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Prince Eddy’s Brewing Company has integrated Siemens’ automation and control software in their Picton, Ont.-based operation.

Increased speed, efficiency, consistency and quality at heart of new industrial processes

“Big Beer,” a handful of massive international brewers, accounts for 60 per cent of Canada’s $5.6-billion of annual beer sales. That leaves the country’s 800 or so craft brewers to fight it out for coveted fridge and tap space – and it’s cutting-edge digital technology that is giving practitioners of this ancient art form a boost.

A craft brewery builds its market by providing customers with a unique taste, based on its own special recipe. The tricky part, says Peter Toombs, founder and president of the DME Group, is keeping their market share by consistently providing consumers with fresh craft beer that provides unique taste, pint after pint, year after year.

“Today’s craft brewers are progressive, sophisticated operators and larger than they were in the past,” Mr. Toombs says. “People may get into it with a dream and passion, but very soon they have to decide whether they’re in it to win it, or just for a paycheque.”

The Charlottetown-based DME Group provides small and medium brewers around the world with affordable, digitally-driven manufacturing equipment that gives them the same advantages enjoyed by Big Beer: the ability to run processes exactly the same way, every time, and with the least relianceon human oversight. If a batch proves substandard, DME’s systems provide detailed documentation that allows the brewer to pinpoint the root cause and resolve it.

These digitalization solutions are the backbone of what is being called Industry 4.0, a new era of manufacturing defined by increased speed, efficiency, consistency and quality – innovations that Joris Myny believes will create a significant increase in Canadian manufacturing output.

“Ten, 20 years ago, there was a relocation of manufacturing capacity from Europe and the Americas to Asia,” says Mr. Myny, a senior vice-president of Siemens Canada Ltd. Who oversees divisions focused on digital automation for the manufacturing and processing industries. “That was because a lot of the cost of manufacturing is determined by labour. Robotics and intelligent machines can now handle some of the less complex processes. As a result, we’re starting to see manufacturing relocate back to where the product demand is, rather than in countries with low-cost labour.”

Mr. Myny sits on the board of the Next Generation Manufacturing Canada Innovation Supercluster, a federally funded network of private and public sector organizations that believes advanced technologies can make Canadian manufacturers leading players on the global industrial stage.

“Digitalization is not just a tuning or a slight improvement,” Mr. Myny says. “Since the last major manufacturing transformation – and for that you have to go back to the late sixties and the introduction of programmable logical control – there have been incremental changes to optimization and productivity, but there hasn’t been a step change like this. The entire process has changed. Now it’s all about speed and exactly meeting customer demands.”

“To innovate fast, the latest design information must be available to all suppliers inreal time,” Mr. Myny says. “It’s crucial that all the parts fit together.”

Siemens has also provided the automation and control software for DME’s beer brewing systems. That technology has given a competitive edge to small and regional craft brewers, both in Canada – such as Prince Eddy’s Brewing Company in Picton, Ont. – and in more than 67 countries.

“There’s more competition in the beer market now than ever,” says DME’s Mr. Toombs. “Craft brewers need larger marketing budgets to cut through the noise, which means they need larger margins while still producing a high-quality product. Automation, instrumentation and control of their processes are now becoming much more relevant to the small- to midsized guy than they ever were in the past – and using digital tools to make that happen is essential.”

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.