Retrofitting Beer Keg Trackers in Australia

UnaBiz -
Beer Keg Tracking
Illustration: © IoT For All

An estimated 12% of the world’s kegs go missing each year. While some might end up at a warehouse or in the wrong brewery, others are stolen and sold for scrap. As metal prices rise, brewers expect to lose millions of dollars on lost kegs. Unlike bottles and cans, kegs are expensive assets. Priced around USD100 each, kegs are returned and reused by the brewers. This created the keg rental business as it allows small and medium-sized breweries flexibility in managing their kegs supply according to seasonal demands. 

Konvoy started in July 2019 as a keg rental company based in Australia. Founded by a team with over 40 years of combined beverage and keg pooling experience, the company currently has in circulation 70,000 beer kegs across its Australia and New Zealand operations.

Representing over 200 brewers in Australia and New Zealand, Konvoy’s clients include well-known craft breweries such as Moon Dog, Fixation, Parrot Dog, and Hawkers.

When creating the company, Konvoy knew that they needed to address the problem of lost kegs to protect their customers’ bottom line and differentiate themselves in the rental market. It is hard for their clients to hit their ROI when they keep losing kegs. Konvoy decided to invest in a full-fledged monitoring solution that makes operational and economic sense to replace the time-consuming tracking solutions.

A Brewing Problem

At the core of Konvoy’s business, the need for a simple, tracking solution was essential to entering the keg pooling market. QR code and RFID scanning solutions are common in the market but inefficient as each keg has to be scanned individually when kegs are moved from venue to venue. If anyone fails to scan the kegs promptly, misses a keg, or has a problem with a damaged QR code, there will be gaps and lags in the system. This creates inaccuracy in keg fleet data, leading to inefficient resource allocation.

Real-Time Operational and Economical Solution

To address the problem, Konvoy commissioned a Kegfox beacon, a full-fledged, purpose-fit tracking device, and a software system that reports the keg’s location throughout its life cycle. The tracker, which was designed and built by UnaBiz, is based on Sigfox’s 0G network, which Thinxtra operates in Australia.

The beacon is programmed to record data of the kegs at specific intervals or events with an algorithm that detects different types of movement, such as when the kegs are moved or cleaned. Data is then transmitted to the cloud via Thinxtra’s 0G Sigfox network in Australia and New Zealand. Thanks to the low-power consumption of the network, the beacon can last up to 7 years, transmitting information on its location and temperature several times a day.

“While we focused initially on tracking, this solution has given us the opportunity to also monitor the kegs’ temperature. Because most of the producers have unpasteurized beverages, leaving a keg at too high a temperature actually spoils the product. Being able to send an alert to our customer saying their keg has been transported at the right temperature is an important benefit for them,” said Adam Trippe-Smith, Founder of KONVOY.

The average keg is built to deliver 20 to 30 years of service, notwithstanding rough treatment and temperature extremes. The tracker needs to endure harsh treatment from filling, distribution, stacking in inventory, dispensing at the local pub, collecting and returning to the brewery, rigorous cleaning, sterilization, and then back to the filling station start again.

Supply Chain Relief

Konvoy’s go-to-market urgency was a challenge. It was important to make the solution and data accessible to Konvoy as soon as possible beyond hardware. To value-add to hardware, the team also created a mobile application Konvoy and its partners now use throughout the chain for provisioning and pairing the beacon and kegs to accelerate the deployment of Kegfox. The ease of use and access to live location data will help Konvoy define its position in the keg rental market.

Accountability has always been a big challenge. While someone has to be held accountable if the kegs go missing, it is hard to penalize clients and expect a good long-term relationship with them. Ensuring financial stability while maintaining a good relationship with clients can be a difficult line to straddle. By shifting the responsibility for tracking kegs from the customers to Konvoy, a huge amount of stress is removed from the keg supply chain.

Thirsty for More

After a few rounds of beta testing and deployment in the local market, Konvoy was happy with the results. Over 45,000 devices have been fitted to date. The rest of the trackers are expected to be fitted on their fleet in Australia and New Zealand by the end of the year.

Author
UnaBiz - Head of Communications, UnaBiz

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