The Challenge

Exporting its beers to more than 50 countries globally, Plzenský Prazdroj is a leading brewer in central Europe and a symbol of Czech brewing success. Committed to investing in the latest technologies and ensuring its processes and procedures remain robust and up to date, Plzenský Prazdroj asked FMA Process Engineering to modernise its kegline control system and, in doing so, bring greater efficiency to one of the world’s busiest kegging lines. The line utilises three automated carousels to pre-wash, wash and fill kegs 24 hours a day and handles 1,000 kegs an hour.

Unconventional wisdom

To achieve Plzenský Prazdroj’s objectives, we recommended an upgrade from the Siemens S5 control system that was currently in place to Siemens S7, with HMIs throughout the site being upgraded to operator panels for enhanced operator control. Our comprehensive design study also identified the data transfer constraints of connecting the controllers to the rotating carousels using slip rings – a solution that worked adequately but, due to limited network throughput, was not suitable for high-speed transmission as part of a new control system. Our answer was to use wireless (ProfiNet) communication – an approach that would result in lower cost, virtually maintenance-free operation, higher communication speeds and remove the potential downtime issues associated with using a legacy control.


As part of our design study, which addressed mechanical, electrical, process and software design, we also undertook a detailed risk analysis for the kegging line and commissioned a specialist wireless survey. This identified any potential obstacles caused by infrastructure on the site and helped establish the optimum wireless network architecture. We commissioned Daconi, specialists in wireless networks and technology, to collaborate with Siemens Industry Automation & Drive Technologies to conduct the wireless survey. Daconi determined the optimum wireless network architecture to give the best performance using Siemens simulation tools. We also looked at how Plzenský Prazdroj’s processes could be improved and how new Programmable Logic Control (PLC) systems would integrate with existing equipment on the kegging line. We converted and modified existing software to work with the new PLCs and hardware, all whilst the kegging line continued round-the-clock production to generate enough inventory to cover the planned downtime. (Full migration was achieved with plant downtime kept to an absolute minimum.)

The result

Our upgrade programme involved reworking, converting and modifying the existing Siemens S5 control system for the brewer’s Contikeg 1000 kegging line to a state-of-the-art S7 system and implementing the wireless communications. We also designed a total of nine new multifunctional operator panels to provide line operators with enhanced control. The result far exceeded Plzenský Prazdroj’s expectations, with reduced downtime and increased line efficiency. The migration and upgrading of the kegging line not only increased system availability and security, but also reduced the total number of system components, as well as system diversity. Following the upgrade, Ondřej Sykora, Plzenský Prazdroj’s manager of process and controls, commented: “Significant improvements to the efficiency of the site can be attributed to the installation. We have benefited from reduced downtime due to enhanced alarming functions, which means we can find faults faster and rectify them sooner. We also now have quicker resumption of power in the event of a power outage, which has improved productivity. In addition, the reduction in the number of PLCs has meant we no longer rely so heavily on inter-PLC communications where problems were difficult to diagnose and remedy. Our service technicians have also found the PLC code easier to follow in S7 format and, again, this has kept downtime to a minimum and helped ensure the line runs as efficiently as possible.”


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