Food Engineering
Field reports

Craft brewer makes quick, safe connections

April 8, 2014
The expo floor will feature more than 350 exhibitors with new products, solutions and innovations.
At Bells Brewery, Meltric DECONTACTOR Series switch-rated plugs and receptacles (yellow circles) safely make or break electrical loads in equipment such as a glass bottling machine (left) and portable pump carts (right). Source: Meltric. 

Bells Brewery, Inc. is a multiple-site production operation located in Kalamazoo, MI. It brews more than 20 beers for distribution across a 19-state area, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. “We have grown rapidly and continue to grow,” says Jeff Carter, Bells Brewery facilities and utilities manager.

The original Bells Brewery production facility is located in Kalamazoo, MI where founder Larry Bell launched his business in 1985. The Kalamazoo facility is still in operation, but to meet demand, the brewery built another facility in 2003 in Comstock, MI. This facility has undergone five major additions and encompasses over 100,000 square feet of building space on a 32-acre site. Its most recent construction and expansion project, a 200-barrel brew house, includes fourteen 400-barrel fermentation tanks and new grain handling facilities.

An ongoing problem was the inability to connect and disconnect electrical power to the equipment—including portable pump carts—in a safe manner. The brewery used pin-and-sleeve connectors. But these connectors were expensive since they required the addition of a line-of-sight disconnect switch.

To reduce installation costs, Bells Brewery decided to purchase Meltric’s DECONTACTOR Series switch-rated plugs and receptacles, which are UL/CSA rated for motor circuit and branch circuit disconnect switching. The devices are approved NEC/CSA line-of-sight disconnect switches. “They are better than the pin-and-sleeve connectors we previously used,” says Carter. “Meltric saves money because you don’t need a separately mounted line-of-sight disconnect [switch].

“When we installed the 200 BBL grain handling system, Meltric switch-rated connectors helped us decrease the cost of the construction project by simplifying the installation,” continues Carter.

Meltric’s DECONTACTOR line of switch-rated plugs and receptacles combine the safety and functionality of a disconnect switch with the convenience of a plug and receptacle. Their integral switching mechanism allows users to safely make and break connections under full load and provide significant protection in overload and short circuit conditions. They are UL approved as motor circuit disconnect switches and as branch circuit disconnect switches (UL Subject 2682). Their enclosed arc chambers ensure the load is safely disconnected and that all live parts are isolated and inaccessible before the plug can be removed, also preventing potential arc flash hazards.

The switch-rated devices have the additional benefit of reducing downtime associated with maintenance and equipment changeouts by up to 50 percent, since no hardwiring of connections is necessary.

As Bells Brewery’s production facilities have grown, so has its maintenance department, which now consists of packaging, facilities and utilities. The need to lock out and tag out equipment for maintenance is not only crucial for worker safety, but also to speed maintenance operations. “We use the lockout/tagout feature for our pumps,” says Carter. “The safety that comes with the lockability of Meltric devices is something that influenced our purchasing decision as well.” v

For more information:

Bill Fortman, Meltric Corporation, 800-824-4031, bfortman@meltric.com