Efficiency of Aussie craft brewers revealed in new survey

craft beer, brewery, craft brewers
Glasses with different sorts of craft beer on wooden bar. Tap beer in pint glasses arranged in a row. Closeup of five glasses of different types of draught beer in a pub.

Manufacturing performance software company OFS has unveiled the findings of its first Craft Brewers Benchmark Report that gathers insights that can help improve packaging line efficiency in the fast-growing craft brewing industry.

According to the study, while craft brewers fare well in terms of speed and waste reduction, the industry average for time actually spent producing beer across the total time production lines operate was just over 50 per cent. It also noted that the average time between stoppages on the line was 11 minutes and 48 seconds and that there is a need to reduce the time it takes to set up a job, currently set at just over 49 minutes, for better overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

“For every 1000 beers made, there are three minutes and 12 seconds lost to unplanned downtime on the packing line,” James Magee, CEO of OFS, said. “There are over 50 ways this can typically happen, including equipment problems, raw material and packaging material issues as well as human errors. But it essentially means brewers are only producing just over half of the time the line is intended to be running, meaning less beer made at a higher cost.”

The report does highlight pluses for Australian craft brewers, as they achieved average scores of 98.6 per cent for speed, and 99.7 per cent for waste management. Magee cautioned, however, that the need for speed isn’t everything.

“Faster runs on the line don’t guarantee more output – they can often cause more stoppages and even add to waste over time,” Magee said. “Most brewers who know their good days from bad have identified an optimal speed for monitoring output over high, mid and low run speeds.

“The key message here is that craft brewers must pay particular attention to how they account for changeover time in the costing of products, because it’s likely taking longer than they think which impacts margins,” Magee added. “Given craft brewers tend to have many SKUs, it’s imperative to accurately account for changeover time when scheduling and planning production, to avoid overtime and other issues arising from running behind plan.”

Despite the revelations, Magee believes most brewers are not actually losing out by falling behind on these averages. However, they are missing out by not having the data to know how they are performing in the first place.

“Data and insights are everything in a manufacturing setting,” he explained. “We frequently speak to brewers who don’t know how much beer they’re producing, how much they could produce, or what causes unplanned downtime. The inertia and an overreliance on outdated paper-based data tracking cause major inefficiency, hard costs, opportunity costs, supplier issues, and more.

“Harnessing this data is much easier and cheaper than most people think and can be achieved through simple, automated software that integrates manufacturing performance data in real time,” Magee added. “The industry can combine better data with the ‘buy Australian’ mindset and budget boost to gain a much stronger foothold in the beer Australians drink.”