Thanks to thermal imaging, Erdinger Weissbräu ensures that kegs contain beer and nothing else.
A FLIR Systems infrared camera watches over the bottling of the world-famous Erdinger wheat beer. Erdinger Weissbräu is one of Germany's largest and most successful private breweries. The Munich-based brewery exports its specialty beers to more than 70 countries and this figure keeps growing.
Erdinger brews its beers only in its plant in Erding, six days a week around the clock, and without ever deviating from its high quality standard. Erdinger is known for its strict quality policy and its consistent brand awareness. Its production processes, from selection and acceptance of raw materials to filling and maturing, are strictly monitored. Consequently, Erdinger Weissbräu maintains a permanent chain of security controls for its keg filling and packing process.
Simulation and risk analysis have shown that however careful the production, it was conceivable that customers could take delivery of a keg filled with lye – a caustic chemical used in the cleaning process which is poisonous and very corrosive – instead of beer. In order to prevent accidents of this kind, HACCP, a quality assurance program for the food industry, stipulates the installation of critical control points.
Drawing on its exceptional quality and brand awareness, Erdinger Weissbräu decided to ensure a 100 per cent protection of its keg cleaning and filling process. Risk analysis demonstrated the need to set up an additional control point to ensure that a keg filled with lye could not slip through the conventional control points.
As a keg containing lye has a considerably higher temperature than a keg filled with beer, continuous monitoring of temperatures proved to be the optimum solution. In this way, it was easy to identify wrongly filled kegs by measuring the temperature of each.
The infrared camera (top left in the image) checks each passing keg. Non-contact temperature measurement using spot pyrometer thermometers proved not to be sufficiently reliable for this application. Accordingly, an infrared camera was the chosen option. When correctly adjusted and interpreted, the camera's images enable a virtually error-free measurement.
Infrared sees the difference
A FLIR Systems A-Series thermal imaging camera now measures the temperature of every keg before it leaves the conveyor belt of the filling installation. If the infrared camera identifies a keg with a different temperature, it sets off an alarm and the conveyor belt is automatically halted. The keg is then manually removed.
The monitoring system with the infrared camera at the Erdinger brewery has proven to be extremely successful. The system is regularly inspected, but even in error simulations the camera has proven itself particularly reliable – any deviation has been identified immediately, triggering the appropriate alarm stage.
"Not one keg filled with lye has left the filling shed. The infrared camera solution is now an established part of our plant," says a spokesman for Erdinger Weissbräu.
FLIR's range for breweries
The FLIR Systems A-Series camera plays a crucial role in this solution and in many other process control monitoring applications around the world. Through software, Erdinger's camera is connected to a touch screen monitor that shows which size and type of keg is currently going through the cleaning and filling process.
A thermal image of each keg as it goes through the process is simultaneously shown on the monitor screen in real time. The system is not incorporated into the washing and filling machinery, which means that it can be used on all, new or existing, filling installations.