New Innovator: QualFlow Systems
The quality of beer-line hygiene has an important impact on the taste of a pint, but keeping the lines clean is expensive in terms of time and money. In addition, the manual cleaning processes in use mean that beer left in the lines literally gets washed down the drain as part of the flushing out process. The cost of this waste can run into thousands depending on the size of the licensed outlet.
Dublin-based technology company QualFlow Systems specialises in the development of “smart” cleaning and control systems for the drinks industry and it has developed products to tackle both cleaning and wastage issues.
Its automated portable beer-line cleaning system can cut cleaning times by up to 50 per cent, while its recently launched beer saver product (on which a patent is pending) allows outlets to recover and sell the beer normally dumped during cleaning. The company’s main customers are brewers here and in the UK, pub groups in the UK, beverage equipment manufacturers and large entertainment venues.
QualFlow Systems was established by physicists Ciarán Ó Móráin and Justin Lawler in 2006. Both have backgrounds in semi-conductor usage in processing industries. QualFlow is trading just over two years and has received assistance from DCU through its Invent Centre and from Enterprise Ireland.
Funding has also come from its founders and private investors. Early stage funding was around €400,000 and Ó Móráin estimates that a further €350,000 has been spent developing the product line-up. The company employs 10 people and subcontracts manufacturing of its products which are now sold as far afield as the US, Australia and South Africa.
“The beauty of the products is that all the technology is hidden. Those using the systems just have to press a button,” says Ó Móráin. “Our philosophy is to make the products simple to use, reliable and cost effective. In turn our customers get improved operating margins by reducing both waste and the cost of operating and maintaining drink dispense systems. By turning what would normally be wasted beer into sales, our beer saver product can reduce the cost of beer-line cleaning by up to 90 per cent. There have been beer saver products on the market before but they failed because they were overly complex and required a large amount of manual operation.”
It has not been all plain sailing for QualFlow which was on the brink of launching its beer saver product when the economy crashed. “Everything stopped, including investment,” says Ó Móráin. “But things have since turned a corner. Businesses are now more focused on reducing waste and addressing their cost base so our products are of particular interest.”