Brewing company draughts in Rockwell Automation to boost production
Brewing company draughts in Rockwell Automation to scale production
(Photo: Business Wire)

Brewing company draughts in Rockwell Automation to boost production

Cleveland, Ohio-based Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) has invested in manufacturing analytics technology from Rockwell Automation to scale its production efforts.

As data proliferates, seemingly every industry is exploring ways to tap into mounds of information that they have struggled to make sense of previously. The craft brewing industry is no different. Founded in 1988 by brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway, the seasoned brewers at the Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) are like many others in the manufacturing space: they have data, but they want to get that data working for them better.

As one of the first beta customers for Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance, GLBC is now able to make more sense of its data. The appliance, so Rockwell Automation claims, provides health and diagnostic analytics on industrial devices. To do so, it “crawls your industrial network, discovers your assets and provides analytics by transforming the data generated into pre-configured health and diagnostic dashboards.”

As the application uncovers information about how devices are related to each other, such where they sit in the network topology or what makes them malfunction, it starts to understand the system on which it is deployed, enabling it to make prescriptive recommendations.

Greater insight, same high-quality beer

Using this industrial IoT technology, GLBC claims that the greater insights into the health of its beer-brewing machines will help it increase efficiency (and therefore – hopefully – produce more beer), while maintaining the original quality that regular consumers would be certain to miss. Gathering this kind of data from the plant floor should also minimize any unwanted downtime for machines.

“From day one, Great Lakes Brewing Company has been committed to good beer, which means we are relentlessly focused on quality – from the ingredients we use to our production process and beyond,” said John Blystone, electrical and control supervisor, Great Lakes Brewing Company.

“Adding advanced analytics and hardware diagnostics to our factory floor allows us to continue fulfilling our quality commitment by giving us more meaningful insight into our production equipment.”

Read more: IIoT and the rise of the cobots

Shelby, the industrial bot

To achieve the results Blystone and GLBC want to see, Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance contains a smart assistant or bot called Shelby.

Produced as part of a joint technology collaboration with Microsoft, Shelby is built on the Microsoft Bot Framework, which powers applications like Cortana and Skype, so should be able to interact with production staff using natural language processing.

Shelby is also trained with Microsoft Cognitive Services, which, alongside language understanding, means the bot could feature emotion and sentiment detection, as well as vision and speech recognition.

This training means that Shelby can help to enable brewery staff to easily identify and address equipment challenges in real time. Rockwell Automation global business manager Mike Pantaleano calls it “a data scientist in a box”.

The technology seems to be doing the trick already, with Blystone commenting on how “super easy” it was for GLBC to implement Shelby: “It took about three minutes, a couple of mouse clicks, and we were analyzing problems that we were then able to solve immediately.

“Shelby has been instrumental in our transition to a more connected plant floor environment, allowing us to tap into a wealth of existing data to solve problems very quickly,” Blystone said.

To see the technology in action, check out the video below from Rockwell:

Read more: Upskill’s augmented reality tech makes impact at GE