Located just north of New Orleans, the Abita Brewing Co. is a rapidly growing brewery with specific manufacturing obstacles directly related to its aggressive environment.

“By nature, everything here is constantly being exposed to many elements,” says James Franklin, Abita's plant engineer. “All electrical enclosures used are of NEMA 4X construction because of water, caustic acid, and bleach that are regularly used during cleaning procedures.”

In fact, Franklin says the brewery literally has its own weather system. “Because of the constant moisture in our facility, some days we have actual clouds in the top half of the building,” he says. “The result is that ferrous metal products corrode at a very high rate.”

As a result of these environmental conditions, Abita has replaced metal enclosures with more than 50 Stahlin fiberglass enclosures within the past seven years. “It makes sense to use them upfront and forget about it,” Franklin says. “Nonmetallic enclosures cost less; in addition, they are lighter weight so we save on shipping. We are stating that on new equipment purchases, ‘Control panels are to be of nonmetallic construction.’ We have had to replace metallic enclosures with finger-size holes in them.”

Franklin says a pry bar was necessary to open an OEM metallic control enclosure after its three-point latch mechanism had become “frozen.” This enclosure is currently scheduled to be replaced with a nonmetallic enclosure.

“This is a great proving ground for a lot of products, especially electrical enclosures,” Franklin says. “Although longevity and cost are key factors, I am also concerned with ease of workability. Stahlin performs factory modifications to our specs, but we also do a great deal of field modifications to accommodate distribution, starters, drives, and other automation. The enclosures are much easier to modify using conventional tools.”

Franklin says in that environment, low cost, workability, durability, and performance make nonmetallic enclosures a “no-brainer.”