Rye River Brewing Company

Case Study 1 – Wasted Time

In this first case study, one of their employees identified that there was too much time being wasted waiting to mill the bags of grain for each brew.  He saw that this time could be better used by the brewers if the process time could be shortened. 

  • First of all, there was an opportunity to improve the quality as there would be more consistent gravity readings between brews.
  • Secondly, they wanted to eliminate blockages and the occurrences of dough balls.
  • Then, the team wouldn’t have to clean the blocked mill anymore.
  • Finally, the team wanted to reduce the process time by 30%.

More importantly, the company was keen to increase their brewery production capability by one brew per week (subject to other changes).

“Our mission is to make great beer. We strive to make every drop of it just as good as the last.”

8-Step Problem-Solving Process

In trying to solve a particular problem, we advise using the 8-Step Problem-Solving Process:

  1. Problem
  2. Current State
  3. Target
  4. Root Cause Analysis
  5. Select Countermeasures
  6. Implementation
  7. Evaluation
  8. Standardisation & Learnings
Rye River Brewery

Key Actions

First of all, we collaborated with Rye River to set up a Brainstorming Event.  The team presented the problem statement and current process.  We asked everyone for their opinions and they wrote their ideas (big and small) on post-it notes.

Then, we put all these ideas on an Impact/Ease Chart to assess the potential impact or benefits they will have on the company.  The result is a visual representation of where best to assign time and resources.  We don’t discard any issues as their assessment may change over time as other problems are resolved.  We can summarise these four activities as follows:

  1. Just Do It– these ideas have high impact and are easy to do now.
  2. Why Not?– these issues have low impact and are easy to address.
  3. Projects– ideas that have high impact but are difficult to address.
  4. Not Now– issues that have low impact and are also difficult to address.
Rye River Kaizen Event

Key Outcomes

  • The business has achieved no blockages within the process.
  • In addition, there are no dough balls present.
  • Furthermore, all grain is now in the Mash Tun
  • Certainly, Rye River achieved a 30% reduction in process time.
  • At the time of this Lean project, the business did not have enough time to see whether they were able to produce an additional brew per week.

Next Steps

  • Firstly, the team want to complete more trials.
  • Second of all, they plan to automate the initial 0.5hl control valve set point.
  • Finally, Rye River are reviewing the gravity readings across a larger sample set to determine a new process capability.


We firmly believe that the expertise to develop business process improvements already exist in every organisation.  This has clearly been the case in Rye River Brewing Company.  Through their employees’ Lean projects, the company has made significant continuous improvements to their business.

ETAC has worked with Rye River Brewing Company to streamline their business and improve their processes.  We hope you enjoyed reading about this case study on Wasted Time.  You may be interested in reading the two other case studies featured here: Case Study 2 – Inventory Cycle and Case Study 3 – Forecasting Racking.  All our case studies are available here.