When you build your brewery, you want to think about your kettles, fermenters, centrifuges and bottling lines — you know, the sexy stuff that actually makes the beer. But there are several layers of less visible but still key equipment that you may not realize existed, much less the options available to you.
One such layer is what we might call the auxiliary components layer, the parts and machines that help move your product from one station to the next — or help move the machines themselves.
I ran into several companies at Pack Expo Las Vegas 2017 who had innovative auxiliary components that can make a big difference in your yields, costs and energy use. Some of this equipment may be out of reach for you at the moment, but many of these companies have several levels of entry that can still make a big difference right where you’re at.
Garvey Corp.’s Spiral Infinity Accumulation Table
Let’s start with the most visually exciting machine. Garvey Corp. specializes in conveyance, meaning not just helping move product from one place to another but also automating, accumulating and optimizing your line.
For breweries, they most often place accumulation tables where there are likely to be bottlenecks in production when one machine needs servicing, e.g., between the filler and the labeler. If you need to restock the labels but don’t want to stop your filler, their standard accumulation loop provides 60 ft2 of extra conveyor space so the bottles or cans can … well, accumulate, until you’re ready to start the labeler again.
Thomas Garvey, the president of the company, says they had some clients who needed more accumulation space but didn’t necessarily have a lot more floor space. So, Garvey teamed up with Ryson, makers of spiral conveyors, to develop a simple and elegant solution: the Spiral Infinity.
The Spiral Infinity can be extended to provide up to 290 ft2 of accumulation space with only a slightly larger footprint than the standard Infinity loop table. It’s one of those solutions that seems so obvious once you do it, but Garvey are the guys who actually did it, so good for them. Here it is in action.
Seepex progressive cavity pumps
I hadn’t even planned to talk to these guys, but I wanted to know if they’d seen the Amazon series Patriot, in which the main character, a CIA agent, gets an undercover gig at a company that deals with pipes, pumps and all things flow.
Then John Donegia asked me about removing spent grain. I said I’ve seen brewers shovel it out through a door in the kettle. He said that Seepex has pumps that can do that for you. I said that sounded pretty nifty.
The pump he recommended had a large cavity, double-helix shaped pipe. The twisting of the helix is what makes it a “progressive” cavity, and the benefit to you is that you can move high-solid materials through it — like spent grain — without introducing any more liquid to the system.
For between $3,000-5,000 you can get outfitted with one of these systems, which experience relatively little wear and so last a very long time. Seepex is the only manufacturer of progressive cavity pumps to have a headquarters in the United States (Dayton, Ohio, to be exact), so they can quickly provide the few replacement parts these pumps may need.
Regal Beloit bearings, motors and conveyors
Jim Kullman, Regal Beloit’s Industry Specialist for Food and Beverage, says they work with a lot of breweries when they’re preparing to expand to optimize their lines and improve their automation.
Their big thing is low-friction, run-dry parts — such as bearings, motors and conveyors — that improve your sustainability and save on energy costs. Among the breweries they’ve helped are Rheingeist, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada. You may have seen news about Sierra Nevada installing a dry-running conveyor using Regal Beloit’s System Plast NG Evo technology, which saved them 750,000 gallons of water in just one year.
The have also developed a new conveyor system, the ModSort, for situations such as packaging and palletizing where you may need to rotate a product 90 degrees before moving it down the line. The ModSort uses tiny spheres mounted in the belt and a second, internal belt to quickly, accurately and gently rotate and advance products without the need for mechanical arms to grab and shove them.
Atlas Copco compressors and vacuums
I learned at Pack Expo this year that your filling machines don’t necessarily come ready to use — you were probably equally surprised when you first learned that. You might need, say, an air compressor or a vacuum pump.
Some brewers will just go to the Home Depot and get something inexpensive that will run okay for a year or so. Those machines are meant for residential use, of course, and not for the kinds of heavy duty applications you need in your brewery.
Atlas Copco makes the heavy duty pumps and compressors that will hold up for the long run. They were quick to point out that they sell a top-of-the-line product, so many smaller breweries simply cannot afford them, yet.
SpotBot BLE shipment tracker
The more complex your supply chain, the less control you have over what happens to your beer each stage of the way. SpotBot helps you take back some control by providing you with information.
SpotBot BLE is a small blue device (available for $100 each) that you attach anywhere on your shipment where you want to gather information, e.g., on the outside of the pallet, inside a box or both.
The SpotBot gathers data on temperature, humidity, tilt and shock, and it uses Bluetooth technology to send it back to you as often as once per minute. You’ll receive time-stamped data and violation warnings when your thresholds are exceeded, so you can identify if there are problems in your distribution chain and where they’re happening.