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Ale-8 Batch Control System Upgrade

If you are from Kentucky, you are no doubt familiar with the popular soft drink Ale-8. A local business that has been family owned since it's creation in 1926, this delicious beverage is the pride of Kentucky. TOA SE has had the privilege of partnering with Ale-8 and working with them on upgrading the controls of the most critical system in the Ale-8 bottling facility in Winchester KY, the batch control system.

The batch control system mixes the secret ingredients of the signature Ale-8 flavor and was originally installed in 2000-2001. The system was controlled by Rockwell software running on an industrial PC and all of the communications were done over DeviceNET. As time went on and the facility continued to increase its production, the age of the control system was starting to show. The limitations of the existing control system led to an increase in downtime and a decrease in productivity and efficiency. Previously, any work on the controls in the bottling facility were done in-house. However for this system, Greg Donoho, the Automation and Process Specialist at Ale-8, decided to outsource this project. "We used our Allen Bradley distributor to help us find and establish a partnership we could count on", said Greg. "We sat and discussed with three firms reviewing quotations from each. We chose TOA SE Systems Engineering to work with, and bring our batch system up to date with the latest Allen-Bradley and Rockwell technology".

The main purpose of the project was to upgrade the software program that controlled the Batch System and change all the controls system communications from DeviceNeT to EtherNet/IP. This meant changing out all network cards in the system including a Flex I/O module, and two SMC valve bank control modules. The facility also did a plant-wide voltage swap from 230VAC to 480VAC, so there were several changes made to ensure the system operated on 480VAC. The VFDs also needed to be upgraded and we swapped out the old Allen Bradley Powerflex 4 and 1336 VFDs with seven Allen Bradley Powerflex 525. Two older Allen Bradley HMIs were upgraded to Panelview Plus HMIs, and the old Allen Bradley SLC 5/03 PLC system was upgraded to a new Allen Bradley CompactLogix PLC Rack. The safety circuit for this system was also updated to modern electrical safety standards.

Before (left) and after (right) view of one of the control panels that we upgraded.

SMC Valve Bank

Due to COVID-19 and supply chain constraints, the project was delayed until October of 2022. There was a significant amount of work that had to be done, especially with the PLC program to correctly tune the batch system. However the installation was a success and we are proud of our team members who were involved in the project. Greg Donoho had the following to say following the install: "The field crew and programmer (Elliot Kusiak) worked through the weekend to meet the planned start-up date, then stayed afterwards to resolve issues with the system until it was 100% complete. TOA SE did exactly what they promised, I feel very comfortable using them in the future".

It is a great satisfaction for us when we see such positive feedback from our customers. We look forward to doing more work with Ale-8! If you are in the food and beverage industry and are looking for an automation solution, feel free to reach out to us and we would be more than happy to help!

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