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Case Study: Brewhouse Automation and Functional Upgrade


Case Study: Brewhouse Automation and Functional Upgrade


ECS Solutions was contracted to replace a control system that was becoming obsolete at a brewery in Florida. The Venezuelan-based parent company, for which ECS Solutions employees had already completed multiple projects,  was concerned that the automation hardware could go bad and be difficult to replace, leading to a shutdown of the plant. The customer’s production was at risk since the hardware in the system, which incorporated old Siemens PLC, Siemens I/O (input and output), and Siemen’s software, was no longer supported or available.

ECS Solutions has worked at several of the company’s breweries in South America and had demonstrated the functionality of the ISA88 standard, which allows expansion from producing a few items to many and enables changes to be handled by brewmasters in a modular way without reprogramming the control system. The company wanted the brewmaster to be able to create recipes independent of the code in the PLC, so providing the functionality obtained with the ISA88 standard became an important goal. The company wanted the best practices, now working in the facilities in South America, to be introduced into the Florida plant.

The approach to the project adopted by ECS Solutions was to use as much commercially off-the-shelf functionality as possible, however, a major hurdle was the requirement to minimize downtime. This meant that all the controllers and IO cards, installed in multiple racks in the motor control center room, had to be replaced with minimal disruption to production. The customer recognized the project would be more straightforward if the old system was entirely removed and a new system installed and tested. ECS Solutions designed a plan to remove all wires from the input cards, replace existing controllers with new controllers and I/O (input/output) racks, and minimize testing time. To mitigate against the risk of the new system not starting when required, ECS designed the ability to switch from the new system back to the old system if the replacement was not fully functional on time.

The new control system would be a Rockwell PlantPAx® system, with a ControlLogix PAC (process automation controller) and FactoryTalk View SE distributed HMI. The approach required the replication of all the code from the existing controllers into modular code using the Rockwell process objects. Furthermore, ECS Solutions used Rockwell FactoryTalk® Batch as the batch management system with its electronic work instructions and material manager components. The scope of the project included a comprehensive control system, from receiving materials from trains or trucks all the way to sending products to packaging, including the input of work orders to the batch engine and production reports. All of this was successfully executed in a timely fashion by ECS engineers.

The engineers provided training to the head brewmaster at the brewery in the use of the batch engine Recipe Editor, allowing the brewmaster the ability to be creative and use numerous variables within recipes. The FactoryTalk® Batch Recipe Editor provided flexibility to create new recipes for beer and other products manufactured with the same equipment (to the extent the physical equipment allowed).  The replacement of the system also provided better visibility into scheduling, for example, the scheduling of CIP processes between production batches.  If the same product was produced, multiple batches would be completed without scheduling the CIP process. If a different product was produced, the CIP process required scheduling. The batch engine walks the operators through the process via electronic work instructions, showing them their choices and then executing what needs to be done.

Follow-up phone calls to the customer have identified no issues with the upgrade but have provided the plant ecosystem Audience the tools to reap the benefits of the new PlantPAx® process control system.

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