New SCADA helps Scottish brewers avoid malt and barley blues

A grain drying and storage facility that supplies some of Scotland’s leading distilleries has installed a new Movicon SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system to consolidate series of plant upgrades and expansions.


Highland Grains Ltd is an agricultural cooperative, owned by its 89 members, which dries, conditions and stores malting barley and other crops. It primarily supplies the Scotch whisky distilling industry, but also exports high quality grain to other countries.


Integrates biomass boilers

Effective site-wide energy management is a key function of the new control system. In addition to providing control and visualisation for product movement, processing and storage, the new software synchronises the heat systems that include new biomass boilers.


Based just north of Inverness, Highland Grains was founded in 1978 with a capacity to handle 4,400 tonnes of barley a year. Steady expansion has seen its annual throughput grow to over 40,000 tonnes. Today the plant consists of five continuous flow dryers, seven wet and fifteen dry storage silos (ranging from 250 tonnes to 2,300 tonnes) and two warehouse-like flat stores of 7,500 tonnes each.


The facilities have always been automated, with the control system and software updated to meet new changing requirements by specialist local firm Coldcurve Ltd. Using their knowledge and experience Coldcurve was commissioned to replace the existing much-extended control system with an efficient state of the art one.


Entire control system replaced

The project was led by Coldcurve engineer Daniel Castle, who explains that although the site’s operations are relatively complicated, a simple system architecture was achieved: “Lorries are constantly delivering grain from the growers, while others collect dried malting barley for the distilleries – it’s a 24/7 process at busy times, plus there are several different drying processes. There are also several subsidiary processes to control, such as incoming and outgoing weighbridges, boiler operations and heat recovery for energy efficiency.”


The whole site is now controlled from a single, powerful Mitsubishi Q Series PLC supporting 29 separate I/O cards. There are also two PCs and a few touchscreen HMI’s on the system, providing main and secondary control stations. “The system now runs Movicon SCADA software,” says Daniel, “which has been used successfully in many food and beverage applications, as well as for materials handling and in many other industries.”


Supplied by Products4Automation, Movicon provides real-time production process information, collecting data from multiple sensors on the plant and processing it into high level information. This allows Highland Grains to efficiently manage its plant and processes to meet customers changing needs. It allows them to minimise project development times, and to achieve a powerful, open, solution that is easy to maintain and use.


Highland Grains has been successful over nearly forty years because of its willingness to adapt to new and changing demands. The Scotch whisky industry worth about £5bn to the UK economy and growing at 5% a year according to the ‘Scotch Whisky Association’. The newly automated plant gives them the capability to respond to the future needs of their members and customers.


See more Mitsubishi control automation at 999 Mitsubishi

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