[IIoT Series] 2. The Internet of Beer

As promised in our previous post, the first industry insights of our IIoT series that we want to share with you concern the Hospitality sector, specifically looking at the pub-industry.

Our research, consisting of primary and secondary market research, focused on service providers, specialising in the supply, installation, and maintenance of beer and soft drinks dispense systems for licensed and non-licensed premises across the UK. We wanted to understand the pain points and challenges of dispense systems providers, their end-clients (pubs), and breweries, and uncover any other opportunities that could help them building a foundation for their IoT strategy. (Disclaimer: Some beers were harmed in the process)

State & key challenges

 Reporting and automation

A lot of pubs do not have fault prediction systems for beer pumps in place which means that faults on the dispense system cannot be anticipated, nor automatically reported. The most common ‘smart things’ that were found to be in place for the purpose of fault prevention were coolant systems, monitoring minimum and maximum water bath temperatures via sensors, and adjusting the cooling for the beer pipes and other beverages on tap accordingly.

kegs final

Another issue found was that when pubs are running out of beer in a keg, in the majority of pubs there was no way of knowing when a keg is running low (except at the point that no beer/ foam is coming out), which means staff have to get the keg replaced – a lengthy process, and some customers may not be able to get served their favourite beer in time. Some pubs rely on beer sales being passed through the EPOS tills but this is often not reliable due to bar staff pulling pints for mates or acquaintances.

In the event of new kegs having to be ordered, the ordering process in most pubs was found to be a pretty manual one – there was no automation in place and no trends analysis that can be acted/ ordered upon automatically.

Data capture and distribution

Larger pub groups use flow monitoring systems to monitor premises which visiting field engineers use to extract data from in order to check up on conditions that the coolant system has been operating in. A lot of smaller pub groups or independent pubs were found to not have any system in place though.

The beer distribution for pubs starts at the respective breweries, moves to distributors and resellers, and finally ends up in the pubs. The issue with that is that beer brands (i.e. brands like Heineken, Carlsberg, Coors, etc) have only little, if any, visibility over the exact data such as in which pubs their beer is being sold, how much of it, nor how many pints from each beer tap/ font. That also leads to a major asset management problem – certain beer brands pay for a contract to get prime positions at the bar for their taps/ fonts, and currently they do not have any way of controlling this.

Contract breaches

Contracted brewers are unable to ensure distributors and resellers do not switch out kegs in pubs to non-contracted breweries. It is suspected this contributes significant costs to the dispense system providers and their contracted brewery businesses – not only from lost sales for brewers but also the administration and interest costs incurred from trying to recover this lost contracted revenue.

IIoT opportunities to address these pain points

Having had a closer look at the user journeys of some of the dispense system providers, pub managers, and breweries, the following opportunities have been identified to push the pub industry to the next level in IIoT:

  1. Implementation of sensors allowing measurement of coolant performance intermittent and provision of statistical analysis by temperature and failure anticipation, and front-end system for field engineers to assist with system audit
  2. Sensors to be inserted into each font, with flow monitor measuring how much is being poured/ how many pints/ half pints and of what type of beer
  3. Remote diagnostics and automation of field engineer scheduling to client pub if system requires repair or maintenance
  4. Implementation of sensors on beer kegs to anticipate kegs running low, and dashboard for staff to get notified well in advance as well as monitor trends (e.g. seasonal consumption, weekday trends, etc)
  5. Automation of keg ordering based on actual consumption and trends analysis (M2M)
  6. Dashboard for beer brands to understand usage, consumption trends and anticipated revenue, system maintenance and defects, and overall impact
  7. Dashboard apps can provide virtually real time data to bar management, owners of small chains of pubs, marketing teams, area managers etc
  8. Inventory and delivery management via barcodes, RFID, or sensors (depending on asset), monitored and tracked via a dashboard, enabling staff to manage pub and breweries more efficiently, and to prevent contract breaches

The first pre-defined step onto our IoT maturity curve starts with a Proof of Concept.  Using our IoT prototyping suite consisting of sensors, eMeters, apps, enterprise IoT cloud platform and much more, we can explore and demonstrate the power IoT could have to your organisation within hours.  Get in touch if you would like a demonstration, or to speak with a technology or strategy consultant.

Next time coming up: IIoT and water companies…

Author: Gianna Illenseer

Product Strategy Lead with over 10 years industry experience, helping clients transform their businesses and making sense of their digital ecosystem. She and her team of strategically-minded people define and deliver outstanding user-centric digital experiences and product strategies.

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