Texas takes a Shine to Bavarian brew

The brewery in Shiner, Texas, was founded in 1909 and has retained traditional quality standards despite pressure to expand. Today, integrated systems play an important role in maintain these standards.

In 1909, Czech and German immigrants in the town of Shiner, Texas, founded their own brewery. Because residents wanted a beer that tasted like home, they hired a Bavarian brewmaster named Kosmos Spoetzl. Almost a century later, Shiner beer is available all over the US.

When it was time to expand the brewing operation, the 50-employee strong Spoetzl Brewery was faced with the challenge of automating to increase production while maintaining product quality.

The team chose a Scada/MES approach for three areas of the brewery – support areas such as utilities, ammonia, purified water, carbon dioxide and water; the filter areas; and the expanded tank farm.

With the Lookout supervisory control system, from National Instruments, the brewery uses four Siemens Simatic 555 PLCs interfaced through serial connections. Lookout HMIs run on a Windows NT platform using Ethernet and display data on an industrially hardened screen.

The computers are located on the factory floor for easy operator access. A main server located in the engineering department provides an overview of all processes. Several different levels of access maintain system security. Total I/O count is approximately 3,000 points, and data is collected from each point every one to five seconds.

Lookout also handles recipe management, historical trending, and process control and also interfaces with an Allen-Bradley PLC located in the main brewhouse. In addition, operators can track temperature changes throughout the year and view the plant on screen with quick access to all alarm information and analogue process variables, including temperatures, pressures, control variables, and all discrete I/O points.

NI Alliance Program member, Vista Technology was able to replicate the plant on screen exactly. Because of the 3D rendition of the plant, operators can view all the various processes online. An operator in the tank farm, for instance, only has to flip an on-screen switch to turn the APV intelligent valves on or off. On screen, the system is colour-coded for easy viewing. Switches are green when open and red when closed. And an operator can check the levels in the tanks by interfacing with the Lookout screen.

Using the HyperTrend function in Lookout, historical trending can easily be carried out. Operators keep track of the time and temperature variations of the tank farm throughout the year and can look at the daily or annual data trends.

Automating data collection and performing real-time analysis generates a feedback signal, which is integrated into alarms and actions to improve filter management.

The old filter configuration required an operator’s presence throughout the process to monitor pressure gauges and determine clarity. The new control system manages these functions with instrumentation signals so the filter room can be left unattended allowing operators to perform other brewing functions.

Operators adapted to the new system with minimal training. They now control the system more efficiently, so that beer can continue to be produced in the traditional way of brew at a time.