Smart Manufacturing in the Brewing Industry

We invited a panel of industrial brewing experts onto one of our recent “virtual happy hours” with our Manufacturing Happy Hour Industry Community, and the conversation was too good not to turn it into a podcast! This episode features a fireside chat that we co-hosted with Steve Grundy, the Founder & CEO of Top 5 Solutions, who assembled a rockstar cast of beer industry leaders, including:

  • Connor MacDonald, a Brewing Automation and Controls Expert at McRae Integration
  • Stephen Rich, Brewmaster and Director of Innovation & Education at Cowbell Brewing
  • Nicholas Chan, Owner of ICONICK Project Group

In this first episode of our 2-part deep-dive into the beer industry, our panelists cover:

  • Smart manufacturing and brewing industry technology
  • Trends impacting manufacturing and the associated need for flexibility in beer-making
  • An in-depth discussion on sustainability, including examples of lowering your carbon footprint and reducing water usage


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3 Quick Things from this Episode

  1. Brewing requires technologies that not only ensure better throughput, quality, and access to information, but provide flexibility for rapidly-changing market tastes as well and consumers that prefer a greater variety of beverages.
  2. On average, it takes 10 glasses of water to brew 1 glass of beer. Reducing water usage is one of the most significant ways brewers can limit their environmental impact.
  3. People, process, and technology: You need to find people that align with your values to achieve digital transformation across a brewing operation.

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Tweetable Quotes

  • “The new generation has what I believe is a ‘portfolio of brands.’ They have different beers, different drinks, for different occasions.” –Nicholas Chan
  • “I’m always open to the possibility that I’m wrong.” –Steve Grundy
  • “If you put the right people against the initiative, it doesn’t take 2 years to roll out a digital strategy.” –Nicholas Chan on digital transformation
  • “I think more and more breweries are going to be looking toward the ability to do remote work…they’re going to see their friends brewing utilizing these [new] technologies and see that they’re getting left in the dust.” –Stephen Rich on brewing technology

Please Scroll Down for Full Show Notes and Recommended Resources from this Episode

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What We Discuss with our Panelists

  • Steve kicks off our conversation by defining what smart manufacturing means for the brewing industry: a.) being able to make better decisions quicker, b.) interacting with those machines and processes to extract information, and c.) consuming that information in an actionable, meaningful context
  • Connor walks us through an example demonstrating why real-time data collection is so important to the brewing process; it allows you to look for deviations as soon as they happen rather than at the end of the process when it’s too late to correct course
  • Nick talks about trends in the beverage industry, and making the best quality beer with an increased speed to market
  • Stephen discusses multiple ways to incorporate sustainability into the brewing process, including reducing water usage and tree-planting initiatives for offsetting your carbon footprint
  • Chris kicks off the Q&A by discussing how people, processes, and technology are all essential to a digital transformation in brewing, much like they are essential to other business initiatives including cybersecurity and marketing
  • Steve shares the importance of hiring people that are willing to make mistakes and have a sustainability-conscious mindset
  • Nick warns against the temptation to buy the latest technologies, while Stephen emphasizes hiring people that align with your brewery’s values
  • COVID has accelerated digital transformation, demonstrating that putting the right people behind digital initiatives can accelerate your timeline to results
  • Stephen talks about the increase priority on PPE and Clean-In-Place (CIP) in lieu of the pandemic
  • We close our fireside chat with a discussion on German beer purity law – better know as the Reinheitsgebot – and whether or not it impacts creativity and flexibility in the European brewing industry

Recommended Resources

  • Top 5 Solutions, representing process solutions, packaging equipment, and technologies for the beer and beverage industries
  • McRae Integration, headquarted in Toronto, this company provides provides controls integration, project management, and engineering services for clients in across multiple industries, with specialization in brewing
  • Cowbell Brewing, a destination craft brewery located in Blyth, Ontario
  • ICONICK Project Group, a Toronto-based industrial solutions company specializing in business transformation, program & project management, and technical services for industrial clients

Hear More from our Panelists on this Bonus Episode of Manufacturing Happy Hour!

We’re back with the Q&A segment of our live fireside chat in this bonus episode on the brewing industry. This time, the attendees from one of our recent “virtual happy hours” with our Manufacturing Happy Hour Industry Community get to ask the questions. We discuss why people, process, and technology are so critical to digital transformation in brewing, while tackling recent events and their impact on brewers. From COVID-19 & remote work to flexibility in markets like Germany where purity law is king, there’s more great discussion amongst our panelists from the Canadian beer market.

Connect with the Experts on LinkedIn

Nicholas Chan | Steve Grundy | Connor MacDonald | Stephen Rich