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Automation of Filtration and Brand Management Maximizes Efficiency and Cost Returns

As competition from craft brewers started to impact national beer sales, a major American brewer increased the number of packaged brands at various brewing plants nationwide. To manage additional brands and maintain or increase production volumes while using existing filtration equipment, the brewing company needed to implement a finishing process that would be automatically managed and resistant to frequent equipment stoppage. Because the brewer’s Colorado plant is regarded as a model of leading-edge technology and was equipped to be a multiple-brand facility, it was selected to participate in the development of these process enhancements. The brewing company approached ESC engineering to automate the finishing process due to ESC’s long established relationship with the brewery and extensive process, design, and programming background.


Because the filtration and finishing process had to remain in continuous operation, the brand management upgrades would have to be implemented with minimal disruption. Final product verification was accomplished using quality assurance lab sampling and manual analysis after the beer was filtered. Occasionally the beer was not in specification, requiring further finishing. ESC was tasked with implementing and calibrating a beer analyzer and control system that would outperform these manual assessments.


ESC recommended adding a new Allen-Bradley PLC-5 to accept the analog beer analysis signals and send the filter’s brand code to the beer analyzer. The PLC-5 provides a modern control platform and is able to directly communicate with the control-area HMI. The PLC-5 was arranged as a remote IO rack of the filter PLC-3 and exchange data and signals necessary to coordinate filter operation and brand analysis. The finishing process is controlled with PLC-based PID functions and these new process variables are used to control the finishing process with a PID control algorithm.


The filtration and brand management automation was successful, resulting in minimal downtime and increased production. Thanks to ESC’s multistage plan execution, finished beer was provided continuously throughout the project timeline. The beer analyzer was installed in the process piping during a planned outage, and was started up and tested with the PLC-5 before its control functions were activated. Production throughput increased without additional filtering equipment, and beer quality was improved as manual filter setup and operation was eliminated.