Crush control optimizes wine production

With more than 20 varietals in its portfolio, the Clos du Bois winery in California is known for producing sophisticated wines that offer complexity and aging potential. But consumer demands, increasing competition and thinning margins forced Clos du Bois to look for ways to cut costs and increase production.


With more than 20 varietals in its portfolio, the Clos du Bois winery in California is known for producing sophisticated wines that offer complexity and aging potential. But consumer demands, increasing competition and thinning margins forced Clos du Bois to look for ways to cut costs and increase production. In a $2 million renovation, this process manufacturer replaced individual analog machine controls on its grape press system with a centralized control architecture that governs the entire system, from the conveyors that bring grapes into the presses to the pumps that push the must into the winery. The result was a 10% increase in production and a complete payback of system costs after just two harvests.

In November 2004, Clos du Bois identified that the grape presses as a system had a significant influence on overall production and yield. To keep up with a schedule that required meeting the same throughput goals even after fruit had to hang on the vine longer to ripen, the grape presses needed to process up to 1,200 tons of fruit each day. However, the existing system’s capacity was only 600 tons per day. This not only backed up the downstream process once the fruit was pressed, but also delayed the truck delivery schedule.

The Clos du Bois plant process engineer and his team worked with Rockwell Automation to develop a replacement strategy that reconfigured the grape press system on a centralized control platform, an Allen-Bradley ControlLogix Programmable Automation Controller (PAC). To help improve system performance and efficiency, the team implemented an Intelligent Motor Control solution. Allen Bradley PowerFlex 700 AC drives deliver precise motor torque, speed and position control for optimizing the grape crushing and minimizing the amount of solids generated in the pressed fruit. System communication is accomplished via an EtherNet/IP network, which allows operators to access valuable diagnostic and monitoring information. This helps reduce maintenance and troubleshooting time, address safety issues, and increase productivity and motor protection within each press.

To monitor production in real time, Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk View SE human-machine interface software gives operators access to production information via graphic displays on standard PCs housed in four stations at the grape presses. Operators can interact with the displays in English or Spanish, and the entire system can be run with just a few mouse clicks.

As a result of implementing the solution, the winery has seen an increase in throughput and crushed grapes by 2,500 tons — a 10% increase in overall production achieved using the same number of workers. This resulted in higher profits, and in labor resources being been freed up for other work. The new system also has reduced cycle times and made changeovers more efficient. The Logix Control Platform on which the ControlLogix PAC is based made the system scalable for future growth, as well.

The upgraded crush pad system improved winery operations in other ways. Changing the way grapes are received, crushed and processed through the winery has made it possible for Clos du Bois to meet new production goals and maintain its quality standards. The new system changes how employees interact with the process, giving them more visibility and insight, and helping them better control production for increased uptime.

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