Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve owned a brewery for 20 years this article is one you’ll want to read. No matter how long you’ve been in the biz you need to make sure your production process is optimized for your current needs. If your system has never been optimized, or has changed significantly since you last optimized it, chances are you are leaving money on the table.
If you’re thinking “ok great, but I don’t have time to do that right now,” don’t worry. Just think CIA. No, I don’t mean go get in touch with Jack Ryan — CIA stands for Control, Insulate, and Automate. If you consider what you can control, insulate, and automate, you will be well on your way to an optimized system.
You may have been told by a good friend or mentor to “control your controllables” when you find yourself in a challenging situation. The good news is that this advice extends to optimizing your production process, as well. In your production process you can control temperature, pressure, flow rate, tank levels, and more. The more you can control on your process, the greater the quality of the end-product will be.
Imagine that you’re producing a beer that needs to ferment at a specific temperature. You can install a sensor on the mash/lauter tun to monitor the temperature. If your operator notices that the temperature is too low, they can turn a heater on. Or, there could be a temperature control on the heater set to the ideal temperature. Ideally you may do both, or automate the heater to only turn on when the temperature decreases past a certain point.
Similarly, you can be add controls to nearly every aspect of your production facility, as required. These can be manual controls (alarms to notify you to manually control some aspect of production) or automated controls, depending on your requirements. A qualified engineer can help you determine the best system to meet your needs.
You probably already know to make sure that your kettles/boilers and hot water lines are well insulated. Not only will this improve safety, but you will reduce your electrical bill as well. Don’t stop at there though! If the contents of you vessel/pipe need to be hotter or colder than the space they’re in, then you should insulate them!
Of course, temperature is not the only thing you may need to insulate against. Let me know if you would like to learn more!
Once you’ve figured out what you need to control, you need to consider which processes need to be automated. The most important things to automate are your critical systems and systems which are difficult or dangerous to manually operate. What is right for your facility may not be what is right for another facility. This is why it is always important to make sure your engineer is aware of your goals and priorities.
Lets look at the temperature control example again. Imagine that you don’t need the temperature to be increased or decreased immediately. You may chose to install a temperature gauge and have your operator manually control the heater, as needed. In this case, you have decided that automation is not necessary. In the future you may decide to automate so that your operator can focus on other tasks.
Imagine, however, that you have a hot water line going to a tank. The operator could be burned while manually closing the hot water valve if the tank over-flows. In this case it would be ideal to have a level control valve installed. This would automatically shut off the hot water line when the level on the tank reached a certain point. I recommend having a qualified engineer perform a process hazard analysis on your system to determine which controls need to be automated.
If you have any feedback, please let me know!