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Automated Control System Improves Brewery Efficiencies

A building expansion to address capacity challenges brought new challenges for Logboat Brewing, which was now struggling to control its processes. Remote monitoring and control was a key fix.

After expanding its building and operations, Logboat found it difficult to communicate between systems as it transferred fermented beer to another room with packaging and brite tanks.
After expanding its building and operations, Logboat found it difficult to communicate between systems as it transferred fermented beer to another room with packaging and brite tanks.
Integrated Facility Services

Logboat Brewing opened its doors in 2014 to bring craft beer to Columbia, Mo. There were a couple local pubs, but no distributing brewery. And in a town that’s home to the University of Missouri, “there was a definite need for more beer,” says Josh Rein, head brewer and cidermaker for Logboat.

Logboat Brewing develops a range of unique beers, including seasonal varieties.Logboat Brewing develops a range of unique beers, including seasonal varieties.Logboat BrewingIn fact, by 2018, Logboat was butting up against the capacity in its existing building footprint. As it continued to try to meet a growing market demand, the brewery was able to expand the facility, building a 12,000-sq-ft addition to the east side of the existing 7,000-sq-ft building. “That gave us capacity for a packaging hall, more packaging tanks, other peripheral equipment, some offices, and a warehouse,” Rein says.

But the extra space also added new complexities, particularly in managing the brewing process across a larger space. “We had the original cell in the brew house, so we needed to get fermented beer into the room with a packaging line and all the brite tanks,” Rein explains. “I needed to pump finished beer about 200 ft away. We have hard-mounted pumps that pump the beer from tank to tank, but we’re controlling all of that. We needed to control those pumps that were going to be in a separate room from the receiving tanks. So that’s what we were looking at.”

To address these challenges, Logboat Brewing turned to Integrated Facility Services (IFS), whose team proposed a comprehensive automation solution to streamline operations and enhance efficiency. This included the installation of custom-built control panels featuring Reliable Controls, which allow real-time monitoring and adjustments of temperature, pressure, and flow rates.

“In processing beer through our centrifuge, we need to be standing in front of that machine to operate that,” Rein says. “So I needed some controls that allowed me to make adjustments to the input into the machine through pump controls and some other temperature controls and things like that.”

New controls enabled Logboat Brewing to monitor and control its pumps from a different room.New controls enabled Logboat Brewing to monitor and control its pumps from a different room.Integrated Facility Services

Rein had started looking into solving the issues himself through known controllers and other solutions he had in the building already. “But [IFS] came in with a much more slick design that was way more cost-effective as well,” he says.

Remote control for real-time adjustments

Logboat can now monitor and adjust its brewing systems both onsite and remotely in real time. The brewers can precisely control the water temperature used in the brewing process, which is critical to ensuring the high quality of Logboat’s signature beverage products.

A key enabler of this are the mirrored human-machine interfaces (HMIs) in two different rooms, Rein notes. “When we are operating pumps in one room, you could stand at the screen in another room and watch things move and change in real time so that, no matter where you’re at, you know if a pump is on or off, what the speeds are, and you can control the same machines from two different points in the building.”

The alternative involves two people using walkie-talkies to communicate about when to turn the pumps on and off, Rein says. “It gives us the ability to have one person operate the entire process of transferring a batch of beer from the fermenter to the packaging tank through the centrifuge—and save them a bunch of steps in the process.”

One of the key components of the solution was the installation of variable-frequency drives (VFDs) to direct the water flow between the brewing house and the canning lines. This allowed Logboat to adjust water flow on demand—with higher throughput for clean-in-place (CIP) processes and the ability to dial that back to ensure gentle handling of the beer and extending the lifespan of the equipment.

“Being able to run a 5 hp pump at 20 or 30% of its capacity allows us to be able to move the product we need in the timeframe necessary to make things happen,” Rein says. “But we’re also being gentle on the beer, and that’s a very important thing for us.”

The ability to address demand

The building expansion has given Logboat the ability to quadruple its output. “We were kind of maxed out at about 11,000 barrels of beer a year. And with this new space, we have the ability to increase that to 40,000 barrels a year, if we’re fortunate enough to see a demand like that. We already have seen a demand this year get up to around 17,000 barrels a year, so we’ll fill in those gaps pretty quickly there.”

The new capabilities that IFS has installed will be instrumental in enabling that transition. “If we start getting into doing over 20,000 barrels a year, there’s going to be multiple batches of beer getting transferred from room to room in a day,” Rein notes. “So being able to streamline that process to make it simple for the brewers to do their job and then make sure that they’re operating with the highest regard for the quality of the beer, maintaining the quality product through the whole process, requires some equipment and some controls that allow them to not have to worry about that.”

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