In an industry that revels in terms like “craft” or “handcrafted” there is also a fondness for automation. For brewers that started on small manual kits that required constant hands-on attention, there is celebration when budgets allow for pro-equipment where the machines are of the Ron Popeil school of thought.
Automation is something brewers strive for as it helps with all manners of the brewing process and the carefully dialed in machines can help create lagers and ales to spec while (hopefully) ensuring a smoother brew day.
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From mash tuns to fermenters, packaging lines and labelers automation continues to make brewing easier and more efficient A stroll through the annual Brew Expo America and smaller conferences around the country there are companies that are eager to show off the latest technical advancements.
There are a number of things to consider aside from the bells and whistles and the promise of more time in your corner, cleaner beer, and smoother days, say brewing professionals. Once your brewery is committed and budgeted there are a number of things to consider.
Just because a machine does a lot of the work doesn’t mean it is self sufficient. Having a dedicated person on staff who is intimately aware of the mechanics and can be ready to troubleshoot if necessary is critical. Most companies have technicians that will walk through issues over the phone or online, but in-person service calls can sometimes take a few days to arrange.
Knowing the equipment and having the confidence to address issues can help get a brewery back online faster and this can only happen when someone at the brewery is regularly keeping up with updates and intimate details.
Automation goes beyond physical equipment. From security cameras to human resource needs there is a lot that can be done through a phone, laptop, or iPad. Knowing how those interfaces work, keeping up-to-date with software updates and making sure that any physical equipment, like security cameras, are in proper working order can save headaches down the line.
Brewers have also cautioned about keeping passwords secure, setting up two factor authentication and making sure that trusted people have access to that information as well as backup plans in place should a critical employee be out sick or abruptly leaves the company.
While it might be difficult to forecast out too far in this current economic climate, some brewing professionals say it’s worth looking at longer timelines rather than immediate needs. If a brewery is forecasted to grow, to add on new employees, open new markets or move into new facilities, taking a look at equipment that will meet the anticipated needs in six months or a year is a smart move in advance and prevents a company from having to buy twice.
Or simply find modular equipment or software that will be able to grow with the company.