Bionic Tonic Transforms German Brewery Into Health Beverage Titan

Savvy Use of Secondhand Production Machinery Paired Profibus/CANopen Combination Rejuvenates Ailing Brewery

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By Matthias Falk, programmer, Bionade Abfüll

Mix enzymes common to honey bees, secondhand material handling and processing equipment, machine-mount I/O, a Profibus/CANopen hybrid and new cabinet-free IP67 I/O system, and you’ve got a cost-effective beverage production system that produces Bionade, the alcohol-free, malt beverage.

Bionade transformed Germany’s struggling Peter Brewery in Ostheim into a European powerhouse. Faced with closure, the brewery broke with centuries of tradition and bet on a healthful isotonic beverage, Bionade, which is brewed as beer is, following Germany’s stringent Reinheitsgebot purity law.

Bionade’s buzz comes from what happens during fermentation. Rather than producing alcohol, microorganisms transform natural sugar into gluconic acid. This is similar to bees producing honey, as both use glucose oxidase—a bee saliva enzyme. Per Reinheitsgebot, no artificial ingredients are used for color and flavoring, and only local, organic produce and herbs are allowed.

With demand outstripping production and a 2007–2008 expansion into the Pacific Rim and U.S., which required additional product runs and new flavors, Bionade needed a production system capable of 35,000 bottles/hr.

Programmers, engineers, electricians and production managers deftly purchased and blended used components including Polish pasteurization equipment, Swiss material handling and unpacking equipment and a Danish case washing system into one system.

“Selecting used equipment from these beverage processing facilities was financially prudent; everything was purchased for the price of one new pasteurization system,” explains Matthias Hansmann, Bionade electrical systems manager. “Of course, there were complications.”

Missing operator manuals, incomplete documentation and approximated specifications—substituting for CAD drawings featuring conveyor belt heights and other data—created a substantial challenge. Bionade turned to Husslein Controls & Automation in Eltmann, Germany, to help unify the hodgepodge of components.

“Without a detailed integration plan, we relied on collective ingenuity,” says Martin Husslein, director.

Then, there was the legacy system, consisting of aging PLCs from a variety of manufacturers. Like Bionade drinks themselves, the production system was organically grown and mixed; newer PLCs were purchased on an as-needed basis. Essentially, the production system consisted of several smaller systems, with each running under its own proprietary controls — there were no distinct hallmarks of a unified production system. There was also no way to get the consistent reliable data communication that an expanded production system would need.

“When we first looked at Bionade’s existing production system, we knew we’d need a capstone system,” Husslein recalled. “As a result of Bionade’s European shopping spree, some of the used components purchased had control units, and some didn’t. Of course, all the secondhand components had to work with virtually everything Bionade already owned.”

During the planning stages, Husslein also noted that a fieldbus-independent system would be needed to ensure all existing and future components could be readily accommodated by the new I/O system.

Electricians removed all control units, no matter how relatively new they were, from the factory and prepared to move to one consistent control system. Among the challenges the programmers, engineers and electricians faced was finding an I/O system with nodes compact enough to fit footprints of existing panels. Wago’s I/O modules can accommodate up to eight channels in a ½-in. housing.

“Our production relied on dated technology, complete with plug-in logic elements. Because the system was so reliant on secondhand components, we basically had to remove whatever control systems were in place, as the system was running on several different proprietary platforms. We also had to contend with the fact that there were several used modules purchased without control units. We needed to ensure those modules could be efficiently repurposed as well,” Hansmann recounted. “We selected the Wago-I/O-System, as it can accommodate all component-specific needs and is scalable.”

The granularity of the Wago-I/O-System allowed Hansmann to add digital and analog inputs and outputs of differing potentials all on the same fieldbus-independent node simply by adding additional compact modules according to Bionade’s specific requirements. As Bionade evaluated the Wago-I/O-System, they felt the system’s accommodation of up to 64 bus terminals held promise for future system expansions. For instance, there is a node for conveyor controls that is completely full with bus terminals, and yet the entire system has the potential to readily accommodate future needs.

“It’s pretty straightforward now; I just attach what I need,” explains Hansmann. “If I need more, I add more. I’ve never had to install another node because it was maxed out.”

Because the former production system was a jumble of modules and units purchased on an as-need basis, many pieces operated on "vendor or contractor" control—lots of little bits doing their own thing.

Basically, Bionade, guided by Husslein, chose Wago I/O because of its granularity, fieldbus-independence, connection technology and ability to tie in older units.

The granularity allowed Bionade to just buy or place what's needed. The I/O’s fieldbus-independent nature and the wide availability of modules accommodated existing components. Price and economy of motion also were big factors. Why waste time testing and respecifying new components when they can be repurposed via I/O? Bionade also wanted to avoid screw-type terminations. Because systems were hodgepodged together, Bionade needed a way to ensure reliable data transmission throughout the plant; thus all control units were pulled and new units were dropped in.

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