FM Frequency: Walking In Another Fm’s Shoes

By Charles Carpenter
Published in the April 2010 issue of Facility Executive

What can you learn about being a better facility manager (fm) by looking around someone else’s facility? What you might find is this—there’s a lot more to facility management (FM) than you’d normally consider.

Recently, I had a chance to tour one of the few places where fms like to take their work home with them: the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, TX, a facility that celebrated its 100th anniversary this past year. In that time, this brewery meant a lot of things to a lot of people. It started out as the source of beer to the area’s German and Czech Bavarian settlers. It grew to become the second largest employer in town, where people depended on it more for income than beer. For many years, it was the only female-owned brewery in America. In the last 25 years, it has taken on an almost cult status, as University of Texas students supported its growing nationwide appeal.

Considering the Great Depression, prohibition, a really remote location, and competition from large breweries, the fact that the Spoetzl Brewery is still up and running is pretty incredible. Actually, business is better than ever.

Greg Hybner and Bobby Darilek are the fms who keep up with more than just a brewery operation. And when needed, they involve Master Brewer/Plant Manager Jimmy Mauric, as well as corporate colleagues from San Antonio.

In addition to brewery operations, the facilities staff has endured constant expansion and remodeling, a daily influx of tourists, a music festival, and an annual bike ride to the brewery. Nothing is typical in an operation located more than 70 miles from a large city.

The Spoetzl facilities team has its challenges. At its optimum levels, the brewery produces 630 bottles a minute. This output maximizes the production levels of old equipment, yet it pales in comparison to larger breweries. As a result, there is virtually zero downtime on a lean maintenance budget.

With the modernization of the brewery following its purchase by the Gambrinus Company, certain challenges are always present. Some of the current equipment is made in Germany, which means spare parts are often days to weeks away. Other parts and supplies are simply kept on site.

One of the distinct features about the brewery is its well. In an area where wells are hard to dig, the founders struck water on their first try at 192′ (quite shallow compared to others in the area). That original well has provided free water to the brewery ever since. After 99 years and 11 months of operation, a new well was dug as a business continuity measure. While city water is used for washing and other uses, the new well allows the brewery to preserve the natural, mineral rich artesian waters that contribute to the flavors of Shiner beers.

Somewhat out of necessity, Spoeztl’s fms have been practicing sustainability for years. The bricks on the oldest buildings were recycled from other structures. Spare brewing equipment was salvaged from breweries that were closing. A specific bottle shape was created, because it required less glass (it was used until the cost of cleaning and shipping these returnable bottles became too much to bear). More common sustainable features include retrofitted energy efficient lighting with motion detectors and crushed stone parking and driveways. In 2010, the 1962 boiler will be replaced with two state-of-art high efficiency Miura units, one suitable for running on biogas in anticipation of a future anaerobic reactor for wastewater.

As times have changed, Spoetzl has changed too. In a more relaxed era, the night watchman would sell beer to those who dropped by after hours. Keycard and PIN numbers are now in use where once, one key probably opened every door.

Employee training is serious business for facilities. Safety features are checked regularly. While over an hour’s drive from the nearest major town, OSHA still makes regular inspections. The senior manager at the brewery takes full responsibility for safety, and all managers are vigilant, which is what an older plant needs.

This experience opened my eyes to many things. For starters, I learned there’s more to being an fm than years of experience. The glycol-based chilling system was out of my league. And while there are plenty of high-tech solutions for problems, sometimes low-tech solutions are the best, if not only, option.

Taking this tour allowed me to point out some better practices; however, it also showed me some weaknesses I only discovered by walking in another fm’s beer soaked shoes.

Carpenter is a facility manager in Austin, TX and has been in the profession since 1995. He is preparing to receive his Masters Degree from Texas State University and will be presenting “Standardization In Facilities“ at NeoCon this June. His father, Edwin, graduated from Shiner High School in 1948 and also attended this facility tour. Learn more about the Spoetzl Brewery at

For past FM Frequency columns, visit this link. To share some of your personal experiences in real time, com to FacilityBlog.