Since bottling its first vintage in 1974, Clos du Bois has crafted award-winning wines that showcase the best of the Sonoma County wine region in Northern California. The super-premium winery owns and farms more than 700 acres in the Alexander Valley and produces the best-selling Sonoma County wine in the United States. With more than 20 varietals in its portfolio, Clos du Bois is famous for producing elegant, rich and supple wines that offer complexity and aging potential.

But in the 21st-century marketplace, consumer demands, increasing competition and thinning margins forced Clos du Bois to continue to look for ways to cut costs and plan for long-term growth in order to remain a leader in the global market.

The challenge
In November 2004, Clos du Bois reviewed its manual production processes to identify the areas that had the greatest impact on overall production in terms of throughput and efficiency. The team identified the grape presses as a system that had a significant influence on overall production and yield.

To keep up with a schedule that now required fruit to hang on the vine longer than it was left to ripen in the past while meeting throughput goals, 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, which not only backed up the downstream process once the fruit was pressed, but also delayed the truck delivery schedule.

The solution
The Clos du Bois plant process engineer and his team worked with Rockwell Automation to develop a strategy to replace the analog, machine-by-machine control grape press system. The project involved a $2 million renovation, taking the existing machinery and reconfiguring it on a centralized control platform based on the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture. This application utilizes a Logix Control Platform to improve productivity and reduce total cost of ownership by providing enhanced functionality, flexibility and scalability.

At the control layer, an Allen-Bradley ControlLogix Programmable Automation Controller governs the entire system, from the conveyors that bring grapes into the presses, to the pumps that push the must (freshly pressed juice) into the winery.

To help improve performance and efficiency of the system, the team implemented an Intelligent Motor Control solution from Rockwell Automation. Allen Bradley PowerFlex 700 AC drives deliver the precise motor torque, speed and position control necessary 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 that helps reduce maintenance and troubleshooting time, address safety issues, and increase productivity and motor protection within each press.

To monitor production in real time, FactoryTalk View SE human-machine interface software gives operators access to production information via graphic displays on a standard PC 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.

The results
As a result of implementing the Rockwell Automation solution, the winery has seen an increase in throughput and crushed grapes by 2,500 tons, a 10 percent increase in overall production. This was achieved using the same number of workers, so the increase resulted directly in higher profits and labor resources have been freed up for other work. The flexible system has reduced cycle times and made changeovers more efficient. And by leveraging the Logix Control Platform, the system is scalable for future growth. In only two harvests, Clos du Bois has seen a complete payback on the system.

Changing the way grapes are received, crushed and processed through the winery has made it possible for Clos du Bois to meet production goals and maintain a critical quality factor. It also changes how employees interact with the system, giving them more visibility and insight to help them better monitor and control production for increased uptime.

Since 1974, Clos du Bois has crafted award-winning wines that showcase the best of the Sonoma County wine region in Northern California.

With their success on the crush pad system, Clos du Bois now has the capabilities not just for current production demands, but also the ability to meet industry challenges and grow into the future.

For more information on Rockwell Automation products and services, visit www.rockwellautomation.com.