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Mitsubishi Electric Control System Helps Brewer to Increase Production by 300%

The perfect beer is a blend of art and science. Automation can help by performing the measured and repetitive tasks while allowing brewers to focus on more creative, interesting and rewarding aspects.

When Sadler’s Ales, a historic Black Country brewery, wanted to grow its business, it decided to adopt an automated process control solution from Mitsubishi Electric to improve productivity and make the quality of its craft beers more consistent.

Clear productivity gains

Sadler’s Ales located near Stourbridge, in the Black Country has been crafting beers since 1900 and is currently run by Chris Sadler, a fifth-generation brewer. Popular brews in the company’s portfolio take reference from local subjects such as the Peaky Blinder range, which proved to be an instant success.

Growing demand for Sadler’s beers led to the extension of the brewhouse, which contains all the equipment needed for the brewing process. This includes a mill to crush barley grains, a hot water tank, a mash tun to obtain wort and separate it from the mash, a copper to boil the wort while adding ingredients such as hops, a heat exchanger to rapidly cool the liquid, as well as several fermentation tanks and filter systems.

Chris Sadler, Managing Director at Sadler’s Brewery explained: “The new facilities should help us to quadruple production. Our goal is to produce up to 1,000 barrels a week.”

Reverse engineering the brewing process

The objective was to create a higher capacity brewing process that could be monitored and controlled more easily by existing staff. On first inspection the system integrator noted the absence of any formal documentation, such as piping and instrumentation (P&I) diagrams and suggested an analysis of the plant to reverse engineer the new process control solution.

They turned to Mitsubishi Electric to help specify the ideal components and determine the number of inputs, outputs, analogue signals, as well as the critical electric motors (mainly pumps) where a.c. inverters would be required.

A solution that addresses the brewers’ needs

For Sadler’s to gain the greatest advantage from the new control system, Mitsubishi Electric worked closely with the brewers to determine their needs and build a bespoke solution around these requirements. Stephen Thornton, Key Account Manager at Mitsubishi Electric, explains: “To make sure we addressed all the challenges and requirements relevant for the brewery team, we asked the head brewer for a wish list of how he would like the equipment to operate. Based on this, we developed the current system.”

The various pumps, compressors and fans in the system were fitted with either FR-E700 compact a.c. inverters, or where appropriate the FR-F800 model that is specifically designed for maximum energy saving on pump and fan applications. Various sensors and analogue components were connected to the control network using MELSEC ST Lite Remote I/O Nodes to include all the relevant process variables.

The a.c. inverters and I/O units were connected via CC-Link to a Q series PLC, which is ideal for medium to large-scale control systems. The PLC is housed in a robust metal enclosure and linked to a GOT2000 HMI that displays live information and alarms, so brewers can easily monitor the equipment or adjust the processes parameters.

Stephen Thornton said: “The operator desk is the main focal area, centralising the control system architecture and providing easy access for control, maintenance and upgrades.”

Craft Beers Become Smart

Reverse engineering the new control system required advanced skills and expertise to complete, but the operator controls needed to be the exact opposite. The bespoke control system was designed to streamline brewing operations, immediately increasing production by 300% in less than a month - thats 650 new barrels available every week!

Sam Pegg, Production Manager at Sadler’s Brewery, commented: “I have been brewing without the support of an automated process control system for many years, so initially I was a little apprehensive if I’m honest. I was however, pleasantly surprised to learn how straightforward and easy the new solution was to use. The new control system has greatly improved my day-to-day activities from day one. Which means I can now focus on more interesting aspects, such as developing new beers and recipes.”

Looking for More Information? We Can Help With That...

If you would like to increase your productivity, you have come to the right place. Our Field Sales or Technical Experts are available to discuss how our range of products work together to provide a complete control solution. If you would like more information about Mitsubishi PLCs, HMIs or a.c. inverters, or specific products for the food and beverage industry, call 01254 685900 and we will be happy to help.

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