Digital systems let brewer try more flavors, ramp up for hot sellers
Intense competition in the brewing and distilling field is driving a significant digital transformation. Time-to-market is essential for craft brewers who need to capture consumer interest before their competition do.
Craft breweries constantly refine and modify their recipes, so their brewing operations must be flexible. If the brewery’s automation systems are adaptable to changing formulas, the possibilities for a successful “big seller” multiply. When a brew demonstrates early success, quickly ramping up production is critical. The automation system must immediately produce the new formulation and scale up while demand is high.
When demand spikes, brewers may quickly expand operations by adding a second or third shift of increasing fermentation capacity. If they still require more capacity, fermentation tanks can be added. With a scalable control system, brewers can then integrate additional hardware and software as necessary.
Brewers are also discovering a better way to produce a more consistent-tasting beer through modern control technology. “When we look at automation solutions we are hoping for more consistency — and more beer,” said Mike Cuddy, owner of Ghostface Brewing in Mooresville, North Carolina. “We want to make sure everything comes out the same each time.”
Deutsche Beverage Technology, a provider of turnkey engineering solutions for breweries based in Charlotte, North Carolina, supplies brewers like Ghostface. Deutsche provides digitalization equipment that lets brewers scale their systems without taking their focus away from their core strength of making beer.
“As a small brewer, we are always looking for the next level of data analysis to produce more consistent and high-quality beer,” said Pat Raines, co-founder of Gate City Brewing Co., Roswell, GA. “Our relationship with Deutsche and Siemens is empowering us, we can already see how to digitally transform our brew house.”
Digitalization allows breweries to select the system capabilities that address their specific needs without having to deploy all features up front. That’s one of the reasons Deutsche picked the Siemens S7-1200F controller. It incorporates a future-proof design, protecting the end user’s investment by deploying the same tools and instructions for safety functions. Brewers can manage facilities within current cost constraints while maintaining the scalability to expand in the future.
Another way to save time and achieve faster commissioning is through the controller’s safety program validation before going on site. This can be done by using Siemens Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) Portal engineering framework and PLCSIM simulation tool. The S7-1200F also offers system-integrated diagnostics, which are available without additional programming, allowing diagnostic data to be continuously available via the HMIs, on the webserver or in the TIA Portal. One of the other significant advantages is the flexibility afforded by the safety PLC’s inherent programmability. Modifying an application is as easy as changing the program on one’s laptop and uploading it to the controller.
This automation enables breweries to realize many benefits in a way that makes sense for their operations. As their business evolves, changes and upgrades can be implemented without having to re-engineer or repurchase the control system. Digitalization gives Gate City Brewing significant reliability advances.
“As a smaller brewer launching a new system, one of the typical operational challenges is not having an electrical engineer on staff to tell me what the system is doing and what it is capable of doing,” Raines said. “If something is going on, I can easily do the minimal trouble shooting and then reach out to Deutsche and Siemens to help me fix it.”
Digital controls also make it easy for brewers to see how day-to-day operations are proceeding. The human machine interface makes it easy to monitor systems and analyze performance.
“One of my favorite aspects of our brew house equipment is the touchscreen HMI. It really allows Gate City Brewing to get a viewpoint into all our operations from one place and allows us to see every valve, pump and temperature in the brewery quickly,” Raines said.
Deutsche Beverage electrical engineer Chris McAbee said the Siemens push buttons and switches were selected because of their ergonomic look and feel, the ease of wiring, and the time saved during installation.
“We picked Siemens SIRIUS ACT buttons because, in the brewing industry, these buttons get splashed continuously and our customers needed a solution that was either water resistant or waterproof,” McAbee said. “The buttons we selected are waterproof – they can be completely drenched in the brewing process and there is no worry of shorting or damaging the circuitry.”
Simplicity in wiring is another factor that’s important for brewers. Using PROFINET reduces wiring outlay, which means fewer sources of error during installation. In addition, there is no requirement to address individual push buttons and command points – there is one IP address for up to 21 devices. PROFINET also allows the transfer of data over a common Ethernet backbone – a critical capability that enables digitalization.
This connectivity also provides remote access to the brewers’ automation equipment for the purpose of gathering diagnostic and maintenance information. Experts can check on performance and alter parameters from their home or other remote sites.
“We didn’t have the capability of remote access before Siemens PROFINET solutions,” McAbee said. “We’d set the sensor up at the customer site and, once we left, it would be costly for us to come back and change it. Or, we could walk the customer through how to fix the problem over the phone. But if they got stuck, we’d have to go back in and reprogram, which took up valuable engineering time.”
The digital system also employs memory modules that are easily replaced without the need of programming knowledge. All of this helps to boost speed and agility for both the machine builder and the end user. The Siemens Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) Portal offers a user-friendly interface that makes configuring the solution simple and safe in the design phase and also enables the facilitation of automatic generated system diagnostics after the push button and pilot device control solutions are installed at the breweries.
Automation can provide a major edge for craft brewers that are attempting to defy the trend of declining beer sales. When recipes can be tested without major programming efforts, it’s easier to come up with a winning recipe. And when a new brew catches on, digital systems make it easier for brewers to ramp up and quench the demand before beer aficionados move to another style.Have an Inquiry for Siemens about this article? Click Here >>