The craft of digital brewing

Siemens Ltd

By Justin Farrell, Siemens Australia and New Zealand
Tuesday, 17 August, 2021

The craft of digital brewing

As the head of our food and beverage portfolio in the region, I have a particular fondness for how automation and digitalisation have been helping our local craft brewers share their art with the world. There’s no better example of technology making a difference to our everyday lives than its impact on the production of our much-loved beer.

Investing in good, scalable technology is vital for any industry, but more so for craft brewers as success could be overnight and production then needs to be ramped up quickly. There are a number of reasons why digitalisation is critical to craft brewing.

Firstly, high productivity and operational flexibility are important. Craft brewing is a highly competitive market and brewers rely heavily on high productivity and operational flexibility to succeed. According to the Independent Brewers Association (IBA), there are now over 600 independent brewers in Australia. New hops are hitting the market at never-before-seen speed and flavour profiles are changing almost weekly. Brewers must respond quickly to keep ahead. From a tech perspective, two critical factors make a big difference to speed to market: a) very precise cleaning between brews done quickly; and b) fine-tuning recipes and minimising brew times so brewers can focus on getting one brew through the cycle and then start a completely difference style of beverage as soon as possible, enabling a variety of products despite a finite number of brewing vessels

Digitalisation also improves the final product: today, data and algorithms can help craft the perfect brew. Artificial intelligence and predictive analysis, combined with tools such as cloud-based industrial applications set up with the right algorithms, not only help save time but also impact cost, efficiency and the bottom line. Platforms like Fermecraft from Deacam are helping craft breweries in Australia use live data to detect the smallest of changes in critical factors such as temperature and humidity, as the smallest variance could make or break the perfect brew. For a brewer resting at home on the weekend, being able to look at their phone and tell if conditions are as they should be, without visiting the brewery, is technology worth its weight in gold.

Scalability is also a major factor for small breweries, in that they need to be able to start small but plan big. Craft brewers usually don’t start with a lot of funding or investment, so having access to bite-sized versions of the same technology used by some of the biggest manufacturers worldwide is not just a benefit for the short term but also helps set them up for long-term growth. Investing in technology that can be scaled as the brewery grows or adapted as they shift from kegs to cans, as Wolf of the Willows did when the pandemic hit, sets brewers up for the long term.

I grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Mordialloc, home to a lovely beach and Wolf of the Willows brewery that uses technology from our company. I wear my T-shirt from the brewery with pride as my life, my passion for beer and technology all intertwine. It’s a good day knowing the purpose of the technology you take to market has helped create the perfect sip of ale.

Justin Farrell is the Head of Factory Automation for Siemens Australia and New Zealand. This role covers various sectors such as food and beverage, transport and infrastructure, manufacturing and others.

Image credit: ©

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