The process of brewing a quality beer can be particularly labour intensive and it’s a process that takes time. Mill, mash, lauter, boil, whirl, cool, ferment and carbonate, there’s a lot going on so it is important for breweries to find ways to optimise production approaches to increase brewing efficiencies.
Why you should employ lean manufacturing for your brewery
Lean manufacturing improves both brewhouse performance and brewery inventory management. Employing lean production can prevent the underutilisation of equipment and minimise incidences of dated stock and beer waste.
Total quality management requires brewers to firstly define the problem by conducting a root cause analysis to identify problem areas. What are the solutions and counter measures needed to resolve production issues? Involve employees to brainstorm and generate ideas.
Test ideas and check results before implementing. If necessary, redesign the brewing production layout to improve workflow, storing necessary tools and supplies on-hand and in easy to access areas to avoid time wasted searching for labels or ingredients. Standardise operating procedures, making sure all staff are adequately trained and familiar with the procedures.
Imaging-based machine vision technology can be beneficial in lean brewing. Using vision sensors, the technology is capable of checking fill levels when bottling. When labelling and packing, the system can analyse and check the placement and orientation of beer labels.
Keeping control of inventory is also important to lean manufacturing and this is where brewery inventory management has a lot to contend with. We generally know the three basic classifications of inventory are raw materials, in-progress inventory and finished goods.
In brewing, raw ingredients need to be kept in top quality condition and be on-hand when required. As the brew progresses through each production stage, it remains part of your in-progress inventory and then once bottled, becomes your finished goods.
What brewery inventory management needs to consider are all the peripheral components of brewing inventory. The beer is, quite rightly, a very important aspect but not the only one, items such as the packaging materials and containers are part of the brewery inventory. Including the empty bottles, riggers and kegs held in stock but not in use.
Managing brewery supplier relations
Brewery inventory management is a difficult enough task. Different brews are individually crafted and perfected with just the right amount of malted barley or hop varietals to enhance the beer flavours.
Critical to the success of any lean manufacturing business is maintaining beneficial relationships with your suppliers. A lean and agile supply chain is important. As the craft brewing industry continues to grow, suppliers also play a role in ensuring the quality of the final product. Mutual respect fosters trust which is imperative when dependant on having the best quality ingredients in the right place, at the right time.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.