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Business, STEM

Beer Brewing and Delivery Meets Big Data

We are about one month into the monsoon season here in Arizona. While our temperatures are still hot, the bone dry weather that is characteristic of the state most of the year disappears as the atmosphere warms and winds from the south bring humid air from the Sea of Cortez and the Gulf of Mexico. Increased humidity with a dewpoint of 55o or higher along with sporadic thunderstorms forces most of us with pets out of the house before 6 a.m.

Courtesy of MillerCoors

Courtesy of MillerCoors

Last week, while walking around the neighborhood with the pooch, I noticed a billboard advertisement celebrating the 110th anniversary of two iconic brands: Harley Davidson Motorcycles and Miller High Life beer. I do remember the 100th anniversary celebration of Harley Davidson Motorcycles in 2003. That was one party to remember. However, if my memory serves me correct, the Miller Brewing Company is surely more than 110 years old?

As it turns out, Frederick Miller began brewing beer in Milwaukee in 1855. He started bottling it in 1883, and later added pasteurization and mechanical refrigeration to the beer making process. Although Miller died in 1888, family members continued the company’s operations. It was in 1903 that the brand name “Miller High Life” was created with beer packaged in clear bottles. [Ref 1] Now having confirmed that both iconic brands are indeed 110 years old, a cold one is in order, don’t you think?

While many of my friends will argue about which beer is America’s favorite brand, the actual process of beer making hasn’t changed very much in over a century.  Before the rise and popularity of micro-breweries, as long as the beer satisfied the palate, and the price was right, most beer drinkers didn’t give much thought to where their beer was made and how it was delivered to stores, restaurants or pubs…until recently, anyway.

Courtesy of Miller Coors: Mashing Operations

Courtesy of Miller Coors: Mashing Operations

Beer is bottled, and it is also poured. According to the U.S. Brewer’s Association, the beer market grew 1% in 2012 and reported $99 billion in sales for 200,028,520 barrels of beer. [Ref 2] The industry estimates that about $22 billion of draft beer is poured each year from kegs or small tanks. [Ref 3] Most workers at restaurants, bars, or events determine if the keg is empty by lifting it up and sloshing it around. Who knew, right? Well surely in this hi-tech world that we live in with instrumentation, data feeds, etc., there must be a better way.

Enter Steve Hershberger’s iKeg technology to provide a solution for this draconian method of measurement with a technology that monitors the level of beer in the keg at any time while providing data on how old the beer is. The system is designed to manage and support the supply chain between the retailers and distributors. “It gives both retailers and distributors business intelligence tools to make better decisions,” says Hershberger. [Ref 3] And it provides a win-win situation for both the retailer and the selling establishments in that they are making more money selling the more popular brands, and the brewers spend less on returned or outdated beer.

The new product, SteadyServ, is in test-market at seven sites in the Indianapolis area. Hershberger is projecting that by 2016, the product will be in use nationally. What’s nice about this story is that the idea for SteadyServ was a stumble upon as Hershberger was looking to get into the microbrewery business. While talking to customers, brewers, and restaurant operations, he identified a problem that was uniform to all three, and there was no readily available solution available.

On a different note, it’s 99oF outside today, and a cold one would be really nice!

References:

  1. Proud History, www.millercoors.com
  2. Brewers Association, www.brewersassociation.org
  3. “Finally, an ‘i’ product for bar owners and beer lovers: Here comes the iKeg”, Kent Bernhard, Jr, Money & Finance Editor, Money and Finance Editor, Upstart Business Journal, http://upstart.bizjournals.com/companies/innovation/2013/06/24/steve-hershberger-combines-big-data.html?page=all
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About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.

Discussion

4 thoughts on “Beer Brewing and Delivery Meets Big Data

  1. Saved as a favorite, I love your website!

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    Posted by mirrored jewelry armoire | August 1, 2014, 7:19 pm

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