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Top 5 Advantages of Brewery Automation

Lord Hobo Brewing Company uses multiple BrewOps sensors to streamline operations, compile actionable data, and keep eyes on critical equipment 24/7.

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Lord Hobo Brewing Company uses multiple BrewOps sensors to streamline operations, compile actionable data, and keep eyes on critical equipment 24/7.

Keith Gabbett was on vacation in Vermont relaxing with his family when an alert sounded on his mobile phone. It indicated that the boiler, a crucial piece of equipment at Lord Hobo Brewing Company in Woburn, Mass., was down.

Gabbett, the facility’s brewmaster, sprang into action. He called his Maintenance Manager, John Irwin, to check it out. Fortunately, Irwin confirmed that he was simply performing routine maintenance. And from some 200 miles away, Gabbett could return to his vacation with no worries. 

However, later that afternoon, there was a real emergency. And this time, there was no alert.

“Our chillers went down and we didn’t have any eyes on that part of the process,” Gabbett remembers. “We didn’t catch it until a couple days later.”

Realizing the criticality of the problem, Gabbett called Aaron Ganick of BrewOps to find a solution.

“Aaron and his team immediately began to develop a product that would work on our chillers.”

That was the birth of the BrewOps Chill, a sensor that provides real-time pipe temperature monitoring and 24/7 glycol monitoring—preventing unexpected chiller failure.

“We were happy to be the test facility,” Gabbett says. “We now have real, up-to-the-minute information. If there is a problem, we can react to it quickly. We can fix it rather than walking in on Monday morning to a disaster. And it’s a solution that helps a lot of other breweries.”

Benefits of Sensor Technology for Brewery Equipment

Lord Hobo, a small-to-medium sized 40-barrel craft brewery, began using BrewOps sensors in 2021. They began with just one or two sensors and then scaled to using the majority of the BrewOps equipment.

Lord Hobo Maintenance Manager John Irwin talked with BrewOps’ Aaron Ganick about the partnership and how the BrewOps technology has made his job easier since the first installation three years ago.

“BrewOps is now very well integrated into our brewery,” says Gabbett, a 15-year veteran of the brewing industry. “They’re involved from top to bottom and back to front with everything that we’re doing.”

According to Ganick, the partnership began with an application focused prioritization of needs, rapid implementation of prototypes and occasional wacky experiments sometimes using plastic bags and duct tape.

“In the beginning we were focused on how industrial sensing technologies could be used in a brewery environment, to save operators time and resources,” he explains. “In the case of the BrewOps Purge we were using sensors and algorithms to reduce purge times, saving brewers valuable CO2. By then we knew we were onto something special and created a culture of collaboration-based innovation with our brewing partners.”

For Gabbett and Irwin, there are many advantages and benefits of using BrewOps automation technology at Lord Hobo:

1. Ease of Mind

Gabbett says the biggest advantage is the confidence gained from having sensor technology monitoring crucial equipment throughout the brew house. “We can feel comfortable that our brewery and our utilities are acting the way that they should,” he says. “If something were to go wrong, we get instant notification about it so we can react as quickly as possible with a very minimal amount of downtime or disruption to the product.”

Irwin, who has managed the maintenance at Lord Hobo for seven years, confirms that peace of mind helps him keep the machines running. “I’m the maintenance department,” he says. “If it breaks, I fix it. If it comes in new, I install it. I just try to keep the wheels rolling around and around. And BrewOps gives us ‘eyes on the equipment’ at all times, which makes my job so much easier.”

2. Actionable Data

BrewOps has a patented communications methodology that enables long range and high-speed data from the sensor to either a mobile app for direct access, or to a gateway that relays that information to its cloud solution.

“I can’t be everywhere at once, and sometimes you can only see what’s right in front of you,” Irwin says. “These sensors help to guide us in the right direction. The vibration sensors are fantastic. They let us know if a motor is failing. The temperature sensors let us know if something falls out of parameter, and pressure sensors also provide critical data. It’s by no means hands off. But it gives a good piece of mind to know that if something goes wrong, we’re going to get an alert and it’s going to point us in the direction of what needs attention.”

3. Ease of Installation

A BrewOps sensor is plug-and-play without required IT or systems integration. It can be installed in a few minutes and begins delivering data as soon as it is paired with the free BrewOps iOS and Android mobile app. The sensors are also extremely rugged, have a small footprint so they require minimal space and are battery powered with a replaceable long lasting industrial power source.

4. Ease of Use

The technology is sophisticated but simple to use and requires minimal training. “Everyone on the floor can use it expertly,” Gabbett says. “When you have technology that gets buy-in from the employees, they will actively use it and also provide feedback to help the entire process run more smoothly.”

5. Time, money, and downtime savings

Brewery equipment is expensive and must be carefully maintained. However, downtime can be even more expensive, Irwin says.

“The sooner we get an alert, the sooner we can take the appropriate actions to get things back up and running,” he explains. “To me, BrewOps has been a blessing. Every single one of those little sensors is crucial to the consistency in making beer, which is incredibly important. Getting eyes on that kind of stuff is just as important as taking care of the equipment itself. We have decreased our tank purge time significantly and obviously save money with reduced CO2 consumption.”

Lord Hobo is steam powered, which makes the boiler essential to operations. “If that boiler goes down for any reason, we cannot brew,” Irwin says. “When we can’t brew, we can’t make any money. If we don’t have a consistent steam power coming out of the boiler then it can greatly impact the quality of the beer. Similarly, with the BrewOps Chill, we try to keep consistent fermentation temperatures, which can be a very finicky thing. If our chiller goes down and the temperature starts rising, that can lead to off flavors, off aromas, and dumped batches of beer. That leads to customer complaints, which we never want. “Simply put, if the steam goes down, our brew houses are down. That is detrimental. If our chiller goes down and we don’t know about it, it can cost us a thousand gallons of beer.”

The Value of Collaboration to Find Brewery Solutions

Lord Hobo Brewing Company uses BrewOps sensors to provide them with “peace of mind.” Brew Master Keith Gabbett, Maintenance Manager John Irwin, and BrewOps’ Aaron Ganick.
Lord Hobo Brewing Company uses BrewOps sensors to provide them with “peace of mind.” Brew Master Keith Gabbett, Maintenance Manager John Irwin, and BrewOps’ Aaron Ganick.

For Gabbett, the ROI for utilizing BrewOps automation goes way beyond the ability to have a relaxing vacation. He says that the technology not only helps Lord Hobo solve problems, it helps them anticipate problems.

“We are proud to be a test facility for BrewOps,” Gabbett says. “When they first started creating the technology, they came to the brewery. We walked around, and they asked what our needs were or what would help us the most. What could be improved? We went through probably about 20 different things. They told us what was feasible and what made sense. If the development required time, they would create a prototype solution to help temporarily and to learn more about the application. The customer service has been incredible. If they don’t have the product that we’re looking for, they work hard to develop one that helps us and all breweries.”

Want to learn more about how BrewOps can easily automate your brewery and help you brew better beer? Get pricing and contact us today!

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