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Brewing Up A Modern MES

Dominating the beer game doesn’t come without its challenges. Maintaining frothy perfection, streamlining production, and fueling profits demand more than a toast. For one major brewer, this was becoming increasingly difficult as its custom manufacturing execution system (MES) software was nearing obsolescence.

Back in the 1980s, their MES was a tech rock star, but fast forward four decades and it lacks the features needed to support today’s modern challenges. It’s a flip phone in an iPhone world. This older technology was also increasingly expensive to support, and finding developers with the skills to work on it was like searching for a needle in a hop field.

The data wasn’t cutting it, but this brewer wasn't about to settle. They embarked on a mission to revolutionize their data collection and management approach using modern digital technologies including AVEVA PI System and Parsec TrakSYS software.

Trust isn't doled out like beer samples at a tasting; it's a brew that simmers over time. Gray Solutions earned this manufacturer's trust through a decade of successful automation, controls, HMI, and digital transformation projects. Our relationship, paired with our extensive experience with both of their selected software platforms, made us the natural go-to partner for implementing the new MES solution.

Listening and Letting Curiosity Lead to Results

We kicked off the project by looking at features of newer MES systems recently deployed at the brewer’s other plants. Working closely with their operators and engineers, we decided which features were essential, which were wish list items, and which were unnecessary. Even though we knew the customer well, we entered this project like we always do, with our ears open, leaving any preconceived plans at the door. It’s about what the customer needs, always. The value of this approach was made clear early on: The customer needed to be able to group orders, which helps them run more continuously. Their old system was capable of doing this, but their new system was not. We leaned into our innate curiosity and got creative, which was rewarding for us as well as the customer.

The manufacturer also needed their new MES to provide insight into what’s working well at each site so they could implement best practices across plants, increasing efficiency and product consistency. With an MES that monitors consistent parameters across geographic zones, the brewer can ensure they are sticking to production specs. If there's a deviation between plants, they’re armed with data to uncover the reasons.

Beyond being the trusted TrakSYS implementation partner, we also developed integrations with their historian, enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, warehouse management system (WMS), master scheduling, and control systems.

Stepping Up to Change

The MES was a multi-year project, and during that stretch, the customer’s primary project sponsors and managers changed several times. While that presented some communication and project continuity hurdles, we’re always prepared and up for the challenge. Our meticulous note-taking captured important details, key decisions, and user stories via Azure DevOps. When new managers step in, this historical documentation gets them up to speed in a snap.

The Brewing Revolution

The new MES, which operates several hundred canned product lines isn’t just about brewing beer; it’s fermenting change and helping a customer grow their brewing empire through the art of technology.

We leaned into our innate curiosity and got creative, which was rewarding for us as well as the customer.