Entire Brewing Process on a Single Software Platform

Eliminates Paper, Improves Production and Analysis

5 min video  /  8 minute read Download PDF

MadTree Brewing Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, has seen rapid growth since it opened in 2013. With a $20 million expansion, it moved into its current home in 2017. MadTree’s new brewery is housed in a remodeled airplane hangar that was built decades ago. The shiny new equipment blends well with the retro architecture, and the site also has a spacious taproom and outdoor beer garden.

MadTree thrives on creativity, preferring to do things its own way. When seeking a new system for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and human-machine interface (HMI), MadTree wanted something that would allow maximum flexibility. Working with ThermalTech Engineering of Cincinnati, MadTree chose Ignition by Inductive Automation® — an industrial application platform with tools for building solutions in HMI, SCADA, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Inductive Automation, based in Folsom, California, is a fast-growing industrial automation software company. Its key product, Ignition, is used in more than 100 countries.

“We used Ignition to develop a fully integrated recipe-management system for the entire production facility,” said Kyle Lehman, controls engineer at ThermalTech Engineering. “That includes everything from the brewhouse to cellaring, all the way to packaging. It’s all controlled in Ignition.”

“We really wanted the ability to see and monitor all aspects of production, and Ignition really helped us with this,” said Ryan Blevins, head brewer for MadTree. “To be able to monitor utilities, packaging, brewhouse, and even quality-lab data — all in one place — has been super-convenient.”

“MadTree wanted something that was unique to them,” said Lehman. “They didn’t want a solution that would tell them how to make their beer, and Ignition gave us the ability to design things and get the flow going the way MadTree wanted it to.” Lehman, who has worked with lots of other breweries, said MadTree does plenty of customization itself with the Ignition platform. He also noted that MadTree does more data collection and analysis than other breweries, gaining much benefit from those activities.

Faster Analysis

At MadTree, Ignition connects to 70,000 process tags, 15 process PLCs on the plant floor, 150 process valves, and about 50 sensors. The software enables MadTree to see data more quickly than in the past, enabling better troubleshooting and faster responses. “We’re getting data feedback that we never had before,” said Blevins. “Ignition allows us to look at that data and analyze it quickly.”

“One of the cool things we discovered when we started using Ignition was how flexible it is,” said Trent Leslie, quality manager at MadTree. “Being able to combine the relational database back-end with Python scripting, and having the interface for other people to actually view that information — not just me — was pretty awesome.”

Kyle Moore, brewery engineer for MadTree, likes the quick access to data, including from remote locations. Overall, it raises efficiency. “Ignition has really allowed us to streamline our processes, to where we’re capable of increasing our capacity,” said Moore. “We can brew more in a smaller timeframe than we were able to before.”

Moore prefers Ignition to other software packages he’s used. “I was used to control systems where it would just run the program, and that was it,” he said. “And then you’d have a second database or a secondary system like a historian pulling everything through. So you’d have to do all the work on the front-end, and also the work on the back-end to get what you wanted. With Ignition, it’s all there in one thing.”

Prior to using Ignition, MadTree had many manual processes, with much of its data residing on paper. “Ignition’s been a great upgrade for us, as far as data collection and tracking,” said Blevins. “Before, we were using whiteboards and spreadsheets, and we had data all over the place. Now it’s in one convenient location.”

Unlimited Licensing

Ignition’s unlimited licensing gave MadTree and ThermalTech the freedom to build whatever they needed. There are no additional costs for adding new projects, tags, clients, or users. Ignition’s template-management system has also paid off. “The fact that I can use a template, and apply it to many different projects, saves a lot of time for me, for my clients, and for MadTree,” said Lehman. “The template-management capabilities in Ignition allow us to apply templates between jobs, between projects, and even between different areas of a facility. They allow us to be repeatable and predictable, and help us provide one unified interface for the end user.”

The software has worked so well for MadTree, the company plans to do more with it. “We definitely have future plans for development in Ignition,” said Leslie. “I still want to do a lot more on the packaging side, especially the canning line and some of the KPIs over there. And then some general dashboard development for our managers and directors.”

MadTree also appreciated ThermalTech’s contributions. “It was great working with ThermalTech,” said Leslie. “We met often during the development phase, and went through the entire process step by step.”

ThermalTech likes how Ignition helps it serve its customers. “Ignition is very easy to implement, it’s easy to program for, and it’s intuitive,” said Lehman. “And Inductive Automation provides great, free, online training for anybody who wants to learn how to use it.”


Ryan Blevins: My name is Ryan Blevins. I'm the Head Brewer here at MadTree Brewing Company. We're a craft brewery based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. We opened in early 2013, and we've had a rapid growth since then. We love this new facility. The brewery itself is housed in an old airplane hanger. It's really unique. It gives it a lot of character and just a really fun place to come to work. We use Ignition in our brewhouse, in our packaging line, in our cellar, and in our quality lab to track data. With that data, we're able to go back and look at any issues on any batches that we had problems with. It tracks real time. It allows us to overlap data and really narrow down issues and help us brew the best beer possible.

Kyle Lehman: Hi. My name's Kyle Lehman. I'm the Controls Engineer for ThermalTech Engineering. ThermalTech's based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, and we’re a controls and MEP engineering firm. Ignition allows us to provide a unified user interface for the brewers here at MadTree. Every process system is tied into and controlled with Ignition, and it allows them to have a predictable user interface that is unified across the entire facility. I've worked with a lot of breweries in the past, and MadTree has a different approach that they wanna analyze their data, and make decisions off of it, and then improve their processes based on that data.

Trent Leslie: My name is Trent Leslie. I am the Quality Manager at MadTree. I spend my time in Ignition developing the HMI data input pages and dashboards to help with the reporting of the quality of everything here. MadTree's always been really focused on customizing and being able to control the process a lot. So I think we develop a lot more inside of Ignition than perhaps other breweries would.

Kyle Lehman: I would absolutely say that MadTree does more data analysis than other breweries out there. It's available to them, and they use it to their advantage.

Ryan Blevins: With the upgrade to an automated brewhouse, we're getting data feedback that we never had before. Ignition allows us to be able to look at that data and analyze it quickly.

Trent Leslie: One of the cool things about Ignition is that you're starting with a blank canvas, and from there, you can do whatever you want. The customization is virtually endless from there.

Ryan Blevins: When we were building out the automation for our brewhouse, we wanted to have flexibility to make changes to recipes and brewing parameters and really just do what we wanted to. And Ignition gave us that flexibility.

Kyle Moore: My name is Kyle Moore. I am the Brewery Engineer here at MadTree Brewing Company. So one of the big things we get out of Ignition, at least for me, is just the ease of access to everything, whether it's the data logging for all of the different fermentation, each individual system, tracking our utilities in and out of the facility. We're able to troubleshoot, especially for the engineering and maintenance team that we have here, troubleshoot issues within equipment pretty quickly with all this data that we're collecting.

Ryan Blevins: We really wanted the ability to be able to look and monitor all aspects of production. Ignition really helped us with this, being able to monitor utilities, packaging, brewhouse, and even quality lab data all in one place has been super convenient.

Kyle Moore: The remote access that Ignition offers, so the comfort of being able to access the system from my couch at home. If there's any kinda issues going on, I can just quickly log in and fix it right there.

Trent Leslie: And one of my favorite things about Ignition is the ability to provide these dashboards, where you can access and display information that anyone can access and view or download the data for their own purposes. And then it's updated in real time, which is awesome.

Ryan Blevins: With our old brewhouse that was fully manual, we went from having nothing to having everything now with Ignition and a fully automated brewhouse.

Kyle Lehman: With the flexibility of the Python, that you can get into the Java in the backend if you want. If you can program it, you can make it happen in Ignition, and it's gonna work well repeatedly and over time.

Kyle Moore: It was a great experience working with ThermalTech Engineering on this project.

Trent Leslie: I'm very happy with what ThermalTech did, and the ongoing support has been extremely useful.

Kyle Moore: It really turned out to be a great and successful project.

Project Information

Created By:   ThermalTech Engineering

ThermalTech Engineering specializes in mechanical, electrical, controls, and energy management engineering. The company has offices in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Texas, and Tennessee. For more information, visit thermaltech.com.

Posted on June 13, 2019