Processing automation increases flexibility, productivity

New recipes, more SKUs and packaging advancements have heightened performance demands in beverage plants. Processing automation systems offer beverage manufacturers a technologically advanced way to keep up with ever-increasing production requirements.

Through a network of interconnected technology, processing automation systems integrate field devices, input/output (I/O) modules, controllers and human machine interfaces (HMI) for the benefits of engineering, supervisory control and business integration. The systems are scalable and can be customized to each manufacturer’s unique requirements. Additionally, implementation of the technology has been reported to increase productivity, add flexibility and extend interoperability between plants. In addition, manufacturers with multiple production facilities can link systems between factories.

“If one company’s plant uses our solution and demonstrates a throughput improvement of 25 percent, it offers a significant benefit to businesses that are global,” says Mike Jamieson, market segment director for consumer product goods for Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee. “Our solutions have delivery capability and consistency across the globe. If you can ramp up speed in North America to deliver more products, we can take that into your plant in Indonesia and ramp up the number there.”

The systems also oversee more than manufacturing steps, the connection reaches as many people as the company requires, says Walt Staehle, Siemens Energy & Automation, Alpharetta, Ga.

“We cover everything from the shop floor to the top floor,” Staehle says. “It’s all about connectivity and interoperability. We help our customers connect the dots.”

Efficiency through innovation

Those dots can be connected with the help of Siemens’ PCS 7 system, which is an abbreviation for Process Control System. The solution combines aspects of two traditional systems, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) and Distributed Control System (DCS), into an easy-to-use system.

Traditionally, a PLC system monitors the manufacture and/or assembly of products and allows an operator to monitor the process visually as the process runs. It is engineered for simple batch, repeatable production. PLC systems also have logic control that allows for high production speeds.

On the other hand, DCS is designed for complex batch manufacturing and is well-suited for facilities that require a high level of flexibility and recipe management. As a combination of the two interfaces, Siemens’ PCS 7 system offers the benefits of PLC’s logic control, but with the functions of a DCS system, explains Ed Montgomery, industry manager for brewing and processing automation solutions.

Siemens’ PCS 7 system can integrate automation systems in the plant and field devices in a single platform with common tools for engineering, visualization and facility-wide asset maintenance management, the company says. Each PCS 7 system is engineered to the specific scale requirements of a plant.

In addition, all Siemens systems feature hardware standardization that lowers the need for highly skilled technicians. Its ethernet switches are built with micro-memory ability that transfers the micro-memory chip to a functioning switch in the event of a switch malfunction, explains Tom Cook, industry manager for beverage bottling and packaging automation solutions.

“We use the same philosophy for our PLCs, ethernet switches and drives,” he says. “We have a new drive, the G120 with micro-memory technology. It’s making things easier for less technically skilled plant personnel.”

The systems also come equipped with diagnostics to help plant personnel easily locate a malfunction. Siemens systems are designed with as much visualization as possible, Cook says, which helps less technical employees troubleshoot faster. This helps the line have “quicker uptake to get back to production and creating products,” he says.

A Siemens system, Montgomery explains, also offers the benefit of all Siemens equipment.

“If we put in an ethernet backbone, we have Siemens switches and other pieces,” he says. “If it breaks down, it’s our problem and you can call us and we discuss the solution. With other companies you have to figure out whose responsibility is it? Is it the company, the switch manufacturer, the PLC maker or the HMI maker? With a Siemens system we have a responsibility for the complete automation schedule.”

In the event of a malfunction, Siemens’ customers can call a customer service hotline for help. The hotline is provided free of charge for customers, which Montgomery says is often a key differentiator for new customers.

Efficiency through collaboration

Rockwell Automation uses an individual approach with each installation. When considering a new installation or product upgrade, the company sends a consulting team made up of industry veterans and Rockwell Automation’s technical team to develop a system based on the plant’s unique needs. Rockwell Automation’s products are customizable based on customer requirements, such as adding new SKUs, new recipes, sustainability, running at higher speeds or scheduling plant operations.

“Companies that invest in technology, whether on the processing side or high-speed packaging side, need common tools and products across companies,” Jamieson says. “From raw materials to finished goods, Rockwell offers the hardware and integrated DCS processes and discreet factors like PLC for packaging. Our development doesn’t take place in a vacuum, we make sure to create solutions for the driving industry standards.”

Last month, Rockwell Automation launched its newest partner device, Allen-Bradley’s ControlLogix family of controllers. The new Allen-Bradley ControlLogix L64 Programmable Automation Controller features 16-mg. of memory for data-intensive applications. The line can be used in the ControlLogix redundancy solution and features larger storage capacity for applications with various recipes.

The new ControlLogix controllers allow for more efficient use of system capacity with the centralization of applications, such as alarming, which in the past was shared by external devices like HMIs. The alarms now are managed by the Logix PAC through FactoryTalk Alarms and Events program instead of HMI.

Automation in motion

Processing automation systems are applicable across the beverage industry, but breweries are of particular interest because of their production methods. Both Siemens Energy & Automation and Rockwell Automation have implemented their solutions for breweries.

Siemens offers a tailored version of its PCS 7 technology for breweries known as Braumat. Braumat offers solutions for small breweries, such as Bell’s Brewery, Comstock, Mich. Last fall the Braumat system was impletmented by Bell’s Brewery and has reduced the labor required to control Bell’s 45 fermentation tanks, the company says.

“We have considerably reduced our labor hours, while increasing efficiency and eliminating variability and repetition with the new system,” said John Mallett, production manager for Bell’s, in a statement. “On our old manual system, we had two or three people doing manual checks and logging information every day. Now this is all controlled from one central location and can be done in a fraction of the time, which frees us up to do other activities in the brewery.”

Rockwell Automation partnered with Asia Pacific Breweries’ plant in Tuas, Singapore, to increase its capability. The plant produces the brewery’s Tiger Beer brand as well as Heineken, Anchor and ABC Stout beers. Rockwell updated Asia Pacific’s control system, which was running on outdated I/Os that were hindering the brewery’s production speed.

In addition to a system upgrade, Asia Pacific also required the upgrade to happen in one eight-hour period of scheduled downtime. Rockwell Automation was able to replace the brewhouse’s DCS system with outdated I/Os with a new system based on the Rockwell Automation Logix Control Platform made with Allen-Bradley ControlLogix programmable automation controllers and 1756 I/O. The controllers are able to communication with the brewery’s existing DCS Modbus.