The brewing industry is in the midst of a technological revolution, and the techniques for brewing our favorite beers are changing.
Craft beers are revolutionizing the brewing industry and taking over the world. However, as consumer choice and diversity increases, so do the issues facing brewers. Manufacturers must manage complex cooperation with suppliers, order fulfillment, and local and international requirements while tightly controlling costs. This very conventional and well-established industry is being transformed through the use of technological solutions.
The reality of “smart manufacturing” is revolutionary. Today, the beer industry is growing at a rapid pace due to the Internet of Things (IoT). From being reactive, companies are now becoming proactive. Production performance has been significantly improved by these technologies. IoT and AI (artificial intelligence) are being adopted by breweries to increase the automation of their production operations. We call it the IoB (Internet of Beer)!
The impact of IoT in the brewing process
For starters, brewing beer is also a pretty precise science, especially these days. During the fermentation process, the yeast “eats” the sugar and turns it into alcohol, which reduces the density of the beer. Brewing can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, and variations in temperature affect the flavor of the beer. Technology is therefore a great help and an excellent tool for carrying out continuous monitoring, and thus ensuring a constant quality of beer.
Digital tools can also support production processes, having a direct impact on cost management and product quality. Take the example of hops: a volatile ingredient that must be incorporated into the brewing process within 12 hours of harvesting. IoT-enabled sensors can ensure that they are incorporated in optimal conditions. These sensors can collect data on the temperature and humidity of hops, use GPS to track the location of a shipment and indicate precisely when it will arrive at the brewery.
IoT and machine learning solutions, married with big data analytics, also enable predictive maintenance of equipment. This gives brewers more control over the brewing process, helping to reduce downtime and costs and, again, ensuring a more consistent way of making beer.
Custom developed software
Normally, large beer industry groups use proprietary software, while medium or small breweries rely on commercial software or even free/open source software used at the homebrew level.
A well-known example in the brewing industry is Orchestra Cloud, a complete solution comprising modules dedicated to the management of activity planning, inventory, production, purchases and sales, accounting, control of quality, reports and dashboard for each step, all in real time.
Ekos, like its siblings, automatically calculates production costs, while continuously recording data for brewing, fermentation and packaging records for beer production and related equipment maintenance.
Brewplanner instead focuses on task coordination and the specific effect of an action on other areas in order to understand the limits and capabilities of the brewery and apply real-time correction.
VicinityBrew claims to specialize, compared to other software, in multi-stage productions since, according to the producer, most systems are not able to do this. The software can manage interdependent production cycles and generate specific reports for each stage. Interestingly, it offers tools dedicated to “to-order brewing”, useful for managing batches made for beer companies.
Technology at the service of marketing
The least exploited stage of the IoB (Internet of Beers), and one of the most innovative, concerns the analysis of consumer behavior and reactions. Knowing when, how and to what extent your product is consumed and appreciated is valuable information and a very powerful tool for any business. Geeksme (a Spanish company), for example, is working on an IoT device that, among other things, will allow brewers to “sensorize” beer taps and bottle openers in order to extract information about their customers’ consumption. There are different types of IoB technologies that are starting to spread around the world in this direction.
Another interesting solution is represented by the “Simple Beer Service” app and hardware. The idea developed by the Amazon Web Services Startup program is to use a Raspberry Pi with a kegerator (draft beer system) to measure when beer is poured, then post the data to the Amazon API Gateway and on a dedicated web page via a dashboard. This open source system can be scaled up and used in a pub. It demonstrates how informative and affordable this type of technology and services can be.
The trend the beer industry will face in the future will be a very rapid increase in the use of IoB systems to improve efficiency, productivity, quality and safety. This will be done through real-time monitoring and data-driven decision making.
The price of access to IoB devices and applications is expected to drop considerably, while their diversification in the market will increase. This will lead to massive implementation at all levels of production, economically favoring competent companies that will implement correctly sized solutions in advance.