Skepticism about the use of automation in craft brewing is common, but there are benefits to starting small.
Craft brewing is often spoken about as ‘a labour of love’, and automation is perceived as something that creates distance between the brewer and his beer.
But the craft brewing industry is becoming more competitive and less niche, with some turning to exports in a bid to grow their market share.
Mark Emmett, managing director of packaging company HMPS, says automation must be considered if craft brewers want to remain competitive.
“The ideal is that we grow the automation as the business grows,” he says.
“It’s seldom that any craft brewer would go all out on automation in one go – the stages need to be investigated and engaged.”
Emmett recognises that craft brewers are a different breed of customer, and he encourages them to start small with bottling conveyors and capping machines, and work up to case packers and palletisers.
“The degree of automation often depends on the size of the craft brewery,” he says.
“For all sizes, consistency is a primary goal. In smaller breweries, consistency comes with the nature of the job, as a limited number of refined experts have control over the process. But as breweries grow, automation enters the picture to maintain this consistency and reduce how many hands touch the product.”
The HMPS team meets with craft brewers and provides automation advice by conducting a study of their current production facilities.
“We provide them with output speeds and productivity improvement figures so they’re able to measure the level of profitability they may achieve using various case scenarios,” Emmett says.
HMPS can repurpose old machines and integrate existing machines into new systems. Its automation is scalable according to requirements.