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Meet the Expert

Paddy Finnegan | Business Unit Manager Food and Beverage

April 9, 2019

Automation and Breweries

As automation penetrates the food and beverage industry, several questions have been asked about the value a company like Lakeside, an engineering solutions provider (ESP), can provide to craft and mid-sized breweries across Ontario and Manitoba.

While Lakeside is not new to the food and beverage space, over the last few years it has made concerted investments, both in human resources and technology to transform and enhance their customers’ processes – transpiring into a portfolio of customized, sustainable and proven solutions that address and alleviate breweries’ challenges and pain points. Of equally substantial importance, is Lakeside’s initiatives to help #foodbev manufactures in Ontario and Manitoba leverage Emerson’s technology to increase their efficiencies, remain competitive in the market, and achieve industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 is the latest industrial revolution that consists of implementing significant levels of automation to existing processes to gain insights previously unnoticed or underutilized to make impactful business decisions. 

I sat down with Lakeside’s food and beverage Business Unit Manager, and in-house beer connoisseur, Paddy Finnegan to open a dialogue around what automation means for breweries and how they can benefit from it. An expert in the food and beverage industry, Paddy brings over 18 years’ experience in sanitary design, fabrication, installation practices, instruments and automation. He joined Lakeside in 2018, and his since set-up and led its new and growing business unit.

Industry 4.0 is the latest industrial revolution that consists of implementing significant levels of automation to existing processes to gain insights previously unnoticed or underutilized to make impactful business decisions.

The History of Automation in Breweries 

Historically, automation has been predominantly sourced and implemented by global brewing giants; the Molson’s and the Heineken’s of the beer world that individually produce over 8.1 million hectoliters a year. To provide context, global beer production makes up to 1.95 billion hectolitres in 2017, which makes automation both a necessity for market demand, efficiency and liberates the facility and its operators from manual undertakings.

Though where does automation fit with breweries on the other end of the spectrum – specifically for craft and medium-sized breweries producing 5,000– 50,000 hectolitres a year?

With a deep respect and appreciation for authenticity and tradition in their production process, it’s not uncommon for craft and mid-sized breweries to be skeptical of automation. What can be appreciated regardless of size however, is repeatable and consistent results, as well as having reliable health and safety practices – all outcomes that can be achieved through an element of automation.

The culture of the facility and the scalability of production have always been two important factors that determine what can and should be automated in a brewery


Clean-in-place (CIP), an industry-wide practice that automates and optimizes the cleaning of pipes and lines from a stationary or portable system, is an attainable and scalable form of automation a brewery can take to work towards achieving industry 4.0.

CIP supplies the flushes, necessary chemical regimes and provides validation that the chemical has been removed from the system so that the next batch can be safely put back in for human consumption. In contrast, Clean-Out-Place (COP) is a process that is laborious, lacks traceability, repeatability or consistent results.  Though Paddy explains that while there are many equipment companies, canned CIP is not always best-suited for a facilities process. Rather, it’s integral to consult with an ESP to help customize the CIP so that it suits the facilities needs and enhances their process.

“We recently built a CIP system for a local mid-sized brewer in Toronto that is big about being green,” said Paddy when I asked him to explain how Lakeside has customized CIP before. “We were able to cater their CIP to be as sustainable as possible, by adding a reclaim tank so that the final rinse gets saved and utilized for the pre-rinse in the next cleaning cycle. This, and other customizations we made to their skid and processes culminated to a CIP that fit their culture and messaging to the market.”
Potential Challenges in Food and Beverage 

CIP is only one aspect of automation that can increase a facilities efficiency. Paddy explains that as industry 4.0 comes to reality, it is important that companies be forward-thinking.

“Breweries that embrace change first are often the ones with deeper pockets. I’m worried that the middle to lower-volume manufactures might not recover from the revenue gap from the gained efficiencies that automation provides to the lager production style facilities.  This is certainly something Lakeside can help mitigate as we have the experience to dig for the details that will allow us to make the systems affordable and scalable.  The challenge is getting the brewers informed enough to actually engage us or a trusted ESP versus going at it alone as they [brewers] are prone to do.  The perceived savings of not engaging an experienced partner is almost always outweighed by the savings generated by leveraging experience.”
Paddy Finnegan