Process automation system from Rockwell Automation provides internal process and recipe control
From entrepreneurial newcomers to large-scale producers, brewers in Canada are cashing in on the thirst for craft beer.
The explosion in craft beer popularity had one company – Sleeman Breweries – bursting at its production seams. The third-largest brewer in Canada, Sleeman operates three brewing production facilities located in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
Modernizing Craft Brewing
At Sleeman’s Okanagan Spring Brewery (OSB) in Vernon, British Columbia, the company was struggling to meet market demand for its OSB beers. The management team was looking for ways to increase output beyond the maximum of eight brews per day.
The existing infrastructure was based on an antiquated, semi-automated control system. Changes to the brewing process – including adding new recipes – needed to be done manually, which increased the risk of human error or inconsistencies.
Better Control Means Better Brews
The Sleeman team worked with McRae Integration, a Rockwell Automation Recognized System Integrator, to design and implement an integrated process automation system to increase capacity, reduce risk and provide access to real-time production data.
The Sleeman team was hoping to standardize on one solution across its facilities.
“A single platform would give us insights across the line and between facilities, so we could build on successes and meet our goals for continuous improvement while continuing to make great beer,” said Stefan Tobler, brewmaster at OSB. “We had already standardized on Rockwell Automation equipment at our other facilities, and knew McRae could help us meet our goals with a single platform based on the Rockwell Automation technology.”
The system includes reporting and historian software that collects, tracks and records key process data to pinpoint brew cycle trends, allowing operators to proactively make changes to brews as needed. The Rockwell Automation library of process objects provides predefined controller code and faceplates, and the new system helps Sleeman operators more quickly configure new batches and build recipes.
Allen-Bradley PowerFlex 525 and PowerFlex 755 drives from Rockwell Automation deliver flexible motor control in the brewing process and help communicate device diagnostics to the control system.
To complete the implementation, McRae worked with Sleeman’s IT team to install VMware virtualized servers. These servers provided automatic redundancy for production data with enhanced data recovery and expanded data storage. One virtualized server can replace up to four physical backup servers, which greatly decreases the equipment hardware costs.
It also provides the Sleeman team with the ability to create copies of the virtualized servers to run simulations offline and test production changes before they are made.
Ready for More Beer
Within two weeks of the implementation, Sleeman increased production by 50 percent at its Vernon facility, going from eight brews to 12 brews per day.
Management can check on any production issues leveraging the PlantPAx system’s trending capabilities and the BrewSight software’s reporting. With exception reporting, the system creates reports to track progress as the brews reach fermentation and emails management if any brew variables deviate.
The brewing team can take any corrective action needed and reduce downtime, rather than reworking and blending off the brew in small amounts later.
“Craft brewing involves a lot of small changes in recipes – based on water, incoming malt and other variables – plus adding new recipes,” said Tobler. “The PlantPAx system with FactoryTalk Brew software allows us to maintain brew quality, while also providing the flexibility we need to quickly respond to changing consumer tastes and market trends.”
The software upgrades have kept the brew quality high while increasing production speed. The Vernon facility now has an industry-leading, two-hour brew cycle, with improved consistency in flavor and quality.
The Sleeman team is not done – they plan to implement the PlantPAx platform throughout the rest of the Vernon facility, including the tank farm and packaging lines. As the standardization across all areas of Sleeman’s facilities expands, corporate visibility will improve, allowing the company to more effectively make decisions that will grow their business.
The results mentioned above are specific to Sleeman Breweries’ use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.