S. M. CARTER (1); (1) LT Software Solutions, Portsmouth, NH, U.S.A.
Thursday, October 8
River Terrace 2
Considerations when transitioning from a hand brewing operation to a semi or fully automated brewhouse involve some very complicated decisions. Where you need to be in 5 or 10 years has a lot to do with some of the early decisions you need to make when you are starting down the automation path. Not making the right decision early on can severely cripple the future capacity of a brewing operation. The most important areas to consider are during this transition are functionality, expandability, maintainability, traceability. Functionality: reviewing the attributes of the myriad of brewhouse automation systems available can be daunting. You should have a road map of where you want to be in 5 and 10 years before beginning this task. You will need to pick from a set of criteria that will help you to decide what is important to your operation. You should also limit your final vendor decision to three or four offerings. Features you may want to cover in your review include programming environment; features and options; flexibility of instillation of the wiring topology; lower level control features such as PID control and tuning, flexibility of alarm assignments, pre-engineered template functionality, recovery for a power outage, recipe and scheduling features, and batch administration; and quality control features such as batch-to-batch comparison, batch tracking, and long-term data archiving for later comparison. Expandability: the landscape you find yourself in today may look nothing like where you will need to be 5 to 10 years. What seem to be sound financial decisions today may prove to be limiting factors down the road. Maintainability: without decent documentation and automation symmetry throughout the brewing operation it may become very difficult to retain personnel who can maintain and grow your brewery automation system. Be careful not to shop different areas of the operation out to separate vendors and end up with a final product that looks and feels different in each separate area of the operation. Your maintenance personnel should be able to understand the theory behind the operation of the systems in the cellars if they have become familiar with the operations in the brewhouse. Traceability: you may have started out just wanting to make beer, but as you transition to a larger operation you will have to be able to track your raw materials. Beyond just being able to keep track of the raw material you have consumed, you will eventually want to be able to track a particular sack of malt or a delivery of hops into a specific brew and through fermentation and finally to a packaging run.
Stephen Carter is a 37 year veteran of the automation industry and has been involved in the development and upgrade of brewing automation systems for more than 20 years. In addition to brewing applications, Stephen has applied automated controls to hundreds of machinery and automation systems both nationally and internationally and has designed and implemented machinery and control systems across diverse industries, including semiconductor, food, beverage, brewing, packaging, plastics, marine, web, paper, transportation, and pharmaceutical systems.