Tatjana Milenovic, group vice president for ABB’s Food and Beverage division believes there is exciting potential when introducing robotics into the brewery.

“With apps making it possible for consumers to access updated tap lists for watering holes worldwide, it’s clear that consumers are willing to pay more, or wander further afield for a quality or artisan product,” she says.

Craft beer has helped boost the over all UK beer market 2.6 percent in 2018, the largest increase in 45 years. The US beer market also saw an increase of 1.8 percent for the same period.

Breweries are turning to intelligent automation to help them keep up with demands, boost flexibility and maximise profits.

“Adopting robotics in keg picking and packing applications can reap multiple benefits for breweries supplying the catering sector,” says Milenovic.

Robotics also represent an opportunity for smaller breweries to scale up their operations and reach more customers.

“While some breweries may be reluctant to move away from traditional practices, automating select processes can achieve consistent high quality. It can also remove brewery staff from repetitive or labour-intensive tasks to focus on managing process efficiency.”

Processing kegs can be a monotonous and physically taxing task but now with new developments in robotics, robots can do the heavy lifting.

Robots are being built that can grasp many different sizes and shapes without the need to change the robot or the gripper. This ultimately saves businesses money and time in the long run, reducing the need for regular upgrades.

An installation of ABB’s palletising system has helped one of Australia’s largest breweries keep up with demand.

The Foster’s plant in Yatala is using this new robotics system to efficiently pack cartons of beer in specific stable patterns with as little noise as possible and gentle handling. The robots are flexible and able to cope with different products, packing arrangements and packaging types. They also don’t require much maintenance and if one fails, production can still go ahead.

ABB’s IRB 6640 robot features upper end extenders and different wrist modules which can be customised and can bend backwards to fit into tighter spaces and crowded production lines.

Once the stacked pallets arrive on a conventional stacker, the pallets are isolated and moved to the unloading station. The robot grasps each keg, with a maximum payload of 235kg, rotates it through 180 degrees and places it on a conveyor belt. Another robot then loads the kegs back on to empty pallets for distribution.

These robots can be used with ABB’s RobotStudio software, which checks the residue in the keg, capacity and pressure conditions as well as the correct temperature for cleaning and rinsing agents. The system can be used while the robot is operational and records data relating to the life cycle of kegs.

Using technological innovations such as robots help. While inconsistencies add value to artwork, automation solutions allow beer that is crafted with 100 per cent consistency.”