It’s a relatively common fact in the craft beer brewing industry that making beer the old-fashioned way is a very labor intense business. Quite literally a labor of love, so to speak. With that in mind, any system that builds efficiencies while limiting waste should be a welcome resource. A good inventory management system will help you do both.
Did you know it is possible to lose beer in a brewery? Or to find beer that was vintage beyond its best-by date? It has happened as a result of poor inventory management systems.
Does better inventory management help the craft beer brewing process?
Quality ingredients are at the heart of craft beer brewing. Given ingredients like hops have a five-year lead-time, planning is essential.
The four key ingredients to craft beer brewing; barley, water, hops and yeast require some pretty interesting processes to develop that special Lager, Pilsner or IPA. Each step requires the support of a good inventory management system to allow the smooth transition from raw materials to the tap, or bottle.
The first step in the craft beer brewing process is to put malted barley into the mash, in order to convert starches into sugars. Solids are then separated in a kettle, the ‘wort’ is drained and the solids are left. Next, the wort is cooled in the heat exchanger and transferred to the fermentation tank where yeast has already been added.
The fermentation part of the procedure is pretty important because this is where the yeast converts the glucose in the wort. Voila, this little chemical reaction both carbonates the beer and gives it its alcohol content. SO, how good would your beer be if someone forgot to order the yeast?
Luckily the craft brewery in this story has a real-time inventory management system and yeast was ordered and delivered in plenty of time for brewing. Disaster averted and we allow the brew to develop in the fermenter for the required time and move on to bottling and labeling.
Here’s where a whole lot of bottlenecks can occur if the necessary stock is unavailable to package your tasty brew. You need bottles, and enough of them, so that half the batch is not left in the tank taking up valuable production space.
Labels need to be on-hand once bottling is complete or waste occurs through lost productivity and idle staff. Additionally, you will find crates of beer taking up valuable floor space. The same could happen if you have the labels and no boxes to pack the beer or no pallets on which to load the cases.
The reality is, there is more to the craft brewing process then four simple ingredients. Those in the business of craft brewing are a passionate bunch, and like to experiment with new flavors, styles and seasonal brews.
Citrus, honey, tea and even wood-smoked native timbers all need to be considered when planning a brew or developing new recipes. More inventory that needs to be controlled. And, let’s not forget the all-important cleaning and sanitization products needed in a brewery.
A question answered
So, in answer to the earlier question, absolutely, a better inventory management system will help the brewing process. It will give you an accurate indication of what stock is on hand and what is needed, stream-lining the ordering process.
As with any other industry, good inventory management will help with brewery production planning, increase productivity, cuts costs and reduce waste. Cheers to that!