Beer drinkers rejoice when discovering a new craft brew and may not realize the amount of hard work required to produce that pint of flavorful liquid. Craft brewing entails dedication to labor-intensive steps throughout the process, but thanks to technology brewery automation is no longer reserved for the big beverage manufacturers. Affordable, scalable systems can be integrated at breweries of all sizes with the flexibility to add automation in phases as production grows. Craft brewery automation allows independent and smaller brewers to maintain the consistency and reliability of their products with the integration of automated controls that streamline processes and increase productivity to maximize brewery operations.
The popularity of craft breweries in the United States is at an all-time high and is continuing to grow. In fact, the Brewers Association states that a craft brewery can be found within ten miles of where most Americans live; identifiable as small brewers operating independently of a larger manufacturer, with less than 25% ownership outside of the craft industry and producing less than 6 million barrels of beer annually. This group of beer producers is founded on innovation and customized recipes developed and created through the art of craft brewing. The target audience includes beer drinkers with discerning palates and although the demographic continues to shift as craft breweries gain notoriety, the consumer demand remains on an upward trend. The resulting supply and demand issues can be challenging for smaller breweries on the brink of expansion, and it is vital to be prepared.
Brewery automation systems are marketed to enthusiasts who dabble in making new beer creations. A home brewer or hobbyist can order a kit online that will automate some or all of the brewing process, adding a little technology to the cumbersome steps. National beer manufacturers operate on a much larger scale and have complete industrial automation brewery systems that manage most of the brewing and packaging. The small brew house is somewhere in between, and craft brewery automation offers many options for complimenting the brewing process.
There may be some hesitance when it comes to investing in an automated craft brewery, but quality control is essential to anyone operating in the food and beverage industry. Consider the consumer, the beer drinker who expects consistency in the brews they love, whether purchasing in bulk at a retail store or walking down the block to visit a local craft house. Automation can reduce the number of hands involved in the process, thereby minimizing human error, and resulting in more consistent and reliable production of the same quality beer in every brew. Another advantage to automating craft breweries includes the capability to dramatically increase production to meet the needs of a growing market. Machines can work faster and more efficiently so adding automated systems to the brewing process results in higher production capabilities.
Some crafters are concerned about losing the personal touch and oversight that comes with managing the process manually, but automation does not mean losing control. In fact, a brewery control system can include recipe management to ensure more control is maintained over quality of the product. Recipes stored in a data file can streamline the process of running a certain brand or flavor, allowing the specific brew to be selected on the control panel. The automatic production of a certain recipe incorporates the exact weights and volumes of ingredients every time it is processed, while also tracking ingredient usage to help with ordering and inventory management. Test modes allow for the creation of new brews with the added advantage of automatically saving the recipe to a data file so it can be accessed and replicated exactly, down to the ounce of each ingredient. Technology compliments the innovation of brewing with precision and reproduction, and ultimately quality from the consistent and reliable methods.
Many craft brewers are deterred from considering brewery automation with the assumption that costs will be too high to invest in the hardware and brewery automation software needed to integrate a control system. That is not the case, and even the big names in industrial automation offer affordable, scalable hardware and software systems to meet the needs of smaller breweries. It is important to remember that automation can occur in phases, and solutions exist for small breweries whether starting with a single vessel or adding automation to the entire facility. The size of the investment is as unique as the individual craft brewer and can be scaled as budget or production demands increase.
An internet search for brewery automation companies produces a list of systems integrators, or engineering companies who specialize in automation and can design, install, and support the right brewery automation system. There are numerous advantages to bringing in outside help when determining how to automate a brewery. Expert systems integrators provide scalable brewery automation options and are knowledgeable in manufacturing best practices including safety, quality, specifications, standards, and requirements for the food and beverage industry. EN Automation is a leading systems integrator who offers solutions to fit any brewery budget to meet the requirements of varying facility sizes, production metrics, and growth projections.
Enlisting the help of an expert is an important first step in exploring brewery automation options. With EN, the process begins with a discovery meeting where our automation professionals meet with the craft brewer to ask questions and develop an understanding of the process, production goals, and identification of concerns and areas for improvement. In the next phase, EN controls engineers collect data from production reports, evaluate the facility and equipment, and focus on development of an automated system that fits the needs of the craft brewer. Phase three involves the delivery of a roadmap that details options for implementing phased brewery automation, executing the plan as budget and schedule allow, and offering continued support of the new system.
Expert automation professionals provide solutions that help breweries meet consumer demand while maintaining control over their craft. Modernization is essential to anyone operating in the food and beverage industry and the local, small business feel of a craft brewery does not have to be lost with the introduction of technology. With the help of an experienced systems integrator, automation solutions can help small brewers increase production and take their brewery to new heights while continuing to focus on their passion in serving consistent, quality craft beer in every can, bottle, pint, growler, and keg.
EN Automation provides customized and reliable automation solutions to clients in all areas of food and beverage processing and packaging including craft brewing, soft drinks, bakery, ingredients, pet food, and meat processing. We support over 50 automation platforms and maintain partnerships with industry leaders to ensure the solutions we deliver always meet and exceed customer expectations. EN’s talented and experienced automation professionals support modernization and digital transformation initiatives through consulting services, roadmap development, engineering, panel design, system implementation and support, project management, and business analytics.