Whether the beer is pale or dark, contains alcohol or not – the Hofbrauhaus Wolters brewery knows the tastes of its customers. To ensure both the quality and taste of their beer, the master brewers rely on technology that ensures the safety of their processes. They rely on the versatility of versiondog to keep documentation up to date, provide cybersecurity, and meet the requirements of auditors in order to obtain certificates denoting quality assurance.
As the Braunschweiger-based Wolters brewery made to update its IT, the time was also perfect for introducing versiondog. When it comes to ensuring quality, production safety and security, and cybersecurity, reliable and competent tools are required so that processes can be quickly and reliably kept under control. One welcome side-effect of this is that the documentation for audits, specifically those concerning brewing and bottling equipment, is always up to date and available. This year, just in time for spring, Wolters brewery introduced their first pale beer to the market. With the introduction of this new beer, the Braunschweig-based brewing company continues to expand its range of products, demonstrating once more that tradition and innovation go hand in hand.
This agility does not just impact the sales website. Production is also being expanded upon, and infrastructure, in particular that found in the IT, is being updated. The main reason for introducing the documentation and version control software, versiondog, was the new bottling line, and to some extent, the fermentation vat. The aim of implementing this software was to be able to quickly respond to all changes, and to have access to the latest version of the PLC and drive technology when maintenance measures are carried out. Matthias Teitge, head of plant management, brought positive experiences with versiondog. “For us at Wolters”, he says, “both process safety and security, as well as the ability to monitor changes, are of the utmost importance.” For example, were a power outage to coincide with the system’s backup battery not working properly, only a search and find method would help in determining current software states. It is easy to understand how backup via USB sticks and subsequent data storage on the „nearest“ computer opened the door to the proliferation of different software versions. Though no specific incidence to prompt the purchase of versiondog occurred, the company did not wish for things to come to that point, and thus undertook the investment as a precautionary measure.
With the new bottling plant, new and stateof-the-art programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are not the only ones to be integrated into versiondog. In fact, the entire bottling line also comprises of around 70 to 80 controllers, including a number of frequency converters, whose software is stored in versiondog.
The crux of the matter (as is probably the case in many industrial facilities) is that individual plant components were procured gradually, and are not at a uniform level, at least in terms of controller technology. This is not a critical problem, in terms of function, however, it necessitates foresight when it comes to networking. Wolters primarily uses Siemens PLCs from the S7-300 and S7-400 series. In addition to this, there are also controllers for KUKA robots and S5 PLCs (which otherwise have long since been discontinued). In other words, the controllers in use span over three decades. But none of this hinders versiondog, in fact, they help demonstrate just how comprehensive the software is. “This was crucial for us,” emphasizes Teigte, “as we have old controllers still in use.” Every week, on a Saturday, backups are created. If, in the future, additional components – taken from the brewhouse or the filter cellar – need to be included, it could be beneficial to carry out backups more frequently.
Teigte has put in place a kind of Reinheitsgebot for data security and safety (the Reinheitsgebot is a set of legal regulations limiting the ingredients in beer in Germany. In this context, it can be understood as a method for limiting outside access). In order to safeguard against cyberattacks a new firewall has been installed. What’s more, Wolters has decided to remain conservative and rely on in-house servers and not on a cloud solution. “When it comes to safeguarding against attacks from outside, it is more advantageous to have a larger shield than a smaller one,” Teigte explains. It has been observed that such attacks are more likely to come from outside. versiondog backups and comparisons of versions also indicate this. “Comparing versions helps facilitate the detection of cyberattacks,” says Teigte. “The ability to trace all occurrences of data access, including the timestamp, contributed to the decision to integrate versiondog.”
So far, only plant data is being monitored. However, Teitge has greater plans. “We are considering whether to also monitor recipe data and associated parameters in the future,” he reveals. In order to do this, he says, device manufacturers will have to offer corresponding interfaces. While all of this might be far-off dreams at present, the company wants to continue to make their way, step by step, towards it. Teigte highlights another important factor: “Our selling points are taste and quality. And quality depends on technology.” Taste is determined by the customers, and quality by FDA and GFSI auditors, and GMP certifications. Many auditors appreciate independent attempts to continually develop and improve methodology when it comes to quality assurance measures.
For this reason, versiondog is viewed as a good indication of forward-thinking quality management. It certainly impresses those auditors, who, for example, pay special attention to documentation concerning critical control points for the purposes of hazard analysis (HACCP). “FDA and GFSI auditors are always impressed when we take it upon ourselves to improve,” explains Teigte. “Not every auditor has an intimate understanding of versiondog, however, they understand the thinking behind it and that counts as a bonus point.” One significant sub-component is the empty bottle sensor. At present, the test bottle logs are still stored as PDFs on the server. In the future, the logs, including timestamps, will be checked into and stored in versiondog. “This is easy and plays an important role in quality control,” says Teigte.
In order to get the most out of versiondog, staff training began as soon as the software was introduced. In the maintenance department alone, eight members were trained to use versiondog. “My plan is to also expand in the direction of administration and quality management in order to keep documents for auditors there,” says Teigte. The goal is to have only one archive and not multiple filing cabinets for various documents. Data, schematics, and documents are gathered and – thanks to versiondog – kept in a structured and traceable manner. And without versiondog? Teigte already has some negative experience, which occurred prior to the integration of versiondog, that he doesn’t wish to have to repeat. “We lost backups for parameter lists – that meant working with a pencil for a week.”