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How a Beer Company Adapted IoT and AI To Save Thousands

By Shrey Fadia
May 06, 2019

Every industry can take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), including wine, spirits and beer companies.

Sugar Creek Brewing Company, based in Charlotte, NC, are pioneers in providing high-quality craft beer. However, they were losing more than $30 thousand per month due to spillage and foam build up during the manufacturing process. The inconsistency in the foam level caused an unbalanced proportion of liquid and an irregular fill level. The beer in these bottles had to be discarded, causing a loss in revenues and profits.

The founders overcame this problem by adopting an AI solution, knowing that the technology has a solution to every problem these days. Sugar Creek Brewing Company installed Bosch IoT sensors and gathered data through these sensors on the IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) Platform, for better understanding and preventing this foam problem and fill level issues.

The company installed sensors along their manufacturing lines to monitor the time it takes to fill each bottle. It also monitored other parameters like temperature, pH, gravity, pressure, carbonation and beer level. This data was fed to the IBM Watson (cloud) IoT platform and analyzed, which recommended actions to be taken.

IBM visual insights AI in the Watson IoT Platform identified Sugar Creek’s issue causing excessive foaming in the bottle and resulted in saving more than $10,000 per month. Bottles that were previously declined due to improper fill levels were almost eliminated. This tremendously increased the amount of finished product Sugar Creek was able to deliver to the market.

“Brewing is an artist’s endeavor and AI is our secret ingredient,” said Joe Vogelbacher, CEO and co-founder, Sugar Creek Brewery. “The AI and IoT technology tell my team about many aspects of the beer, which are critical to efficiently creating a quality product. Now we can immediately point out a problem bottle. In addition, we have more controlled, precise fermentations which leads to a better flavor in the bottle  The resulting cost savings and product intelligence can be reinvested into our business.”

Improving operations helped the team at Sugar Creek Brewing to expand their production, bring new recipes to the market and hire more people, creating jobs.

In 2017, Dutch brewer Heineken, got a lot of attention when they implemented the use of AI and Big Data to ramp up their results. The company wanted to boost its current sales of 8.5 million barrels of beer brands per year in the US by adapting AI, IoT and Big Data.

Deschutes Brewery, based in Oregon, is famous for their rich porter Black Butte created with hints of chocolate and coffee. The company partnered with Microsoft in efforts to improve and enhance their brewing process. Deschutes has implemented machine learning technology to improve its fermentation process. Microsoft’s predictive learning tool determines the percentage of beer fermented in each batch and predicts when it’s time to switch to the next phase.

Another example includes Buffalo Wild Wings, headquartered in Minneapolis, MN, is a popular sports bar which adopted IoT technology to tackle internal problems. They needed to eliminate the product loss resulting due to bad pours and bartenders that give beer away without entering the sale in the system.

They implemented BeerBoard system that monitors beer flow data through IoT sensors in the taps of Mulesoft. This compares the beer output with sales information. They also used the IoT technology to manage the demand of the assortment of beers at all locations.

Independent and small American craft brewers contributed $76.2 billion to the U.S. economy in 2017 and created 500,000 jobs. the total economic impact of the craft beer industry in North Carolina at $2.2 billion in 2017.

Currently, there are now more than 7,000 craft breweries in the United States, a surge of 20% in two years. While craft beer sales increased by five percent in 2018, overall beer sales in the U.S. declined one percent, suggesting an increasingly competitive landscape.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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