close relationship, we always know what is available for future builds. Of particular interest to us at the moment are the new CompactLogix PACs, which will offer us faster speeds, greater axes count and smaller footprints.”

Bradman Lake started its relationship with Rockwell Automation back in the 90s and has been able to evolve its machine designs as Rockwell Automation enhances its product range. Rackham elaborates: “Working together our machines have evolved in harmony with the evolving control platforms.”

All Machines At All Levels

“The hardware is now flexible enough to be used on all machines at all levels,” Marlee explains. “Pre 2004 we had three brands, using different suppliers, producing three ranges, using three platforms running three different software environments. This is now very much a thing of the past with the company-wide deployment of the Logix-based control and motion solution.”

Complementing its new purpose built manufacturing site in Rock Hill, SC, USA, 2011-12 was Bradman Lake’s best ever year, so much so that the company has added a 14,000 sq ft extension to one of its two manufacturing plants in the UK, this will significantly increase its output capacity and will provide greater flexibility for assembling multiple lines. It is also a great believer in fostering future talent and currently has 18 apprentices across the UK, two of whom were able to help with a substantial installation out in India.

“We like the fact that our engineers only need to ‘talk’ one automation language and it is the same for our customers,” Marlee elaborates. “They may have separate machines that all go to make up a complete line but they all run on one language, one platform and one protocol. The line integration made possible by the scalable Logix infrastructure gives us and our customers some really tangible business benefits and, I believe makes our machines and lines incredibly attractive propositions for both small and large companies.

“Rockwell Automation’s product development has mirrored our machine development,” he concludes, “and suits our diversity from the simplest machine up to the most complex  production line. What we want are happy customers that have no hesitation in coming back to us and Rockwell Automation helps us achieve this.”

Integration Is The Key

In delivering its strategy of ‘integrated packaging technology’ Bradman Lake has not only standardised upon a Rockwell Automation solution, but embraced the complete integration of its products, understanding how to maximise machinery performance in consideration to the major design considerations of mechanical constraints, control system limitations and software capability. Couple this with a detailed knowledge of what features are time and performance critical and what functions come secondary, but could be time hungry, and Bradman Lake now has a track record of developing high performing, state-of-the-art innovative packaging machines and systems.

This truly integrated machine builder continues to work hard in understanding the values of true cost of ownership, a couple of examples include:

Delivering packaging systems to clients, which may have up to 100 Allen-Bradley Kinetix® 6000 servo controllers and MP Series™ servo motors. These drives control numerous functions across the packaging system from conveyor control to high speed, servo-driven flow wrapping, cartoning and case packing and may require just two frame sizes of servo motor, thus minimising the end users stock holding.

Each packaging machine is controlled using a Rockwell Automation Human Machine Interface (HMI) that has been configured and laid out to the same format providing customer benefits that operators and engineers alike can confidently and easily navigate and work on each machine throughout the system in the same way.

Bradman Lake has developed standard machines with a modular approach to hardware and software libraries, with plug and play configuration all driven by its strategy of ‘integrated packaging technology’ developed to add huge benefit and value to its end user.


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