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Control upgrade satisfies Feds at Kentucky spirits facility

Nov. 12, 2018

“TTB could order us to report on demand, and they didn’t like the delay. They required us to integrate our batch and ERP systems by 2017.” Campari’s Sean White explained how some missing bourbon motivated the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to account for its products more carefully.  

It’s called “Pappygate,” when in 2012, bottles of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, valued at more than $1,000 apiece, were discovered missing from the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky. Along with nine people involved in stealing and selling the spirits, the investigation discovered a cache of barrels of Wild Turkey bourbon. The thief was identified, prosecuted and ultimately convicted, but the fallout for the Campari Group facility he stole it from had just begun.

The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) “Doesn’t like taxable product disappearing without taxation, so they put mandates on us to track and report inventories,” said Sean White, distillery operations manager, Campari Group Wild Turkey Distillery, in his session co-presented with Ryan Williams, project manager, Stone Technologies, at the Rockwell Automation Process Solution User Group meeting this week in Philadelphia.

Campari was founded in Italy in 1860, and is now the world’s sixth-largest spirits producer, with 50 brands in 190 countries. At the time of the incident, a company plant in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky was responsible for bottling both Wild Turkey whiskey and Skyy vodka, with facilities for truck unloading; 41 tanks for sugaring, blending and bottling; filtration; and four packaging lines—three high-speed, one manual. The existing control system was based on the PlantPAx 2.0 DCS, with 600 devices on three Ethernet networks, 80 drives and a third-party batch control system.

The TTB-mandated reports took days to prepare by sifting through information from three systems. “TTB could order us to report on demand, and they didn’t like the delay,” White said. “They required us to integrate our batch and ERP systems by 2017.

“We couldn’t upgrade the existing batch software, and the original integrator was not available to us, so we went looking for a new system.”

Global integrator acts local

One of the proposals came from Stone Technologies, a national systems integrator founded 1996 with headquarters in St. Louis. Stone does projects from the plant floor to ERP levels, specializing in food & beverage but also working in pharmaceuticals, petrochemical and more. It operates in 17 states, and is a CSIA-certified Rockwell Automation partner, with partners around the world for global projects.

Stone Technologies was contacted through Campari engineers’ affiliates at Jim Beam. “The bourbon industry is a tight community and very cooperative,” said Ryan Williams, project manager, Stone Technologies. “We were able to give Wild Turkey personnel a tour of the results of our work at Jim Beam, which was amazing. Like taking Chevy guys through a Ford plant.”

Campari awarded the contract to Stone, and a multifunctional group selected the technology to be implemented, including FactoryTalk Batch. Stone assigned a team of six engineers with specialties in project management, MES, controls and batch systems. The Campari team included its directors of engineering, SAP and processing; technicians, site supervisor, site controller, and vice president of IT Americas.

The solution kept the existing PlantPAx 2.0 and FactoryTalk View SE system, but upgraded FactoryTalk View SE to Version 9 and removed the old batch system phase logic. This approach decreased risk and startup time, eliminating need to do full device checkout, which decreased development time and project cost.

Batch functionality is done by FactoryTalk Batch v13 with material manager and eProcedures to incorporate manual processes into batch records. The ability to do medium-fidelity simulation was added using Mynah Technologies MIMIC software, FactoryTalk Historian eliminates CSV files, and it runs on VMWare ESXi servers.

The system includes a 60-unit license (using about 40 with room for expansion) and handles more than 200 phases (many used on several units, such as headers), more than 225 unique final recipes, and approximately 175 raw materials.

Before going live, Stone worked through simulations off-line at its St. Louis facility with a group of employees from the Campari plant.

Highly visible implementation

The facility can move the contents of any tank to any other tank, and tracks movements using bidirectional communications with SAP in real time. Data is distributed to teams around the world, so the project had high visibility corporate-wide. The facility runs 24/7 and is tank-constrained, so installation had to be done in a way that minimized time and disruption.

Cutover was done over a weekend. “The old system was shutdown on Friday, the first tank was brought up on the new system on Saturday morning, and the plant was running on the new system Monday,” White said.

“Campari understood batch, and their process,” Williams said. “They had full support of their company to get done as quickly as possible. It helped that they kept the base code of PlantPAx, and FactoryTalk View SE.”

Before, “We didn’t have the ability to report work in process,” White said. “Now we can. We can track and release bottling supplies, we can tell who pushed what buttons, and when. Any time you can take out some of the human interaction, there’s less risk of error. We added error-checking and prompts for values out of the expected range.

“It took some time to convince operators to keep their hands off it, to watch what it’s doing but allow the control system to do it. Now operators can stay within the constraints of the batch system for all materials and equipment movements.”

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