Brewery in a Box?

Bringing the Benefits of Distributed Control to Non-Traditional Industries Can Be Both Tricky and Lucrative

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When asked why he selected Siemens, Carl Wiersma of Crown Valley Brewing and Distilling Company (www.crownvalleybrewery.com) said simply, "We wanted Siemens because it is state-of-the-art."

How Does the "Brewery in a Box" Work?

{siddebar3}The basis of the system is the Siemens PCS7 distributed control system. The PCS7 Box system, often used in smaller craft breweries (hence the name) consists of an industrial PC with a WinAC RTX software controller and all of the I/O housed in one box. There are other configurations for larger breweries. "Schlafly utilizes a client server system," Montgomery explains, "with one server, a four-monitor client in their brewhouse and a single screen client in their fermentation cellar. Everything is tied to one AS-416 controller and all of the I/O is connected by Profibus DP."

Siemens developed the Braumat Compact Libraries, which is what Montgomery calls the system templates, specifically for the brewery-, winery- and distilled spirits-related industries, and Montgomery says they can be adapted to any brewery scenario "from 3000 barrels a year to over 350,000 barrels a year breweries," Montgomery says.

It isn't just the system or the templates that make the system successful. "The installation and start-up were challenging," Ottolini reports. "You had us,who have never automated a brewery before. That was a steep learning curve in many respects. Having Siemens there for support was invaluable. We could never have done it without them. We were down for two weeks to make all the changes and installation, and we were back up and running at 50% the end of the third week. Then we cranked the thing up and haven't stopped. Siemens has been great to partner. They have been very helpful in too many ways to list."

Wiersma concurs. "Ed Montgomery was here and handled everything."

"Siemens is a large company, and their support has been very good," Ottolini says. "Many times I find that large companies have support that suits other large companies. It falls into that ‘I'll have my people talk to your people' syndrome. We don't have the time or people for that. We have not had that syndrome with. We are much more connected and networked with key players in their organization for the solutions we need."

There is an art and a science to both controls and brewing. While plenty of science appears to be available, there is a need for the artistic side to step in and assist.

Then too, Ottolini says, "They know us better, and they can provide a solution that is fit for purpose. That is key to anyone selling an automation solution. Just because it can be done doesn't mean it makes sense as a solution."

How Well Does It Work?

"We have been working with the system for over a year now," says Chris Skura. "The PCS7 has provided us with great temperature control and the ability to trend our batches throughout fermentation. We are currently working on adding more to our system to allow us to track all brewery records through milling to distribution."

From Ottolini: "We grew about 38% in terms of beer produced in 2009 over 2008, and we did that on this system. The system has a great amount of potential in well-educated hands with well-designed equipment. We are an organization that is stretched at every point to try and meet demand. We have made the investment in equipment that will help us rise to meet those challenges."

"It does everything we want, and has more capability that we are even using," says Wiersma.

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