Podcast: The intersection of maintenance and microbrews

Podcast: The intersection of maintenance and microbrews

June 20, 2024
In this episode of Great Question: A Manufacturing Podcast, Corey Dickens from Brightly explores the need for maintenance workers in the brewing industry.

Corey Dickens, CMRP, is a senior solutions consultant at Brightly, and describes himself as a maintenance practitioner and CMMS super user. Hs career has taken him into a wide variety of plants and industrial facilities, and recently he presented on maintenance best practices to the Craft Brewers Conference. In this conversation with chief editor Thomas Wilk, Dickens explains why some brewers refer to it as "equipment caretaking" and the hunger among brew pubs and micro breweries for maintenance knowledge.

Below is an excerpt from the podcast:

PS: Corey, welcome to the podcast!

CD: Thank you. I will mention I am now a former practitioner. I think a lot of people that switch over from the practitioner side to the services or technology side, we always consider ourselves recovering, or recovering from our former life and the heartache and the headache.

PS: Oh, man, well every old experience lets you build up to the new one, so I'm glad that led you to this place here.

CD: Somewhere I never thought I would land. I mean, I was at a manufacturing facility during COVID, and a lot of the big wigs got the opportunity on Fridays to take off, work from home, where I can have my calls, I can check e-mails. Maintenance doesn't get that luxury. Operations doesn't get that luxury. The warehouse doesn't get that luxury. I remember implementing a CMMS and I was like, “hey, I can do some of this admin work from home on Friday, do you mind if I work from home?” They’re like, “not a chance, you're the most senior guy here on Fridays.” So now we're getting the chance to work from home, and you know how we were talking before about family and kids – well, it’s awesome.

PS: It is, it’s one of the best side-benefits from COVID. In the media world, we used to gather in a large HQ office, actually here in Schaumburg, IL, where we're talking today, and I do miss some of that people time, but the (work from home) benefits have been incredible.

CD: When you have a lot of heads down task, the office is a little more disruptive, but when you're able to kind of open up your calendar and do more collaboration, people development, team building, then yeah in-office is awesome.

PS: Well, about a month ago you presented at a conference that was somewhat uncommon for maintenance professionals. This was in Las Vegas, right?

CD: Right, very uncommon. You're talking about the Craft brewers Conference, which is put on by the Brewers Association. It’s an international body and it’s what you think of – microbreweries, regional breweries, all the different categories of craft brewers, even the larger brewing companies that you know about, right? Those are I think considered the regional brewers, so like Anheuser Busch and Coors, all those. 

In that industry “maintenance” is not a taboo word, but it's also not common terminology. You're talking to people, especially in smaller scale of breweries – it's hobby brewing at first, so they’re artists, and they’re a little bit of scientist / chemist as well, right? And they ferment something and have a tasty beverage, and then they try to sell it. They’re based on community at first, then they start bringing food trucks, and next thing you know they start getting into some local distribution. That local distribution may blow up, may not. If it gets bigger than that, all of a sudden you're adding assets, you're buying more facilities, you have client deadlines, you have supplier deadlines, you have quality issues, you start falling under different buckets. 

So for craft brewers, there are two types to me. There are ones that are food service oriented that the brew pub set up. What they brew goes into a keg and then they get poured from a tap at their brewery set up. When you start getting into more and more distribution, you become a manufacturing facility, whether you like it or not. You are manufacturing goods on a mass scale for the consumption of the public.

PS: Here in Chicago we saw that with Goose Island Brewing Company. I have watched them grow from just a friendly large scale local brew pub on one little island to now they're international, they're worldwide.

CD: It's a lot of great success stories like that, and at CBC in the past few years, there's been a trend and it's actually a trend in a bad way. There's the Chief Economist for the Brewers Association, Bart Watson, and he posts a lot of statistics, or they do a lot of research, the Brewers Association for the brewers. And I believe they're actually at an equilibrium so that they're kind of tapped out of the amount of breweries and beers that can be on the market without having it kind of saturated, or over saturated. There's only so much room for so many businesses, and they're at that equilibrium. 

About the Author

Thomas Wilk | editor in chief

Thomas Wilk joined Plant Services as editor in chief in 2014. Previously, Wilk was content strategist / mobile media manager at Panduit. Prior to Panduit, Tom was lead editor for Battelle Memorial Institute's Environmental Restoration team, and taught business and technical writing at Ohio State University for eight years. Tom holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from Ohio State University

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