High-tech logistics for an age-old sector

Enterprise: Konvoy

Why they stand out: The tech-based start-up is disrupting a traditional industry, lowering pubs’ impact on the environment, and saving producers a lot of money with its IoT-based keg-pooling technology.

Until recently, every brewery in Australia had to buy and service, for themselves, all the kegs they needed to distribute their beer around the country. They then had to try to track and retrieve those kegs. The concept of keg pooling changes all that.

Keg pooling takes away the need for brewers to own their own kegs, and the major disruptor spearheading keg pooling in this country is Konvoy.

“We own the kegs, take care of the servicing and logistics, and brewers rent the kegs from Konvoy,” the company’s co-founder, Adam Trippe-Smith, explains. Once producers clean and fill the kegs, they deliver them to the pubs, bars and restaurants they supply – then they can forget about them. Konvoy collects the empty kegs from those venues, anywhere in Australia. “Konvoy’s model for keg rental gives producers the confidence to get on with doing what they do best: making and selling beer and other beverages,” Adam avers.

“We are expanding internationally into Europe and the US over the next 12 months.”

Although brewing is a fairly traditional industry, Konvoy is a high-tech business that leverages the Internet of Things (IoT) to track and manage the kegs it rents out, via a tracking technology it has developed, called Katch. “The active Katch beacons track the kegs, to report back on the location and temperature of the keg,” Adam explains. “This has multiple benefits, from allowing breweries to track their product and the condition of the product itself, to removing the need for manual scanning on arrival at venues, reducing friction in the process and increasing efficiencies.”

The pandemic has been particularly hard on the hospitality industry; brewers got hit with lockdowns, bringing kegs to a standstill. Then, as the market began to gear up for the spring and summer demand, breweries were struggling to locate their kegs and faced increasing losses and production delays as a result. Konvoy’s technology removed this issue for clients, getting its fleet of 200,000 kegs back out into circulation quickly.

Besides the efficiencies it offers its customers, Konvoy also provides environmental and sustainability benefits. “Our pooling model, combined with its Katch tracking product, allows Konvoy to make the most efficient use of kegs across all its users,” Adam explains. “Why collect kegs from Perth, only to bring them back to Sydney for filling? Instead, they are redirected back to the nearest brewery to be cleaned and filled again. This saves on fuel, cost and time. We are reducing the distance that empty kegs travel and, in turn, reducing the environmental impact significantly.”

The business has recently completed a successful capital raising that has enabled Adam and fellow co-founder Shane Bradley to expand their offering and their team. “We recently announced that Keg Services has been integrated under our Konvoy brand to provide servicing for all our kegs, to maintain them in an excellent condition,” Adam enthuses. “We are expanding internationally into Europe and the US over the next 12 months, first with our Katch tracking solution and then with our core pooling business.”

With regard to the team, Konvoy has been able to make a series of new appointments and promotions: Lincoln Kelly has been promoted to operations director for Konvoy Australia & New Zealand, overseeing the keg fleet, logistics and Konvoy Services; Nick Becker has been promoted to general manager, Australia, and will be responsible for all Australian customer activities; and Tom Madams has been promoted to general manager, New Zealand, and will be responsible for New Zealand customer activities, based in Auckland; Fraser Robertson will relocate from Sydney to Melbourne to bolster Konvoy’s coverage of customers based in Melbourne.

“Konvoy aspires to be the leading provider of keg pooling and keg-tracking solutions, globally and sustainably,” Adam enthuses. “The capital we have raised is a key ingredient to enable us to achieve this vision.”

This article first appeared in issue 37 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine