Mastering Craft Brewing with Lean Manufacturing

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The pastime of drinking beer has evolved over the last few years. It seems like craft beer is omnipresent. New flavours, brands, and breweries are popping up everywhere you go. There has been a shift in consumer demand away from mass produced beer and instead more and more consumers are favouring an artfully pieced together beverage, also known as craft beer. Small and independent craft brewers are competing to make new aromas, flavours and differentiate the way a beer feels when you drink it. This competition has spawned a new age and the way we drink and produce beer is changing.

Managing a complex list of ingredients

Since part of the aim of craft brewing is to create a unique beverage, this requires unique ingredients. Different hops, fruits, spices, vegetables and even chocolate have all found their way into craft beers. Due to the variety that brewers are working with, the requirements are much more specific. In turn, this can have an impact on brewery inventory management in the form of managing inventory stock and ordering the amounts necessary to order from external suppliers. Additionally, often some of these eccentric flavours have a limited shelf life. Therefore, storing manufacturing ingredients for extended periods of time is not an option. Hops are perishable as well. This means that craft brewers need to be on top of their production in order to utilise their inventory and not let anything go to waste. This is similar to how food manufacturers manage their perishable inventory.

How can breweries implement a lean manufacturing process?

Craft breweries come in all different shapes and sizes, but there is a common theme emerging in the way many craft brewers are producing their beer. As they are looking to optimise this art, many are turning to a lean manufacturing model to optimise their business. Lean manufacturing focuses on providing tools and processes to eliminate waste in the production process. As a result, it can yield improved efficiency, effectiveness and an increase in profits. Craft breweries should be jumping at the chance of perfecting the perfect drink and production model.

A useful tool that can support lean manufacturing is brewery software with robust inventory management functionality. It can help streamline so many of the processes involved in craft brewing. Firstly, it can support a just-in-time process and it can help optimise inventory levels to decrease costs. Brewery inventory management can provide a full circle view of business operations and identify what is going on in a business in real-time. These real-time insights allow for just-in-time processes to be perfected and managed properly if something goes awry.

With real-time data from brewery inventory management software, you can look to establish key performance indicators and analyse what brews are doing well, what areas need improvement and what systems are delivering as they should. Additionally, it is customisable, so the interface and functionality can be as unique as each specific craft brew. It is user-friendly and can be managed without IT expertise too. Moreover, it can track costs and maximise yield, and it can communicate with other systems and external suppliers to help manage shipping and logistics.

Although many breweries are growing in size, lots of craft breweries start small and remain small. It is part of their ethos. Luckily, brewery inventory management software doesn’t require IT staff to manage a cumbersome system. It can fit into any brewery to make the production of craft beers a suave, delicious and lean process.

Case Study: ShinDigger Brewing Co

The seeds of ShinDigger Brewing Co were sown when founders Paul Delamere and George Grant started home brewing at the University of Manchester. With a loan from the government, they began shadow brewing. This means they didn’t actually own their brewery facilities. Instead, they developed their own recipes and brewed them on another brewery’s kit. Five years on, ShinDigger now operates out of one of Manchester’s thriving neighbourhoods.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

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.

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