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Upgrading Can and Bottle Lines Optimizes Packaging Operations

The Colorado plant of a major American brewing company is regarded as a model of efficiency and leading-edge technology within the brewing industry. Many of the process best practices in use at all of the company’s breweries were therefore designed and tested at the Colorado facility. For this project, several can and bottle lines were upgraded to improve the brewery’s efficiency.


The brewing company approached ESC engineering to implement the line upgrades. ESC found that the existing line controls were supervised by aging Allen-Bradley PLC-3 controllers and proprietary communication networks. This arrangement limited the flexibility among lines and made it difficult to implement changes quickly. Because the bottle and can lines had to remain in continuous operation, extensive planning was necessary to execute the transition from the existing configuration to the new design layout. ESC’s primary challenge was to remove each line’s supervisory PLC and convert individual line components, while causing minimal disruption to packaging operations.


ESC’s approach was based on removing the lines’ PLC-3 and myriad of communication networks. ESC recommended a design that would convert the controls on each machine and system to an Ethernet-based PLC. To increase productivity, efficiency, and flexibility, ESC reconfigured and re-controlled each line using individual controllers for every discreet piece of equipment and line function. A line supervisory PLC was added to handle interlocking, alarming and handshaking between the new line PLCs. Due to production constraints, none of the lines could be down for an extended period of time. The new communications infrastructure was therefore installed ahead of the upgrade while the line was still running.


As a result of the upgrades, the production lines were able to run more efficiently, with less downtime. Accurate fault diagnosis enables production staff to respond quickly to changes on the line, while centralized, accessible production data enables all levels of staff to access the critical information. Additional programming supports automatic maintenance reporting which helps the maintenance planning group to schedule equipment service based on hours of operation, runtime, or a specific number of recurring issues.