Modular SPECBREW Brewing System Improves Flexibility and Performance

SPECBREW Brewing System Improves Flexibility


  • To develop a comprehensive and expandable automation platform for craft breweries of any size and configuration



  • Improved system flexibility with modular approach
  • Delivered efficient and intuitive interface based on ISA101 human-machine interface (HMI) standards
  • Enabled remote monitoring capability of installed solutions with Ethernet connectivity

OEM Specific Mechanical Systems chooses Rockwell Automation control solution for craft brewing

A well-designed craft brewing system is a beautiful thing to behold. Unlike many food and beverage producers, craft brewers often choose to make at least a portion of their process visible to consumers. They demand systems that provide the right tools for the brewmaster, perform exceptionally – and also have aesthetic appeal.

Specific Mechanical Systems was one of the first equipment suppliers to address the needs of the emerging craft brewing industry in the 1980s. Today, the company has an installed base that includes more than 700 brewing systems worldwide.

“Of course, our primary focus is designing equipment that produces great beer very efficiently and consistently,” said Reo Phillips, president, Specific Mechanical Systems. “But how it's finished and looks is important. Our staff takes great pride in delivering brewing systems that are both state-of-the-art and visually pleasing.”

Specific Mechanical provides consultative, engineering and project management expertise, and designs and manufactures all equipment onsite at its Victoria, British Columbia headquarters.

“Every brew system we design is custom to some degree,” Phillips said. “We must accommodate unique building layouts and design custom systems that range from three to 120 barrels in size. And of course, we must also meet specialized brewing preferences along with some novel customer ideas.”

While Specific Mechanical had successfully deployed automated systems for decades, the company recently chose to upgrade their platform to enhance system functionality and flexibility. The new SPECBREW system is a comprehensive and expandable automation platform for breweries of any size and configuration.

“We designed our SPECBREW system as a modular package,” Phillips explained. “With SPECBREW, we can use the same solution to configure any system, and our customers can add modules and features at any time.”

SPECBREW encompasses the two main aspects of beer making – the brewhouse, or hot side, where the actual brewing takes place and the cellar, or cold side, which includes fermentation, packaging and beer storage. Within the brewhouse and cellar, processes are modularized by application. For example, brewhouse modules include grain handling, liquor blending, mashing, lautering and more.

The flexible SPECBREW platform features fully automated, recipe-driven brewhouse control and cellar control for any number of vessels plus full logging and reporting. It can be installed into any new brewery or retrofitted to existing systems.

“All brewhouse and cellar modules can be viewed and controlled from a central location,” Phillips said. “In addition, we can include local control and visualization at each of the modular areas, along with remote access.”

The SPECBREW brewhouse control system is based on the Rockwell Automation application code developed for craft brewing, which runs on standard Rockwell Automation process control hardware and software platforms.

Specifically, the application runs on an Allen-Bradley® CompactLogix™ controller and incorporates Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® AC drives for variable speed control. Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus 7 graphic terminals provide local monitoring, while centralized supervisory-level visualization is achieved via an Allen-Bradley 6181P integrated display computer.

Integrated on an EtherNet/IP™ network, the system includes an Allen-Bradley Stratix™ managed Ethernet switch and wireless access point solution for smart plant operation.

“Typically in this industry, automation displays are almost cartoonish and feature shapes that can be distracting,” Phillips said. “To help ensure efficient, intuitive operation, we developed unique information-centric operator views.”

Specific Mechanical developed the SPECBREW operator displays following design recommendations outlined in the latest ISA101 human-machine interface (HMI) standard.

The company worked closely with Rockwell Automation Global OEM Technical Consultants (GOTCs) throughout initial hardware selection and system development. Specific Mechanical continues to collaborate with the Rockwell Automation team on new developments.

“Before we met anyone from Rockwell Automation, we had virtually made our selection based on equipment quality and the company's great support network,” Phillips said. “Meeting the people just helped solidify our decision.”

With the first SPECBREW systems deployed, the company is beginning to receive customer feedback.

“Customer response has been very positive,” Phillips said. “One customer who has been brewing beer for 25 years said that this is by far the very best automation solution he has seen.”

Learn more about how Rockwell Automation helps improve machine builder performance.


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