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.
Like other manufacturers operating in highly competitive international markets, SAB needed to maximise its Economic Value Added by driving volume, improving productivity and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) scores 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 that has enabled it to share recipes among different plants to produce beers of consistently high quality.
Rockwell Automation's e-manufacturing solutions help customers like SAB link the shop floor with the top floor. Improving utilisation, productivity, manufacturing capacity and flexibility without heavy capital expenditure on new plant required relatively smaller expenditure by improving the automation systems infrastructure. To ensure these solutions are fully open and transportable between plants, they are based on international standards such as ISA S95 and S88.
Rockwell Automation is able to go a step further and offer a complete and integrated solution that goes beyond the limitations of S88 and combines batch processing with materials handling, data logging, manual operations and ERP interconnectivity.
The successful implementation of an automated batch control system through a partnership between SAB and Rockwell Automation is one example of an emerging e-manufacturing solution that is yielding real benefits to the customer by helping to raise productivity to world class levels and increasing the agility of its manufacturing plant.
Getting to know South African Breweries
SAB secured a listing on the London Stock Exchange in 1999 to provide easier access to the international capital markets and help fund its expansion programme. SAB has since invested heavily in growing markets such as China, Eastern Europe, Russia and Africa, and now brews about 70 premium and mid-market brands in more than 80 plants.
The leading SAB local brands in South Africa include Castle, Hansa Pilsener, Carling Black Label, Lion, and various alcoholic flavoured beverages. SAB also brews other famous names such as Heineken and Amstel under licence. Most of its output is packaged on site in bottles or cans, making coordination between the brewing and packaging processes a key requirement to effective utilisation of plant capacity. In Central Europe SAB International brews well-known brands, including Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus, Tyskie, Lech and Dreher while Snow and Keller feature in Asia.
Although its local breweries tend to specialise in the local favourite brands produced for their domestic markets, SAB is gradually rolling out its strategy of giving selected plants the flexibility to produce a wider range of brands. This has challenged its brewers and production engineers to translate the master recipes for each beer into electronic, site specific, recipes that enable plants with differing equipment and varying levels of automation to consistently brew the same high quality end product.
The need for a more consistent product
Brewing beer is a combination of art and science. Although the ingredients and the process are relatively simple, even slight variations in either can have marked effects on the final product. With beer drinkers the world over being notoriously fickle consumers, any inconsistency in product quality is unacceptable.
Barley and hops used as basic raw material for beer are subject to the variations in characteristics normally occurring in all living organisms. During the growing season, changes in ambient temperature, rainfall, humidity and several other environmental factors influence their properties. The subtle changes in the characteristic taste or smell of key ingredients such as the water, yeast, hops or malted barley can be detected by master brewers. They can then adjust the recipe or brewing process to achieve the desired result - a skilled process that is difficult to capture in recipes and process control software.
But, it can be a huge challenge to regenerate the master-brewing manual for a particular beer into an electronic format suitable for mass production. Just ask the man responsible for the optimisation of manufacturing systems at SAB's breweries in South Africa. "Interpreting the skills of a master brewer into precise measurable parameters that can be reproduced in several plants is a difficult task," said Willie Lötz, senior process control engineer at SAB in Johannesburg.
Via deliberate experimentation with recipe modifications, these minor variations in ingredients, process or conditions can be used to produce an improved or different product. Without an accurate record of the exact ingredients and processes that produced this batch, it can be almost impossible to replicate.
Other issues that SAB had to address, included: the variation in demand as sales are driven up or down by seasonal and weather-related factors; the need to bring new products to market quickly to capitalise on the growing demand for low alcohol and fruit flavoured beers; and the increasing competition for the drinker's dollar from rival beer brands and other drinks.
A new solution
To help improve operations and increase production at all of its facilities, SAB decided that a new control system needed to be implemented in its facilities. SAB wanted to automate the batch control starting in four of its seven breweries in South Africa, with brewhouse No. 3 in Alrode acting as a pilot for the upgrade. Alrode, located near SAB's Johannesburg headquarters, is one of the largest breweries in the world, producing 7,5 million hectolitres a year. The Cellars area would require the simultaneous execution of up to 300 batch recipes (including cleaning-in-place procedures) in its Beer Processing Area during peak production.
For SAB, the investment of an improved control system had four business as well as manufacturing objectives. A new control system would help them do the following:
1. Produce a consistently high quality product to guarantee customer satisfaction.
2. Raise productivity and reduce material wastage to improve financial performance and shareholders' return on investment.
3. Improve plant availability and flexibility to match supply and demand and so minimise stockholding and time-to-market for new or licensed products.
Lötz sums up SAB's goals: "We aim to produce fine quality beers at an affordable price. By achieving cost leadership we make it difficult for our multinational competitors to take market share in South Africa."
SAB chose to partner with Rockwell Automation to use the science of batch control software to automate as much of the brewing process as possible, maximising productivity and flexibility while allowing its master brewers to concentrate on the art of brewing great beers.
"We were looking for a company that could work with us to develop processes that we could reuse throughout all of our facilities," said Lötz. "We selected Rockwell Automation based on their ability to work with us to develop a methodology that we could transport to our different breweries and help us reduce engineering time."
Jeff Sandison, Rockwell Automation
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