Yalumba chooses the latest winemaking technology

Meeting consumer demands throughout seasonal variability with an advanced automation and process control solution from Rockwell Automation.

The Oxford Landing Estate Vineyard and Winery is named after a site where drovers once grazed and watered sheep. Today it’s home to a loyal flock of down-to-earth folk who take great pride in making quality wines, enjoyed the world over.

With 650 acres under vine, Oxford Landing Estate is not small but by micro-managing 130 five-acre blocks as separate ecosystems, the grapes are given exactly what they need to achieve optimum flavour.

Techniques such as detailed pruning, canopy management and crop thinning provide the winery with ultimate control in expressing the individuality of each block.  Oxford Landing prides itself on being nimble enough to harvest small batches of the fruit as soon as it ripens, so not an ounce of freshness is lost.

Set on the northern edge of the Barossa Valley the key to the success of the Oxford Landing Estate Winery is their ability to achieve a continuous production flow via a sophisticated automation and control system. In winemaking, this timing is particularly crucial since the grapes need to be processed within a critical window of time where the acid and sugar content are at a premium.

To achieve this, together with keeping up with increasing consumer demands, winemakers are turning to technology to streamline the process.

Over a decade of service and support

Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery, and one of the country’s largest wine exporters. Its Angaston winery was founded in 1849 in South Australia’s famous Barossa Valley. Over time however, the demand for Yalumba wines has grown to exceed the processing capacity of the heritage-listed Angaston facility. This led to the establishment of the Oxford Landing Estate Winery, which is now the primary producer of Oxford Landing Estate wines and Yalumba’s popular two litre cask wine varieties.


One of the main challenges with winemaking is that customers expect consistency, they get used to a particular label and expect it to taste the same, but every year the acid level is different, the sugar content is different as are the aromas and colour of the berries.

According to John Ide, winery operations manager, at Yalumba, “The aim for the Oxford Landing winery was an environmentally friendly plant incorporating the latest in winemaking technology, plus a new and unique process stream methodology. The objective was to achieve greater management of the process and the product.”

The agility needed to meet the demands of frequently changing production demands was uniquely met by the process automation solutions from Rockwell Automation. This on top of the end to end efficiencies of the plant wide control inherent in Integrated Architecture truly made this a solution real win for Yalumba.

The Oxford Landing Estate Winery was commissioned in 2005 and has been able to meet market requirements and improve product quality for more than a decade now. The secret, says Ide, is the automated process streams that ensure the grapes are fermented under optimum conditions, given the high volume throughput. It is particularly critical at all times to control fermentation rate and minimise oxidation, both of which are highly dependent on temperature.

From the moment the skin is broken during harvesting, it’s important to move the product quickly through the crushing stage, chilled and into the controlled environments of the fermentation tanks.

Each process stream begins at one of three receive hopper/crusher bays, where loads of grapes are converted into ‘must’, a mix of juice, skin and seeds. The must is then pumped through one of three ‘must chillers’ to reduce the temperature to around 12 degrees Celsius for white and heat or cool to 25 degrees for red. To produce white wine, the juice is extracted from the skin and seeds and clarified prior to fermentation; conversely, red wine is fermented with the skins included in the fermentation vessel. For both styles of wine, the premium juice/wine or ‘free run’ is drained and kept separate from the second stream or ‘pressings’ of extracted product through subsequent processing and storage. After wines are fermented they are clarified and blended into the final product before filtration and bottling.

Virtualisation and visibility

 The control and automation system plays an important role at Oxford Landing, the system performs sophisticated control of the numerous process streams, while at the same allowing the winemakers to exert their influence and apply their experience to achieve the desired result.

The primary user interface for the system is a virtualised server supported by two virtualised clients and six onsite clients, each running FactoryTalk View SE. Winemakers and operators use this supervisory-level HMI to specify process streams, crushing speeds and fermentation schedules; plus monitor the operational status of the entire plant.

The Angaston site allows maintenance operators to keep a close watch on trends using remote access via FactoryTalk ViewPoint or the virtual clients without having to come to site. This system is integrated with Yalumba’s proprietary ‘wine management system’ which is a non-commercial database of all vintages for the purpose batch tracking for label integrity.

FactoryTalk View SE is a key component of Oxford Landing’s automation system, providing a clear view across entire lines and production processes. This unified site-wide monitoring and control via the terminals and numerous plant-floor PanelView Plus human-machine interfaces (HMI). “Having everything on a common visualization platform was an attractive part of the package,” said Ide.

From a programming point of view, Integrated Architecture provides a common development environment for all applications utilising the mobility and virtualisation of the FactoryTalk system. FactoryTalk allows data tags created in one application to be immediately available to all applications across the integrated architecture system.

The ability to share data tags considerably reduces the software development time. The whole network was connected in the workshop and programmed at the same time. There was one tag database available to both the SCADA and the PLC programmers. Any tag created was immediately available to everybody so there was no importing, exporting, connecting or waiting. From the onset, the system could be programmed concurrently so there was no time delay.

Flexing muscle

At the heart of the system, more than 10 Allen-Bradley ControlLogix programmable automation controllers (PAC) perform the hybrid functionality required of sequential, process and drives control. This includes overseeing a myriad of Allen-Bradley PowerFlex drives that control screw feeders, crushers, pumps, presses, agitators, and so on; and also encompass enhanced PID control of temperature. “We have introduced a system for automatic dosing of yeasts for ferments which is also controlled by this system,” said Ide.

ControlLogix also controls the advanced refrigeration plant – perhaps the most critical function of all. “The refrigeration plant is our main tool for controlling temperature at all stages of the process,” said Ide, explaining that three ammonia compressors and a pumping system circulate liquid ammonia through the must chillers, ‘rack and return tanks’, and fermentation vessels as required.

The control system works out the required load and directs which should be the lead compressor and what the optimum settings are, based on how much cooling is needed for the required fermentation rates. “We have also just installed a PowerFlex 755 variable speed drive on the 450kW motor of our lead compressor increasing efficiency, flexibility and saving energy over the vintage period,” added Ide.

To link the automation system all together, the Oxford Landing plant utilises a site-wide Ethernet/IP network that connects the SCADA server and clients with each other and the ControlLogix PACs for a seamless flow of information through the plant. A ControlNet communications network provides high speed peer-to-peer communications, while device-level communications are provided by DeviceNet.

In addition, CompactLogix is used as the control system for equipment such as press and cross flow filters, which are networked back to the ControlLogix via Ethernet. FactoryTalk ViewPoint provides visibility remotely via a tablet, which delivers real time and historical trending. “As a result of the success of we’ve had with FactoryTalk View SE integrating all areas of our plant in one platform, we’ve now rolled it out at our  Yalumba site in Angaston,” said Ide.

Two shades of green

The Oxford Landing site is ‘green’ in more than one sense, with a number of strategies in place to ensure environmentally friendly practices. The refrigeration system is highly efficient, with the option of off-peak loading to reduce both electricity costs and power consumption through maximised compressor efficiency. In addition, the hot return ammonia gas heats the water used for washing tanks throughout the plant, plus Oxford Landing has its own complete wastewater recycling plant which is also interfaced with the FactoryTalk View SE system for visualisation and control.

Food_June_rockwell1The plant and wastewater facility is running at best practice and recently won an Environmental award from the South Australian Wine Industry Association for implementing an innovative cross flow filtration system that minimises waste going to the plant while increasing yield.

At Oxford Landing, the ultimate goal has always been to achieve a continuous production flow through the plant. Ide believes that the Integrated Architecture from Rockwell Automation is key to ensuring that this objective is met and maintained. “FactoryTalk View allows us to see trends in real time, and we can backtrack to specific batches as required,” he says. “Troubleshooting is also easy. For example, we can delve right down into the drives remotely, changing programming and configuration and perform pretty much anything. That’s the advantage of a fully integrated system which has a consistent look and feel across the board.”

“In addition, we are currently utilising our newly installed FactoryTalk EnergyMetrix system to control the maximum kVA demand and email alarms when we are nearing the limit.  We are in the stages of using the integrated system to automatically shut down other non critical motors to reduce demand when we are approaching the limit,” explained Ide.

Yalumba has shown that efficiency leads to quality and by using automation, efficiency can be increased and quality improved. It is the juxtaposition of high-volume processing technology and winemaking art that is making Yalumba successful, granting it the ability to deliver bottles of red and white that are finding favour, and flavour, the world over.


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