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Namibia Breweries Ltd Leverages OPC and Software Toolbox [Sponsored]

    When you live in a remote region that is one of the most arid places on earth, import your raw materials, and making millions of hectoliters of beer a year, you have to make the most of all the resources you have and leverage what is in abundance in your location. Namibia Breweries Ltd. (NBL) has a long history of success in a tough environment at their Windhoek, Namibia location. They have received numerous awards for their innovative approaches to meeting their information system needs.

    If you have read the stories in Automation Worldor Pro Food World, you learned about how Andre Engelbrecht, manager of industrial control systems at NBL and his team, unlocked data sources and built a digital smart manufacturing platform across the entire facility. In this article, we share the rest of the story of NBL’s integration points, problems solved, and how they leveraged Software Toolbox’s full value proposition as part of their team effort.

    Process Relationships are Critical

    One thing that NBL has plenty of is sunshine. To tap that resource, they have a 1 MW solar plant on the roof of their 140,000 mfacility. That solar plant has 4,000 panels and 66 inverters. To monitor power consumption throughout the plant there are 50 digital power meters. Ironically, there is a coal-fired power generation station nearby with stack emissions that can coat the solar panels and reduce their effectiveness. Add to that the regular dust storms and keeping that solar power plant optimal can be challenging.

    To resolve this problem, NBL has implemented a power management system built on Wonderware Historian, TOP Server OPC UA and DA Server for Wonderware, and Cogent DataHub. Using this system through a browser interface, they monitor the output and efficiency of the inverters and when that decreases, they know it’s time to send someone to the roof to clean the solar panels that feed that inverter.

    The TOP Server Modbus Suite drivers gather the data from the inverters and then deliver it to the Wonderware Historian, but it also pushes relevant information into a Siemens PLC using the Cogent Datahub’s OPC DA/UA bridging capability, and the TOP Server Siemens Suite drivers. In the end, their BrewMaxx DCS/MES system then gets its information from those Siemens S7 PLCs.

    The TOP Server Modbus Suite drivers also gather data from the diesel generators that NBL employs to insure their facility has electricity even when their local power grid has a problem, or the solar farm is outputting less than normal on a rare cloudy day. Lastly, there are a number of water wells on the plant site and nearby which must be monitored to insure this highly precious resource is not wasted.  Those, too, are integrated using the TOP Server Modbus Suite drivers.

    Completing the power and infrastructure monitoring, NBL uses the TOP Server SNMP Suite to gather operating data from the plant Power Meters, UPS battery backups, and Cisco Network switches.  “The beauty of this solution is that no matter the protocol, once we have that data in TOP Server, we can historize that data in Wonderware Historian, bridge required data into the S7 PLCs, but also over to the Central DCS via Cogent Datahub’s SQL integration capabilities,” says Engelbrecht.  “The open-standards based approaches mean the only limits we have are our imaginations and time to implement all our ideas”, adds Engelbrecht.

    The core of all their brewing processes are managed by Siemens S7 PLCs. From the water plant to boilers, brewing, CO2 plant to packaging, it’s controlled by those Siemens PLCs.  The same TOP Server Siemens drivers gather that data, supply it to the Historian, and on to the BrewMaxx central DCS. All told, between the TOP Server and Cogent Datahub OPC UA and DA software solutions, they are responsible for integrating 100’s of PLCs and systems.

    Can you remove invasive species to make beer?

    Sounds odd, but every ecosystem in the world has some form of invasive plant or animal species. In Namibia there are certain trees that were introduced from abroad and manage to grow vigorously in the arid climate but in the process, are starving other necessary native species. NBL is doing their part to help this through their biomass boiler. They purchase wood from these invasive trees as farmers remove them, grind it, and use it for fuel for their superheated (155 C) water system. As you know, brewing uses a lot of hot water and steam, so NBL’s needs help their nation remove an invasive species.

    At one point, NBL noticed that they were having problems with the self-cleaning systems in the boiler tubes. Using data that TOP Server gathered and exposed via OPC UA and DA, they were able to detect that during the cleaning cycle, when solenoids were supposed to open, resulting in a pressure change in the tubes, only 1 in 20 were reaching the proper pressure. Using that data, they were able to work with the boiler OEM to rectify the issues and help their biomass boiler reach peak efficiency.

    Brew some beer, feed dairy cattle?

    Another outstanding example of green, sustainable manufacturing is NBL’s relationship with a local dairy producer. NBL sells the spent wort from their brewing to those farmers. They store the materials in silos and periodically the dairy comes and picks up the product. Historically, the dairy had to speak with someone at the brewery before they sent a truck over for a pickup. But sometimes that didn’t happen, or the information was wrong, and the dairy truck would show up only to find out there wasn’t a full truckload available. Time wasted, fuel wasted, pollution generated. Annemarie Kruger, one of Andre’s team, has since built a web-based system that leverages data from TOP Server to enable the dairy to securely check on the tank levels on their own before they come over, thus eliminating wasted trips and the resulting environmental impact.

    In the end, it’s about the beer

    One area that NBL is also very proud of is their Reinheitsgebot or “German Beer Purity Law” designation.  Any beer connoisseur is likely familiar with this law. For 500 years, the Reinheitsgebot rules regulate the ingredients and cleanliness of the process. NBL must undergo regular inspections in order to maintain the Reinheitsgebot designation for its products.


    The links below provide more information about the Software Toolbox products used in the NBL applications and access to free trial downloads: