From barrels to bytes: Beer, IoT and the green transition

Posted on 19 Mar 2024 by The Manufacturer

Dr. Roland Pahl, beer industry expert, at Pall Corporation explains how smarter beer means greener beer. As the demands of environmentally conscious consumers, investors and regulators continue to grow, brewers must utilise all the tools at their disposal to bolster their sustainability credentials.

Embracing digitalisation is a key part of the puzzle, with technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) in the filtration process empowering brewers to achieve efficiency, enhance quality and meet sustainability targets.

As our thirst for beer persists, with the global beer market expected to surge from $821.39bn in 2023 to a staggering $1,072.50bn by 2030, it is vital that brewers fully leverage these technologies. Failure to do runs the risk of losing competitiveness through drops in quality and efficiency, as well as the potential alienation of environmentally aware consumers.

Maximising quality and efficiency

Making beer is a complex process, with high-quality standards set to preserve the specific taste and flavour of each particular brew. Large-scale breweries have the added challenge of maintaining consistency across multiple sites. Historically, it has been difficult to access and evaluate meaningful data in real-time to address potential issues before they impact product quality.

To achieve a high-quality product, there must be consistency throughout the filtration process. If temperature settings are off on one of the filtration machines, it could ruin the entire batch of beer. If this issue isn’t corrected quickly, it will impact multiple batches and an entire production day could be wasted.

Lack of visibility into quality performance metrics combined with the potential for human error (with multiple operators running equipment differently and reporting the data manually), can create inconsistencies in the flow rate and temperature data collected. Because brewers may not be able to identify these issues until after the problem occurs, there is no way to recover lost product or time.

The green challenge

From small craft breweries to large scale operatives, brewers around the world are focusing more and more on addressing sustainability challenges and introducing greener manufacturing practices. Brewing uses a significant amount of water; it’s estimated that it takes roughly 4–8 gallons of water to produce one gallon of beer. Beer production also requires a significant amount of energy. According to a study by the Brewer’s Association, it takes 50–60 kWh (or 50,000 watts) to produce one barrel of beer. Leveraging membrane filtration for microbiological stabilisation compared to thermal installations is a good first step to help achieve sustainability goals by reducing energy, as flash pasteurisers consume up to 80% more energy on the thermal and electric side compared to beer filtration with membranes, but there are new technologies available that can enable more energy savings than before.

Brewers recognise the potential for water and energy reduction, but without access to accurate data, it’s a challenge for brewers to identify trends and focus on initiatives that will provide the most impact on the environment in a positive way.

The power of digitalisation

IoT technology addresses quality, efficiency and sustainability challenges head on, providing easy access to accurate, quantifiable data on various devices that enable real-time decision-making to optimise operations. With unprecedented access to real-time and historical data, process optimisation becomes more efficient, which improves overall operational expenses.

Connecting the filtration machine to the cloud provides brewers with access to accurate data in real-time. For example, if the oxygen levels are out of specification, a smart system will adjust process parameters to meet the quality specification. This process visibility helps identify potential problems before they impact the quality of the beer, making the whole process more consistent and efficient.

Along with quality and efficiency gains, IoT can support sustainability initiatives by tracking volumes of water used during the process, helping identify where to reduce water usage. By pairing IoT with a membrane filtration system, brewers will be able to identify more areas to optimise machine performance which leads to a reduction of overall energy usage during production. In addition, leveraging IoT on a filtration machine allows for the collection and tracking of sustainability related metrics (i.e. water and energy usage) to continually reduce consumption.

Brewing a greener future

Mounting pressures to accelerate the green transition continue to affect all sectors of the economy, with the brewing industry being no exception. While digitalisation offers significant benefits for many aspects of beer production, the integration of IoT technology in the filtration process is particularly crucial in addressing quality, efficiency and sustainability challenges. IoT has opened the gateway to unprecedented levels of accurate data, allowing brewers to minimise waste, maximise efficiency and consistently produce the perfect pint.

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