Special Reports

Toast of the town

By Lisa Rummler

August 2009- The journey from Quetzalcoatl International Airport in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, to Nava, Coahuila, Mexico, takes about two hours by car.

There’s not much scenery along the way, mainly desert and sky. The starkness of the landscape, however, serves as a dramatic backdrop to the three-story brewhouse, towering metal silos and dozens of stainless steel tanks that sit on about 750 acres. They are part of Compania Cervecera de Coahuila, the eighth brewery for Grupo Modelo SAB de CV, Mexico City.

When the sprawling complex is complete, it will have more than 1 mile of conveyors, four pasteurizers (three can process 2,400 bottles per minute, and the fourth can process 1,200 cans per minute) and about 100 tanks, ranging in diameter from 3.9 m to 10 m.

All the beer produced at Compania Cervecera de Coahuila will be for export, mainly to the United States. The brewery is fewer than 20 miles from Eagle Pass, Texas, and about three hours from San Antonio.

The first construction phase is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2010, at which time the brewery will produce 5 million hectoliters (0.5 billion liters) of beer. The second construction phase is slated to wrap up at the end of 2010, with another 5 million hectoliters and an annual production rate that could grow to up to 20 million hectoliters of beer.

At its seven other breweries throughout Mexico, Grupo Modelo has a total installed capacity of 60 million hectoliters. The company is the sixth-largest brewery in the world, and its brands include Negra Modelo, Pacifico, Modelo Especial and Corona, the top imported beer in the United States.

On the scene
Several companies are working with Grupo Modelo on the Nava facility, supplying technology, design and equipment. These include Ziemann Group, Ludwigsburg, Germany; Siemens AG, Munich, Germany; and Sidel Group, Parma, Italy. One company plays a leading role, however: Inamex de Cerveza y Malta SA de CV, Texcoco, Mexico, a subsidiary of Grupo Modelo.

"It’s a big team effort," says Eduardo Canedo, general manager of Inamex. "With Inamex’s leadership, we know we will have a successful project. Compañía Cervecera de Coahuila is one of the key strategic projects for Grupo Modelo, and Inamex’s participation is important."

Founded in 1980, Inamex is a capital goods manufacturing and installation company, and it focuses on the engineering, construction and installation of machinery and services at all Grupo Modelo facilities.

At its approximately 609,000-sq.-ft. headquarters, Inamex has more than 170,000 sq. ft. devoted to manufacturing products for Grupo Modelo and other clients, such as General Electric. Inamex found itself dealing with some unique issues, though, with the Nava facility.

"The main challenge was to optimize production time and significantly reduce transportation costs because constant changes in the rate of production, given by the short delivery time, as well as the huge dimensions of the products, represent important costs in custom transportation," says Canedo.

To remedy this situation, Inamex decided to build a 12,000-sq.-m fabrication facility in Nava.

There, Inamex manufactures three types of tanks that are critical for the brewery, using an automated device that brings together the processes that used to be made by craftsmen, according to Canedo. "The implementation of this team’s initiative has effectively cut production times and reduced the transportation of large parts considerably," he says.

Tools of the trade
In Nava, Inamex produces three types of tanks, all made of stainless steel: Type A unitanks, Type B unitanks and bright beer tanks. It can also produce stainless steel containers of different diameters. The unitanks will be used for beer fermentation and have a cylindrical/conical shape. Type A are 10 m in diameter and 21.15 m tall, with a production rate of three per month. Type B are 6.4 m in diameter and 20.473 m tall, with a production rate of six per month.

The bright beer tanks will be used to store ready-to-be-bottled beer, and they’re 6 m in diameter and 13.2 m tall. Their production rate is four per month.

With all the tanks, Inamex works mainly with 300-series austenitic stainless steel, which is known for its nonmagnetic and nontemper features, as well as resistance to corrosion and ease of use for welding. For carbon steel, A572, G50 and A29 are most commonly used.

In regard to fabrication processes in Nava, Inamex employs high-performance plasma cutting equipment with compressed air for carbon steel and argon/hydrogen or nitrogen for stainless steel and light metal alloys. The equipment provides 50-mm cutting and 20-mm drilling for stainless and carbon steel. Inamex uses a vertical roll and an automatic welding machine to produce the rolled plates that make up the tanks.

"In the assembly of tanks, we follow a process of welding cones with a vertical lathe, [and] welding corps have a plasma source and a control console," says Canedo. "Translating is done by an automatic, four-wheel system driven by an electric motor mounted on a rail, which it leads. It can generate a translation speed of 10 cm to 200 cm per minute, regulated by a tachometer, as well as by a column adjustment, which carries an arm that runs on its axis with a speed of 10 cm to 200 cm per minute."

At its headquarters in Texcoco, Inamex also has integral tank assembly machines, which complement those the company has in Nava, according to Canedo.

The machines include a plasma welding station, a vertical welding guide, a telescope table for introducing material into that guide, an outside polishing machine, and a TIG, MIG and plasma welding system.

Sum of its parts
Despite its magnitude and elaborate on-site fabrication facility, the Nava brewery is just one project--albeit a big one--for Inamex.

The company specializes in stainless steel storage tanks with food-grade finish, as well as general-purpose carbon and stainless steel storage tanks.

At its Texcoco facility, Inamex has the capacity to fabricate five bottle washers annually, each 10 m wide, 9 m tall and capable of washing more than 1,200 bottles per minute.

Other products in its lineup include pasteurizers, up to 12 a year, each one 6 m wide and 40 m long. They are capable of pasteurizing 2,000 bottles per minute.

Inamex also manufactures beer production lines of case or bottle conveyors (up to five a year).

In terms of certifications, Inamex has ISO 9001:2008 No. QBE 96217 and ISO 14001 No. EBE-0102, as well as ASME’s U Stamp No. 27312. Inamex also has authorization from The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors to apply the "NB" mark.

The right stuff
Inamex prides itself on its cutting-edge equipment, including a Haas vertical CNC machining center and the largest polishing machine in Mexico.

About two years ago, the company acquired a Bystronic Bystar 4025 L laser cutting table with an automatic loading table and power extraction.

It has a cutting capacity of 3/4-in. stainless steel and 11/4-in. carbon steel. It cuts at a rate of 3,098 mm per minute for 3/16-in. stainless steel plate.

Around the same time, Inamex acquired a Praxair Star Advance plasma with Rotobevel cutting table, which has a cutting capacity of 2.5-in. for carbon steel and a cutting speed of 2,800 mm per minute for 5/8-in. stainless steel plate. The table provides high-definition plasma cutting and has a beveling head that can make 52 degrees of beveling.

Additionally, Inamex has a Murata Vectrum 3046 A punching machine, with a capacity of 33 tons and a maximum work thickness of 1/4 in.

The machine’s punching head has 44 stations with AutoIndex and 44 high-definition nozzles, and the overall speed is 400 punches per minute.

Here, there, everywhere
The brewery in Nava, Coahuila, isn’t the only Grupo Modelo facility at which Inamex has provided field equipment installation.

The company installed all the mechanical equipment for many parts of Grupo Modelo’s Zacatecas facility, and it did the same during the expansion of the Tuxtepec facility.

Throughout those projects and the current one, Inamex and Grupo Modelo have remained committed to sustained partnership and collaboration.

Inamex is also focused on using its equipment at its headquarters to serve its customers and optimize their success--wherever they are.

"The Texcoco facility is the heart and soul of Inamex’s manufacturing operation," says Canedo. FFJ


  • Grupo Modelo SAB de CV
    Mexico City
    phone: +52 55/2266-0000

  • Inamex de Cerveza y Malta SA de CV
    Texcoco, Mexico
    phone: 52/595-95-20-500
    fax: 52/595-20-503


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