Automation goes back to the future—with beer

By combining a two century-old brewery with state of the art robots you get a company brimming with tradition that knows how to compete in the modern world.

Are you a beer drinker? Do you like to experiment with the giant variety of beers the world has to offer these days? Thanks to globalization and a growing focus on microbreweries there is more opportunity than ever to experience the tens of thousands of beers and beer-like substances that exist. As it turns out, ABB robots have a hand in ensuring some of that beer remains available.

High in the Black Forest of Germany, beers with a cult-like status—not only among Germans—are made at a brewery that has seen 221 years of history. Right around the time the United States was declaring its independence and Napoleon was fighting his wars in Europe, Rothaus Brauerei (The Red House Brewery) opened its doors. It has lived through two World Wars, the publishing of Darwin’s ‘The Origin of Species,’ the discovery of Penicillin, the first airplane flight, the invention of the internal combustion engine, and even industrialization itself. But despite being more than two centuries old and being steeped in tradition, Rothaus is equipped with the latest in modern technology, including four ABB robots that handle beer kegs and cases—operating as a kind of defiance against the sands of time.

In order to continue the tradition of producing high quality beers in a world that is increasingly focused on costs, Rothaus has been modernizing its operation extensively over time. Today the brewery is loaded with several ABB robots including two IRB 6640‘s that were originally developed for foundry work, but turn out to be ideally suited for the task of handling kegs for packaging. Capable of effortlessly whisking a 142 kg (313 pound) load of beer onto a conveyor belt, the 6640 gets a chance to flex its foundry muscles, even in the pursuit of world-class beer.

Another IRB 6640 helps to repackage six-packs out of existing 24-bottle crates, with an assist from a small IRB 140 that cuts the safety band that holds the 24-bottle crates together. Just like the finest Swiss timepieces, the coordinated actions of these robots run like clockwork. It should be noted that until the robots showed up at the brewery, almost all of these tasks were handled by an elaborate and monstrous gantry unit.

“[The robots] couldn’t be more reliable and low-maintenance,” says Robert Jäger, who is in charge of the beer-filling operation, “and in comparison to the earlier gantry unit they take up a lot less room, too.” Thanks to Rothaus, Jäger and an assist from ABB Robotics, the world is one more brewery closer to beer nirvana.

Read the full story about Rothaus

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About the author

Martin Segerstrom

I’m the Service Communications Manager for ABB Robotics globally. With 20+ years of experience in market communications and a Bachelor’s degree in marketing, my career began as an engineer at ABB in 1990, manufacturing electrical relays for four years. From 1999 to 2014, I have been Project and Account Manager as well as Partner in the advertising industry, with clients like ABB, Atlas Copco, Bahco, DeLaval, Outokumpu, Sandvik and Snap-on Inc. I joined ABB Robotics in 2014. In my spare time I enjoy the occasional film, exercising and nature in general.
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