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As defined by IBM, Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the realization of the digital transformation of the field that delivers real-time decision making, enhanced productivity, flexibility, and agility. Synonymous with smart manufacturing, it is a game-changer for the spirits industry which is already in the process of incorporating these technological innovations. Reduction in costs, fewer errors, consistency across products, and improved metrics are only a few benefits of these innovations. Distillers and producers across the world are already seizing this opportunity of moving towards a technologically-driven change that is exponential. The focus of these transformations is not only on increasing sales or retaining customers but also on reducing the environmental impact while producing quality products. Industry 4.0 is transforming the overall productivity of spirits production right from sourcing and manufacturing to product sales and distribution. There is a vast scope for brands to embrace these changes and leverage them well
A very interesting concept, it involves the digitization of industrial processes which enables the spirits manufacturers to establish a connected ecosystem within their establishments starting from sourcing to distribution. In simple words, it revolves around everything SMART, like Smart manufacturing, Smart warehousing, Smart production, etc. Smart manufacturing includes an interlinked network of connected computers and digital sensors within the systems. This helps in reducing costs by generating improved and centralized information across the entire supply chain. Smart warehousing is an effective material handling system that helps in preventing damage or loss. It can be equipped with Voice-Control which can help in operations, product handling, and automated flow control. It is a great way to reduce spoilage and provides end-to-end visibility in temperature-controlled storage conditions.
The customized software can help in understanding the feasibility of production by projecting segment sizes, model cost variations, and clarifying the implication for labeling, warehousing, and distribution costs. The use of Equipment Sensors in the distillery will enable keeping a track of different variables regarding air, water, temperature, barrel pressure, humidity, etc.
The control room of the Wild Turkey Distillery in Kentucky is equipped with sensors on the equipment where mashes are done and fermentation takes place. The sensors have data points that help in measuring the daily samples to make sure that all the sugar is converted to alcohol at the right point. Earlier, this whole process was a 5 person job and now it is only done by two people who oversee the whole process on the computers.
AI has been a game-changer for many industries as it has helped them to go beyond customer interactions. Expanding the scope of algorithms towards predictive data and real-time machine learning can help in integrating an immersive customer interaction into the packaging of products and provide meaningful insights into the operations. It could help in detecting hazardous inconsistencies in the machinery and assist in operations and maintenance planning by enabling predictive maintenance and order forecasting. These systems can help distilleries and producers to better connect with their customers through Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) by providing digital tours of their distilleries and using interactive storytelling.
Mackmyra’s Intelligens - AI developed whisky. Image Source - Mackmyra
Mackmyra Sweedish Whisky introduced Intelligens which is the first whisky developed by AI. The distillery’s machine learning models were powered by Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and AI cognitive services that were developed by Fourkind. The system was fed with existing recipes of Mackmyra, sales data, and customer preferences.
With this dataset, the AI system generated more than 70 million recipes that it predicted would be popular and of the highest quality. It was then analyzed with the help of algorithms to develop the final Intelligens recipe which was based on what drinkers liked.
A significant part of the Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain simply refers to managing data with the help of technology. It helps in changing manufacturing supply chains by cutting out the middleman, streamlining processes, and improving security on the whole process. It consists of advanced beverage production systems that enhance the visibility of the supply chain and the production throughput. Smart packaging solutions equipped with intelligent packaging and labeling are an important part of the blockchain. It allows companies to track their products’ validity along the supply chain and activates communication between consumers and brands. This is incorporated through NFC (Near-Field Communication) chips or RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags which enable you to track your product from source ingredients to end-consumers.
Blockchain solutions also help distillers to strengthen food safety and traceability in the spirits sector by enabling brands to constantly monitor their inventory and identify counterfeits. The transparency in the supply chains offers the potential to achieve transparent and holistic reporting of all transactions, from producers to wholesalers, on to retailers, and then to on-premise consumers and outlets.
Johnnie Walker is one of the spirit companies that has attached NFC tags onto their Blue Label Whisky caps that are programmed with information that can be accessed by consumers with an NFC-enables smartphone.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label equipped with NFC tag. Image Source - Diageo
Introducing a “flow through” system in the distillery is what entails using automated vehicles and robots to perform certain activities like stacking and moving products around the distillery. This system allows distilleries to use machine operators that track every batch. Collaborative Robots (COBOTS) are being used to bottle and pack lines in the warehouse which speeds up processes and alleviates ergonomically arduous tasks which were earlier assigned to operators. This helps in improving safety and increasing productivity. Integrating robotics into beverage production lines and consumer services can help in increasing the degree of process automation, re-gearing the pace of production and the mode of manufacturing.
Dairy Distillery in Ontario has pioneered a unique process to produce world-class spirits with the help of Pleora’s Visual Inspection System (VIS) which helps in ensuring brand quality. The distillery produces Vodkow, a vodka made by using milk permeate, a byproduct left over after cream, fat, and proteins have been removed from milk. The VIS helps the distillery in not just monitoring this process but also ensuring brand consistency in the labeling process with the help of pre-packaged AI plug-ins. This enables them to reduce costs and avoid production downtime, as the labeling errors can be detected earlier in the process.
Vodkow packaged with Visual Inspection System. Image Source - Packaging Strategies
An important optimization tool for any industry, Big Data contains huge volumes of data that is complex and cannot be analyzed through traditional methods. Thus, companies use online platforms to compile this data and extract real-time information that helps them to identify the best ways to optimize the production of their spirits and ensure consistency. It helps in improving insights across the supply chain and also generates insights from consumer data through digital interactions. Brands can collect and collate consumer data which helps in obtaining and understanding the behavior patterns of the target market consumer. This offers a strategic and competitive advantage for spirit producers.
The sensors attached to equipment help the producers and distillers to gather data from them which can be used in optimizing the production of their spirit. One such example is Beam Suntory which is changing its business model, improving efficiencies, and streamlining its logistics by updating its network. This is being done by Rockwell Automation and Cisco.
As the competition in the spirits industry increases day by day, technological innovations are becoming an essential part of the ecosystem and provide a cutting edge to your brand. It’s time to think smart and make the most of Industry 4.0 just like many other brands are.
Article by Shreya Kohli, Beverage Trade Network
Header Image Source - Robohub