Automation and craft beer making

Mark Emmett

In recent years the craft beer industry has grown to become a competitive $160m industry, with brewers now turning their attention to exports.

When an industry gets competitive, players look around for ways to grow and get ahead of the competition. Automation can play a major role in lifting production and increasing profits for the brewers in this segment.

According to Mark Emmett, Managing Director of HMPS, craft brewers have traditionally been sceptical about automation and weary of the costs. “The fact remains craft beer is a labour of love and automation means more distance between the brewer and his beer” he said.

However, to grow market share and remain competitive, automation needs to be considered.

While it is seldom that any craft brewer would go all out on automation in one go, the stages need to be investigated and engaged. HMPS specialises in packaging and understands that a craft brewer is a different breed of customer all together. A noticeable trend is to start small with bottling conveyers and capping machines and work up to case packer and palletisers.

The degree of automation often depends on the size of the craft brewery.

For all sizes, consistency is a primary goal. Fewer brewers always leads to higher consistency because there’s less chance for human error. 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 ideal is that we grow the automation as the business grows. We are very happy to meet with craft brewers and provide automation advice by doing a study of their current production facilities. We would be able to provide them with output speeds and productivity improvement figures so that they are able to measure the level of profitability they may achieve using various case scenarios” said Emmett (pictured).

HMPS is able to repurpose old machines, integrate existing machines into new systems and sometimes even sell old machines. The company specialises in bespoke solutions so the automation is scalable according to the customer’s requirements. Furthermore, they offer maintenance on machinery, even if it is not their own product.

“The planning phase has become longer because machines need to have the longevity to cope with consumer demands and future growth. For example, a brewer may be packing bottles today but when they move into an export market they may need to change over to cans,” said Emmett.

“And then we understand that whether it is a bottle or a can, there are various sizes and packaging materials and configurations to consider. We spend more time with the customer working out the various scenarios and possible configurations, and designing to accommodate these.

“Consumers are driving manufacturing. Manufacturers are responding to consumer demands at a more rapid pace, and machines need to keep up with these changing demands.”

HMPS is a wholly owned Australian company which specialises in the design, development and manufacturing of high quality machinery for packaging processes. The company serves customers across all industries.

Starting out as a result of the key wine industry in South Australia, the company designed and developed the first Bag in Box machinery back in the eighties and has since grown to offer case packers, RSC, palletisers, carton erectors and sealers, pick and place applications and specialised robotic solutions.

HMPS can offer innovative and specialised machinery which has been adapted to the client’s unique requirements.

“Through our extensive experience in the design and manufacturing of packaging machinery, not just for the locally but also the international market, we are able to advise customers on tried and tested methods to ensure the smooth operation of their business,” said Emmett.

HMPS will be exhibiting at the CBIA Craft Brewers Conference in the Adelaide Convention Centre from 25 – 27 July 2017.