Brewery automation technology is helping breweries create better beer and more of it while maintaining consistent high quality
Beers made from the same raw materials may look similar, but they vary dramatically in both taste and texture because of minor differences in brewing techniques. This is the unique charm of beer.
The core elements of a great brew have not changed for generations, with varying combinations of malt, hops, water and yeast coming together as the beverage we know and love. What has changed, however, are the means of monitoring and managing the brewing process to ensure the quality and consistency or repeatability of the end product.
For the Needs of Craft Brewer
Regardless of the size of the brewery and the method used, brewers will have several priorities for producing their distinctive beers, most significantly in terms of maximizing yield, maintaining quality, improving cleaning and minimizing losses.
With all of these priorities, having access to real-time data can play a central role in better managing and monitoring the brewing process. To accommodate the growing need of a modern brewing system, Rockwell Automation developed FactoryTalk® Craft Brew solution (PDF) for process and batch applications, giving craft brewers, system integrators and brew house original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) a single, standardized control system.
With custom library built on the PlantPAx® distributed control system (DCS) core library and scalable controllers providing a modern architecture, brewers can improve sequencing of batches to optimize process uptime and efficiency and ease recipe adjustments. Most importantly, they can gain insight into their operations to monitor and track batch quality.
Accurate Brew House Control
In the brew house, data from a scalable control system can support more efficient inventory, blending and bills of materials.
During the milling process, it becomes easier to control recipe amounts, roller gaps, auto start-up and shutdown, and sieve analysis. Mash mixing and wort filtration operations, fermentation and yeast management are made more transparent.
For example, operators can get information pertinent to batch production captured and correlated at critical quality points from the FactoryTalk View Machine Edition (ME) or Site Edition (SE) human machine interface (HMI), set with pre-configured systems for tanks and different modes for level of operator interaction.
Moreover, the system’s fermentation temperature control and recipe management offer operators the options to run in auto, semi-auto, or manual mode, and allow them to tailor the system with customizable messages and recipe names. Not only can it reduce manual tending of each process and optimize productivity, this results in better decisions that help improve the overall quality and consistency of final product.
Technology and Crafting Beer
One of the benefits of modern technologies is that brewers can now keep an eye on their fermentations on their mobiles. They can access brewing history and events, batch reporting and advanced diagnostic data via the HMI from any location. Also, the system offers comprehensive protection against unauthorized modifications to code or process values, protecting their investment.
Overall, the data that only automation can provide is invaluable in terms of establishing and maintaining the quality and consistency of any given brew. Because the data is stored, brewers can adopt more flexible recipe management, modifying existing recipes and trying new types of beer. Whether procedures are performed by the equipment or the operators, consistency of the brews remains under control without losing the artistry.
Better Serve Rapid Demand
Consumer demand for craft beer and the level of competition for innovation and efficiency is increasing for craft beer producers.
The technologies for brewers to consider vary with the size of their operations. A microbrewer might produce up to 15,000 barrels annually, with approximately 75 percent or more of the beer produced sold off-site. They will probably be operating in manual mode or applying simple control techniques.
A regional craft brewery, on the other hand, with a majority of volume in “traditional” or “innovative” beers, could be producing between 15,000 barrels and 6 million barrels annually. Smaller breweries might be operating in a semi-automated mode, with larger breweries fully automated.
Whatever their size, these breweries will want to compete in today’s dynamic market and need simple, standardized operations that can deliver quality brews and keep up with complex consumer demand.
While FactoryTalk Craft Brew is designed to help smaller breweries spur growth, the FactoryTalk Brew™ solution can help large craft brewers standardize and fully automate their production, gaining an information platform for reporting and recipe management, tying together information from the automation layer to the MES layer.
It integrates enterprise-level automation and information to enable The Connected Enterprise and help inform business decisions, complementing large regional and global breweries’ functional requirements outside of FactoryTalk Craft Brew.
The solutions can help reduce complexity during start-up and brewery operations, as well as the dependence on specific skills sets in the workforce. By removing the need for engineering intensive custom-coded applications, these scalable solutions enable brewers of all size to enhance production quality and time-to-market through digitalization and improvements.
Competitive Edge: Sustain and Gain
The Asia Pacific beer market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.8 percent during the forecast period 2016-2022. Yet, for many experienced brewers, a transition to automated systems is jarring, but necessary.
Small breweries want to grow larger, outstripping their ability to perform every operation manually. When they need to brew eight to 10 batches of beer wort per day, automation becomes virtually the only way that a brewery can continue to grow.
Once the automated programs are optimized, operations are executed the same way every time accurately, enabling consistent, repeatable production. Even brewers that are new to automation can learn to trust and value its advantages. Well-designed systems are highly flexible and allow brewers to make changes when necessary and to program new recipes easily.
With a scalable modular system and better utilization of equipment and timing, brewers can increase output by up to 50 percent without having to invest in more tanks. So rather than committing to an expensive new ten-barrel system, automating the existing five-barrel system will help a brew house produce more, more consistently, and save money and time.
For brewers who are ready to scale up, it is time to use innovative technologies to streamline brewing processes, increase capacity and operational efficiency throughout production. By reducing the amount of time spent managing equipment and processes, brewers can focus on what is most important to them – crafting beer.