Attaining the IBD Diploma gives an internationally recognised and comprehensive understanding of brewing science and its application.
From Homebrewing to Brewing at Lion
Packaging Area Leader at Lion’s Pride Brewery in Auckland (New Zealand).
Micro Matic Award Winner for Diploma in Packaging Module 2 in 2018 & Brewing Engineers Association Award for Diploma in Brewing Module 3 in 2020.
One of the most interesting aspects of the brewing industry is how seamless and smooth it seems to be for professionals from other sectors to fit in. Obviously, the main component is to have a passion for brewing beer. If you add chemistry knowledge to the recipe, you will have all the ingredients for a successful transition.
This is the story of Steve Adkins who has found a great route to move from his career in pharmaceuticals and combine his love of Brewing to Lion, the leading beverage company in Australasia, winning two IBD awards on his way.
Steve is currently Packing Area Leader at Lion’s Pride Brewery in Auckland, responsible for the glass lines and directly managing a team of 5 Team leaders who lead 45 people. He leads accurate problem-solving, strategy delivery and constant improvements to add value effectively to the business.
With a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Pharmacology and later on a Post Graduate Diploma with Credit in Science for the same discipline for Otago University in New Zealand, Steve started his career at Alpha Laboratories, the Southern Hemisphere's largest health products manufacturer.
Although part of his pharmaceutical degree involved microbiology and visits to Speight’s Brewery in Dunedin, “I spent the first decade of my career in the vitamin supplement industry in what we call nutraceuticals. I started as a Product Developer and then became interested in production, manufacturing and equipment validation. I grew with the company to become a Quality Assurance Manager”, Steve recalls.
“It was a huge change moving from a highly regulated environment in the pharmaceutical sector to a brewery. It's quite different, probably refreshing as well, not just because of the product itself, but because it's a very different culture".
Crossing over industries
But all the expertise and learning curve in the pharmaceutical sector couldn’t stop Steve’s true love for applying this knowledge to brew his own beer at home and got fascinated by the process. “That's when I first encountered the IBD and its learning material. I found some yeast management papers that really helped me build my knowledge in brewing. And then I got to the point when it was time for a career change and I thought, “I quite love beer”, so let's have a go and join Lion which has a great reputation for helping you build people leadership skills”.
In April 2016, Steve joined Lion as a Packaging Team Leader and after 18 months in this area, he decided to start the IBD Diploma in Packaging Module 1 – comprising small pack materials, product preparation and small pack line operation- to build expertise on the industry knowledge.
“It was a huge change moving from a highly regulated environment in the pharmaceutical sector to a brewery. It's quite different, probably refreshing as well, not just because of the product itself, but because it's a very different culture. But I love learning how to do different things”.
Swapping industries and moving from quality to production could be challenging but Steve’s main drive was to gain more production management experience and fast decision-making under his belt and learn how to lead bigger teams more effectively.
With his curiosity and determination to acquire and apply technical knowledge, Steve obtained great results in his first packaging module exam and decided to take in 2018 both Diploma in Packaging Module 2 – which includes quality, hygiene, planning and line design, and large pack operations – and Diploma in Brewing Module 1 – about the biochemistry of raw ingredients and barley, hops and adjuncts properties.
"We had a few challenges they wanted me to help solve. And we got it up to be a hundred percent right the first time. What helped me in this project was the knowledge I picked up from the Diploma in Brewing”.
Applying knowledge straight away
That was the time that he moved into the production area of Lion. Steve was able to deliver great results there: “We had a few challenges they wanted me to help solve. The main problem was our RTD (Ready to Drink) plant which had grown big and wasn't delivering consistently for packaging due to overcapacity. By working on process improvement, we increased the output of that plant by 40% through effective problem-solving of capacity and quality roadblocks. - Just mostly through applying TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) principles. And we got it up to be a hundred percent right the first time. What helped me in this project was the knowledge I picked up from the Diploma in Brewing”.
“In the Diploma, there is a wealth of knowledge and understanding that helps you to know where to look; as you're not completely blind to knowing how things work. The good thing about the industry is the crossover from different areas of expertise”
Steve values hugely the technical knowledge acquired by taking the Diploma in Brewing. He also recalls an ongoing problem with sugar accuracy in batching that has been in the business since the plant was installed. By looking up and interpreting the technical documents, he worked out that they were running the wrong size meters for our flow rates. They just swapped out for an appropriate size meter and all the problems went away.
“In the Diploma, there is a wealth of knowledge and understanding that helps you to know where to look; as you're not completely blind to knowing how things work, even when you are moving departments. The good thing about the industry is the crossover from different areas of expertise”, Steve confirms.
Steve recognises the vital support received from other peers in the industry, in special a couple of mentors at work who encouraged him to take the IBD Diploma in Brewing to kick start in the industry with quick access to technical knowledge. “David Meads and Keith Riley, two of the Master Brewers at Lion, are huge advocates of IBD education and have been involved with me for a very long time and are really supportive”. One of his early career mentors had also done a career change and came across to Lion a few years beforehand and provided Steve with guidance and support along the way.
"(Winning the awards) made me a bit proud of the hard work I put in because it was a challenging one for me. I studied with a six-month-old sitting on my back at home. I have a growing family and it was my second year at Lion."
An innovative industry
The drinks industry is well known for being a constant learning curve as it’s constantly moving forward and innovating. Steve has found the perfect industry to continue learning and achieving awards. First, the Micro Matic Award for the highest mark in Diploma in Packaging Module 2 and later, in 2020, the Brewing Engineers Association award for the Diploma in Brewing Module 3.
“My first reaction to the awards was a shock. I didn’t walk out of the exams thinking I'd done very well. In fact, I found it quite hard. I was surprised to start with. But then it was really cool. It made me a bit proud of the hard work I put in because it was a challenging one for me. I studied with a six-month-old sitting on my back at home. I have a growing family and it was my second year at Lion. It was really cool to be awarded and recognised for the hard work done”, Steve remembers fondly.
The secret of his success in the exam is putting in the hours to prepare and having the support from Lion which runs internal workshops to prepare its candidates for the exams certainly it helped, and of course, Steve’s drive and determination: “I wanted to learn it. I mostly used the IBD learning materials which gave me a good grounding on set up time reduction and it helped me prepare and lead some of these projects and deliver some actual value to the business as well. We've also got some good reference texts in the library at Lion too. If you want to go a bit deeper into any of the topics, that's readily available. And I've got a very patient wife. It is important to have a very supportive family”.
Holding now two Diplomas, and being able to compare and see a clear crossover between chemical components and reactions, Steve has the knowledge and the experience to become a main asset at Lion, moving across plants and departments and providing support to the team. “The move back to packaging wasn't a planned one for me. The previous leader left the business and I was probably the best fit at the time and in the middle of a covid lockdown to come across and support the team which I really enjoyed it”.
With all the knowledge and well-established experience in the brewing industry, Steve is working now toward taking over a site leader role of one of Lion’s smaller craft breweries to focus on the craft sector. “In five years from now, I would like to be more in that space. It's a little bit more vibrant than beer production on an industrial scale. The people, the experimentation, the pace of new development is all a lot quicker on a smaller scale”, Steve reflects.
“We have created a network of brewers to support each other. It’s great to be able to reach someone quickly. They always open the phone calls at all hours of the day at night because being in New Zealand is nobody's time zone”.
Local professional network
In the meantime, he is involved in the IBD members group in New Zealand. “We have created a network of brewers to support each other. It’s great to be able to reach someone quickly. They always open the phone calls at all hours of the day at night because being in New Zealand is nobody's time zone”, he laughs.
“Brewing is a great industry to work in. It's full of amazing people who are so passionate about what we do. After covid, we are getting active in Auckland. You can just walk into one event and have a conversation with someone you've never met who works in a different part of the industry from you. You've got so much in common and we're just all so passionate about beer. It is a network, it's not just the fact that you are working in the industry, and you have a qualification. In fact, you carry on learning from each other”, Steve concludes.
Diploma in Brewing & Packaging Qualifications
Designed to support you on your journey through your brewing and packaging career. From the very beginning to running a macro or independent packaging line, there is a qualification and training course that is right for you.