The new system reduces errors by removing hand calculations from the equation.

When 92-year-old beer manufacturer Spoetzl Brewery decided to expand its production facility in Shiner, Texas, it also decided to develop a PC-based HMI/SCADA system for the facility that incorporates National Instruments Lookout software. The new system is used for three areas of operations -- the facility's filter areas, expanded tank farm, and support areas, including utilities, ammonia, purified water, CO2 and water.

The company currently produces 11,200 cases of beer per day, and routinely tests its product in the lab for air, clarity and haze. Prior to the expansion, Spoetzl brewed beer through a process of hand calculation that left considerable room for error. Considering that it needed to control the temperature of the brew process as closely as 0.25 degrees F, Spoetzl needed a more efficient way to track its historical process and ensure it produced the best quality beer possible.

To brew beer, the Shiner facility moves grain through a number of different stages. In the brewhouse, Spoetzl changes grain into wort, a sweet liquid extracted from brewing grains and hops that eventually becomes beer. Next, the wort moves into storage, where the product is fermented at various temperatures, depending on the recipe. Following fermentation, Spoetzl filters out the yeast and separates off the beer, which is shipped to the bottling plant automatically.

With its new Lookout HMI software, Spoetzl uses four Siemens Simatic 555 PLCs interfaced via serial connections. The Lookout HMIs run on a Windows NT platform using Ethernet and display data on an industrially hardened screen. The computers are located right on the factory floor for easy operator access, while a main server located in the engineering department provides an overview of all processes.

Spoetzl accounted for several different levels of access to maintain system security. Its total I/O count is approximately 3,000 points, with data collected from each point every one to five seconds.

In addition to process control, Spoetzl uses the Lookout for recipe management and historical trending. By automating the process, the company can maintain product integrity and real-time process overview.

Lookout also interfaces with an Allen Bradley PLC located in the main brewhouse. And Spoetzl can readily access all alarm information and analog process variables -- including temperature, pressures, control variables and all discrete I/O points -- through Lookout.

Further, a National Instruments Alliance Program member, Vista Technology Inc., created a 3D rendition of Spoetzl's plant on screen, so that operations managers can view all of the various processes throughout the plant online. An operator in the tank farm, for instance, only has to flip an on-screen switch to turn valves on or off. In addition, an operator can check the levels in the tanks by interfacing with the Lookout screen.

Lookout also enables operators to perform historical trending, such as time and temperature variations of the tank farm throughout the year.

By automating data collection and real-time analysis -- and integrating this feedback into alarms and actions -- Spoetzl also improved the management of its filter operation. The old filter configuration required an operator's presence throughout the filtration process to monitor.

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National Instruments Lookout HMI software provides an overview of all processes.