HMK & Siemens help turn wine waitresses into wine ‘angels’


When a flagship hotel located at the UK’s fastest growing airport decided it wanted a 13 metre high, 6.5 tonne wine tower with a 4 metre square footprint as the centrepiece of its restaurant bar, the building contractor was left in a quandary as to how waitresses would reach the 4000 bottles it would contain. Fortunately, thanks to the high functionality of Siemens Automation and Drives’ automation and control equipment, a four-axis system of winches and harnesses allows wine ‘angels’ to ‘fly’ up each side of the tower to collect their order in front of amazed hotel guests.


The wine tower is located at the new Radisson SAS Hotel adjacent to London Stansted Airport in Essex. The problem of providing a four-axis flying system was initially passed from the building contractor to London-based Stage Technologies, a specialist supplier of engineering solutions to the entertainment industry, predominantly theatres. Recent West End productions provided for by Stage Technologies include Mary Poppins, The Producers, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Miss Saigon.

Working with Stage Technologies on the wine tower project was HMK, a Siemens Technology Partner on drives and motion control. Stage 

Technologies has worked with HMK for nearly 10 years, with the latter specifying and supplying Siemens products for the various projects undertaken. “The flying of scenery and props is not uncommon,” explains HMK’s managing director Carl Krajewski, “but when we start flying people about, safety becomes the number one priority.”


It’s a view shared by Stage Technologies engineering assistant, Mike Gillman: “Someone’s life is in our hands so a lot of development work takes place to ensure the system is completely safe. Final design safety features on this project include: an emergency stop carried in the belt of each wine angel, which brings the harness to a safe stop if activated; dual brakes on the winches; two logical control position loops so the system can detect if the angels are travelling over speed; and of course everything is load tested way beyond normal limits.” Compliance standards for the equipment applied on the project include BS EN 61508 (SIL level 4) and BS 7905.

The system comprises of four winches (one for each side of the tower) along with a control system. Angels can move in the XY or XYZ planes (smoothly, without bounce) in a similar vane to vector movements on a CNC. The Totally Integrated Automation solution deployed a number of leading products from the Siemens portfolio, including a SIMATIC S7400 PLC, an MP170 mobile panel HMI, Profibus, Masterdrive MC servo drives as well as various safety products. Overall it demonstrates the ease and simplicity of integrating a project while eliminating errors of conflict by having a common database.

“HMK’s role as a Technology Partner is to get the best out of the high level functionality offered by Siemens’ products,” says Michael Stow an Account Manager for OEM and Engineering at Siemens, “and to add value through quality service and engineering. In this instance the Siemens Masterdrive MC forms the core of the project – it is linked for command and control to a SIMATIC S7-400 PLC – but all the motion is co-ordinated within the Masterdrive.”

Masterdrive MC is a high dynamic and intelligent motion control system suited to a wide range of production systems and machines. In addition to the well-proven modular hardware concept, Masterdrive Motion Control offers modular software with freely interconnecting function blocks and integrated technology functions including: simple and advanced positioning, rotary cam control, electronic gearbox, angular synchronism, winder and registration control. SIMATIC S7-400 is a powerful PLC for mid-to-high performance requirements and comes with a range of modules and performance graded CPUs for optimal optimum adaptation to the automation task.

Behind safety, the next biggest issue for Radisson SAS staff was ease-of-use. Once complete, the equipment will be left in the hands of people with no previous experience or knowledge of automation technology. However, the simple and user-friendly diagnostics available on the MP170 mobile HMI provides the hotel staff with a system that enables straightforward trouble shooting with the confidence that they can overcome problems on the rare occasion they occur easily and safely. “It’s all about reliability,” says Carl Krajewski. “Reliability of Siemens’ products and reliability of the solution development and installation.”

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