MBA Case Study: Craft Brewing

Each term of the Executive MBA program is a combination of two complementary courses, this term is Operations and Marketing.  My Group analyzed Troegs Brewing Company for our term project.  My old friend Chris Trogner is “brother and co-founder” of the brewery and was gracious enough to give us a tour and spend the day talking about Craft Brewing and adding Customer value through Marketing and Operations.

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View more photos of the visit to Troegs Brewing Company

Using Lean Manufacturing Techniques

I have been using a Kanban flow system to manage software development on my team at PR Newswire.  One of the techniques in this aspect of Lean Manufacturing is using Visual Communication Boards to highlight work in progress.  Among the sophisticated brewing equipment at Troegs you will find simple, clear methods of visual communication enabling teams to work together.

Distribution

The beer industry has a 3 tier system of distribution in which the Brewery produces the beer and sells to the Wholesaler.  The Wholesaler warehouses the beer and distributes to the Retailer (bars, restaurants, liquor stores).  Each state has different laws, each type of alcohol has different distributor focus and the whole system is very competitive.  Next time you walk into a liquor store or notice tap handles at a bar, think about all of the negotiation and strategy that goes into convincing you to choose a certain beer.  I learned how important it is to be “on the handle” and “between eyes and thighs”.  Not the type of thing I consider when building software but now I see these concepts everywhere I buy anything.

Collaboration

Yes, Craft Breweries compete wth each other but I was impressed at how collaborative the industry as a whole is.  It reminded me of the Boulder tech scene, lots of competition but “the rising tide lifts all boats” mentality is ever present.  One of my favorite stories is about Collaboration Not Litigation Ale.  Russian River and Avery Brewing Company both had a beer called Salvation.  Instead of suing each other over the naming rights, they decided to collaborate and make an amazing beer together.  I heard numerous stories of brewmasters visiting and touring other breweries to discuss the mechanics of brewing better beer with other brewmasters.

This project was a wonderful experience.  I am continuously impressed at how generous people are with their time.  Special thanks to Chris from Troegs Brewing Company and Sean from CR Goodman for taking the time to drink a beer with my Group and talk about Craft Beer.

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