Driving operational excellence in brewing

Dec 30, 2011 | Food Processing & Packaging

These are economically challenging times for the UK’s brewing industry. John Taylor, VP sales operations and business consulting, EMEA, AspenTech explains how both breweries and their suppliers must streamline processes in order to drive real profitable growth while still meeting customer demand

For many breweries and their ­systems integrator partners, the key challenge is improving operational excellence. One leading systems integrator that provides enterprise-enabled manufacturing solutions to companies across the sector was approached by a world-class brewing company operating in the EU. Its client was looking to dramatically improve brewery productivity, quality, customer service and operational ­control/flexibility.

The integrator delivered a solution that allowed the brewing company to make a step-change improvement in its end-to-end business process extending from the brew house to tanker shipment.

The integrator’s approach was based on a consultative review of the brewer’s operations. Applying its extensive brewery industry experience to conduct a comprehensive review of its client’s operations, it made the following recommendations:

• integrate and synchronise the brewing company’s business and process control systems in order to deliver improved productivity, quality and compliance.

• replace the outdated control systems with an integrated manufacturing execution system (MES) that extends from the brew house to the tanker station.

The project scope included data manipulation and analysis; batch tracking and product traceability; finished stock and work-in-process inventory control; plant performance reporting; and maintenance management reporting.

Delivery and recommendations

The integrator delivered the MES solution on the Aspen InfoPlus.21 platform including Aspen Batch.21 from AspenTech. The system was capable of providing operational personnel at the brewery with the following functionality:

• visualisation and analysis of operations from a business perspective and translation of business decisions into specific actions.

• real-time view of current operating conditions on the process and plant with KPI reporting for utilities and environmental data.

Scoping the results

The solution has delivered a broad range of benefits to the brewery including increased site capability and cost avoidance and enhanced productivity and asset utilisation. The integrator’s MES solution has enabled an increase in site capacity by 20% and resulted in major savings through cost avoidance. The information management and analysis capabilities of the system allow for continuous improvement. In addition, site productivity has increased while driving asset utilisation and plant efficiency.

Performance information is now readily available on-line in real time, visibility of operations enables timely intervention and analysis tools can identify optimal operating conditions.

Positive prospects

Today process manufacturers from around the world use process optimisation software solutions from companies like AspenTech to reduce costs, increase capacity and optimise operational performance end-to-end throughout the engineering, plant operations and supply chain management processes, resulting in millions of pounds in cost savings.

Pressures in industry

The brewing industry is facing particular pressures. Rising energy and malt costs are hurting profit margin. Beer sales in pubs are now suffering as drinkers seek out cheaper supplies in local supermarkets and taxes remain high, encouraging a move to foreign produced drinks, such as wine.

In light of these complex challenges, it is becoming increasingly important that breweries and their suppliers use the best optimisation and performance management solutions in order to combat these challenges and maximise profits. Certainly, as this article has shown, such solutions are critical to the efficient production of the bitters, stouts, ales and lagers that end up in the pumps in pubs and restaurants and ultimately in customers’ glasses.

Awareness is now growing of how this approach to process optimisation brings benefits, not just to the brewers who own and operate the breweries and manufacture the beers, but also to the consumers who regularly purchase and enjoy these products.