Project

Modernization Brings Keg Line into New Millennium

PROJECT

Keg Line Conversion

LOCATION

Colorado

Background

A major American brewing company operates a facility in Colorado, regarded as a model of efficiency and leading-edge technology within the brewing industry. Many of the process best practices in use at all the company’s breweries nationwide were designed and tested at the Colorado facility. Therefore, when the time came to update the aging control system for the draft keg line racker, the Colorado brewing company operations were selected as the proving ground. 

The Colorado plant produces a wide range of brands, a portion of which is shipped out in draft kegs. The keg line racker consists of eight independent parallel lanes arranged in pairs. The racker lanes interface with in-feed and discharge conveyors, automatically detecting when to accept new kegs and discharge completed kegs.

Challenges

In 2000, the brewing company approached ESC Engineering, an EN Engineering company, to replace the control system for the existing draft keg line single-valve keg (SVK) racker. ESC found that the control system was outdated and inflexible, preventing optimal line production. Because the plant was originally designed to accommodate 1/2- and 1/4-barrel kegs, it did not include package-specific operational parameters and controls for the newer 1/6-barrel keg size. While the line could handle the 1/6-barrel package, inflexible system parameters led to an unacceptably high rate of “false rejects.”

Due to the substantial re-wiring, new wiring, and demolition required, ESC was challenged to overcome many physical obstacles to complete the project on time. An efficient modernization process was imperative with only a five-day outage window allowed for system construction, start-up, and commissioning.

Unlike can or bottle lines, keg production depends heavily on a strict process, timing, and sequence to maintain process integrity. As part of the modernization, ESC was were asked to improve line security by implementing a system “lockdown” to prevent unauthorized or unintentional changes to the operational parameters. 

Solutions

ESC designed a modular system in which each pair of lanes would have a dedicated processor and local I/O and a supervisor PLC to coordinate the overall racker operation. ESC fits each pair with identical PLC programs, making it easier to independently check, maintain, and troubleshoot lanes.

This design was based on Rockwell Automation’s Allen-Bradley SLC-500 product line, specifically, the 5/05 model, which allows communications via ethernet. The supervisor PLC at the Colorado facility handles all coordination between the racker and the other systems on the line and communicates using data message instructions to exchange information for operational parameters and monitoring information for the HMI. 

The HMI solution was Intellution FIX32, which communicated operational parameters with the supervisor PLC and directly with each lane PLC to acquire current monitoring conditions. 

The HMI’s comprehensive set of screens provides operators with a detailed view of racker operations and supplies emergent alarm information to the brewery’s existing alarm application. ESC also created custom diagnostic and help screens to provide additional assistance and detail to operations and maintenance personnel.

To meet the tight outage schedule, ESC proposed that the original racker manufacturer provide a simulator to rehearse every step of the optimization. The simulator was used to test each normal process and every alarm and fault condition, allowing the racker controls to be thoroughly verified before a production outage. 

This design was based on Rockwell Automation’s Allen-Bradley SLC-500 product line, specifically, the 5/05 model, which allows communications via ethernet. The supervisor PLC at the Colorado facility handles all coordination between the racker and the other systems on the line and communicates using data message instructions to exchange information for operational parameters and monitoring information for the HMI. 

The HMI solution was Intellution FIX32, which communicated operational parameters with the supervisor PLC and directly with each lane PLC to acquire current monitoring conditions. 

The HMI’s comprehensive set of screens provides operators with a detailed view of racker operations and supplies emergent alarm information to the brewery’s existing alarm application. ESC also created custom diagnostic and help screens to provide additional assistance and detail to operations and maintenance personnel.

To meet the tight outage schedule, ESC proposed that the original racker manufacturer provide a simulator to rehearse every step of the optimization. The simulator was used to test each normal process and every alarm and fault condition, allowing the racker controls to be thoroughly verified before a production outage.

KEY RESULTS:

  • ESC added operational parameters for the 1/6-barrel package.
  • Slightly improved the processing time of each lane, resulting in more efficient processing and fewer false rejects.
  • New diagnostics and help features allow plant staff to resolve problems more quickly.
  • Minimized outage time to deliver results with little impact to plant operations.

“ESC has successfully performed SVK racker upgrades at four other breweries using ControlLogix, which has become the new standard. We are also slated to perform the upgrade on an additional four breweries. Further SVK line upgrades are being considered along with the racker upgrades.”

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