Even the artisanal and tradition-steeped practice of brewing has not been left untouched by digitalization. For the latest proof of this, look no further than the GEA InsightPartner brewery process software that generates real-time information – and consequently insights – from real-time data. The reasoning behind this: Digital tools open up new scope for the creative process. So where do brewing companies in the grip of digital transformation with all its connectivity, advanced analytics, robotics and automation find those freedoms?
What benefits do breweries derive from digitalization? Hassan Yazdi, a digital services expert at GEA, and his colleague Mark Schneeberger, who heads the Application Development for Beverages & Beer at the company, dive into this topic with journalist David Howell in UK magazine Process Industry Informer’s podcast. Dr. Yazdi focuses on customer-centered digital services that improve plant productivity, while Dr. Schneeberger has impressive practical credentials as a brewmaster, project manager at large breweries and facilitator in the rollout of technological innovations. Together, they are driving the process of adapting the GEA InsightPartner and its subsequent iteration, the GEA OptiPartner, to breweries’ needs
Speaking the language of production teams
As a matter of fact, while developing the process software together with well-known brewery customers, GEA stumbled on something interesting: It turned out there was a bit of a communications gap that had been deliberately overlooked until then. Notably middle managers at breweries, i.e. the technical leads and those responsible for production, lack clear, easily comparable data that can be reliably accessed as the basis for decision making on production processes. Why is that? Because it’s not only difficult to integrate legacy systems, but the data from the PLC is also only available retrospectively. This means paperwork is still the order of the day in many instances. Overseeing production as a whole entails monitoring and factoring in a huge number of complex processes. But the methods are inadequate, to say the least. For Yazdi and Schneeberger, this was reason enough to tailor the GEA InsightPartner to breweries’ needs. In short, this digital system collects data from various sources around the plant – typically the PLC systems – and collates them in a KPI-based information layer. In this way, management no longer needs to scour columns of data, but benefits from information that has been expertly evaluated and compiled in easy-to-review dashboards.
GEA InsightPartner essentially works like a pair of spectacles to correct brewers’ short-sightedness.”– Mark Schneeberger, Head of Application Development Beverages & Beer at GEA
Spectacles for the short-sighted
Breweries that embrace digitalization can harness advanced, real-time data analysis to improve their scheduling and capacity management. Efficiency is rapidly enhanced because, firstly, the bulk of the manual documentation effort is eliminated. Secondly, personnel, equipment and material utilization is improved. And thirdly, equipment maintenance costs are reduced through remote monitoring and error prevention.
Thanks to the process software, the brewery is in a position to respond to fluctuations in raw material, call up past brew histories for seasonal varieties and eliminate bottlenecks so that the business can precisely determine peak productivity and product quality. “GEA InsightPartner essentially works like a pair of spectacles to correct brewers’ short-sightedness. Since production managers now have fewer blind spots, it is much easier for them to plan the process and significantly enhance productivity,” says Dr. Schneeberger.
Dr. Yazdi adds a decisive insight gleaned during the development process: “In reality, the technical side is not the biggest obstacle. Changing brewing culture, which is more of an art than a science, is the bigger challenge. Yet with digital tools, the process is based on evidence and consequently becomes more scientific, without dispelling the magic of the artisan’s touch. Our priority is encouraging operators to put their trust in digital systems.”
Big brother is helping you
At the same time, Hassan Yazdi, Mark Schneeberger and their team are rolling out the GEA InsightPartner’s big brother, the GEA OptiPartner brewery, at customer sites. With this system automatically optimizing each brew, breweries can run on autopilot and streamline workflows at the touch of a button. Not that this turns brewing into the equivalent of unmanned spaceflights. Instead, the self-adaptive and self-learning system boosts plant productivity and safety. This optimization solution is close to becoming a reality. GEA’s digital application specialists have already implemented this autopilot solution for dairy processes and instant coffee production. Now they are working with brewers on the next industry solution.
With his 25 years’ experience in customer-focused digital solutions, Dr. Yazdi describes the company’s own digital customer journey in this way: “GEA is and will remain a supplier of systems and process technology. That’s why we don’t see digitalization as an end in itself, but rather as an addition to our decades of experience and large installation base. We conceive digital tools as elements of our process and equipment design for customers.”
Brewing is more of an art than a science. But with digital tools, the process is based on evidence and consequently becomes more scientific, without dispelling the magic of the artisan’s touch.” – Hassan Yazdi, Senior Manager Digital Services at GEA
In overseeing the development of digital service products at GEA since 2017, Dr. Hassan Yazdi creates customer-centric design, champions a collaborative environment for factory-wide, model-based digital solutions and spearheads the digital transformation of GEA’s service business.
In October 2020, Dr. Mark Schneeberger was appointed Head of Application Development for Beverage and Brewing Technology at GEA. The Group’s brewing hub is based in Kitzingen, Germany.