Efficiency on tap for Stone Brewing

As the ninth largest craft brewery in the United States, San Diego, California-based Stone Brewing is poised for expansion. Recently, the craft brewer installed Ignition by Inductive Automation for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and manufacturing execution system (MES) to improve the efficiency of its main brewery in Escondido, California.

Stone implemented Ignition’s SCADA and MES in 2013 in its fermentation area before leveraging the software to the rest of the facility. The craft brewer now uses the industrial software platform for its entire brewing process, including its brewhouse, cellar, lab, packaging and CIP processes.

With Ignition’s fully integrated system, Stone can track and analyze real-time data across the plant floor from more than 50 computer screens, giving employees an overall view of the facility’s operations as well details. Employees can monitor pumps and valves, statistical process control, historical analysis, overall equipment effectiveness, recipe management, work orders, downtime, key performance indicators, ingredients consumption and transaction of finished goods.

“It’s replaced our ‘Sneaker-Net,’” says Garrick Reichert, automation engineer at Stone, referring to the company’s old method of employees walking around the plant and gathering information via paper and clipboard.

“Sometimes I need to keep an eye on what’s going on throughout the entire brewery at the same time I’m brewing,” says Alex Rodriguez, senior brewer at Stone. “Ignition’s great because from the control room, I can see exactly what’s going on throughout the brewery.”

Ignition also helps employees work more effectively together. For example, Stone’s engineers can quickly make changes to the application screens to help brewers be more productive and create reports with dashboards and visualization and analysis tools for managers. “We’ve upgraded a lot of our screens to give our operators more user-friendly data-entry points,” says Brittany Bellefeuille, automation engineer at Stone. “And we’ve given managers the ability to look at reports quickly and easily.”

Using the data to create actionable insights has been crucial to helping Stone improve its systems. The company studies the data, formulates problem statements and targets, analyzes root causes, develops solutions, and then monitors and revises as needed.

For example, Stone leveraged its data to improve its fermentation chill times. “Through Ignition, we learned that some of our fermentation chill times were really long,” Reichert says. “We used that information to prove we needed to upgrade our systems and get more efficient chilling. And now we’ve got our chill times down to under 48 hours.”

The craft brewer plans to roll out Ignition in its new brewing facilities in Richmond, Virginia, and Berlin, Germany. In addition to helping Stone improve its efficiency and operations, Ignition has proven to be an affordable and scalable platform for a growing company like Stone, according to Reichert.

Ignition’s modular architecture makes it easy for Stone to create a customizable and integrated industrial automation system. It can use Ignition’s own software or software from a third-party developer so that SCADA, IIoT and MES systems work together on one platform. Ignition is built on information technologies like Java, SQL and Python as well as open-process technologies like OPC UA and MQTT. The Ignition platform’s open API and its ability to connect to any database, PLC, field device and line-of-business application allows it to integrate operational and enterprise systems. In addition, Ignition’s cross-platform compatibility means it can run on Windows, macOS and Linux. It can also be installed on servers, laptops and mobile devices, allowing users to easily access the data.

Because Ignition is sold by the server, one license gives a company an unlimited number of clients, tags and connections. “We like Ignition because its cost effective,” Reichert says. “The unlimited clients make it available to anyone on the plant floor.”