South African Breweries (SAB) has grown rapidly in recent years to become one of the top five international brewing giants. In the process it has acquired large and small brewing operations around the world, presenting the company with enormous opportunities to introduce its leading brands to new markets.

Successful implementation of flexible batch processing at South African Breweries’ Alrode plant has resulted in better product consistency, faster start-ups between brands, and a more accurate record of ingredients and process conditions.

Like other manufacturers operating in highly competitive international markets, SAB needed to maximize its economic value added by driving volume, improving productivity, and overall equipment effectiveness, while increasing the flexibility of the plant. To do so, the company partnered with Rockwell Automation to develop a process control architecture based on the international open batch control standard ISA S88.

To help improve operations and increase production at all of its facilities, SAB decided that a new control system needed to be implemented. SAB wanted to automate the batch control starting in four of its seven breweries in South Africa, with brew house No. 3 in Alrode acting as a pilot for the upgrade. Alrode is one of the largest breweries in the world, producing 7.5 million hectoliters a year. This would require the simultaneous execution of up to 300 batch recipes (including cleaning-in-place procedures) in its beer processing area during peak production.

Rockwell Automation applied its standard methodology to SAB’s processes by developing a full requirements document and a full process-oriented functional specification. During the design process, Rockwell Automation employed the S88 principle, using its modularity, standard application modules, and templates. SAB also worked with Rockwell to incorporate some of the standards already in place.

Rockwell Automation replaced existing older-generation Allen-Bradley systems with Allen-Bradley ControlLogix controllers, and installed Rockwell Software RSBizWare Batch with RSBizWare MaterialTrack to manage the brewing process. Based on ISA S88, RSBizWare Batch software allows users to define process control equipment and manufacturing procedures separately. RSBizWare MaterialTrack provides real-time material management and tractability, and logs lot and sub-lot information on a per-batch basis. When used with the RSBizWare Batch, MaterialTrack can create material-based recipes, significantly reducing the number of recipes to manage. It can also provide a single point of connectivity for managing, storing, and distributing material information throughout the enterprise, allowing for optimization of inventory.

For SAB, the benefits of storing recipes electronically include better product consistency, faster start-up times when switching plants to a different brand, a more accurate record of the ingredients and process conditions that produced a particular batch, and the ability to predict with more certainty which plants will be able to successfully produce a particular brand.

“We had reached the older PLCs’ programming capacity limits and could not achieve improved quality of the product or more flexible production output while we were constrained by the old control system,” said Willie Lötz, senior process control engineer at SAB. “By upgrading the CPUs and moving the master recipes to a more flexible and user-friendly PC environment, the agility of the plant has been increased with no loss of productivity or product quality.”