Case Study
Workplaces for people with disabilities in a brewery


The employer is a brewery with the status of an inclusion company. With its employees, the brewery produces and fills 5,000 hectoliters annually of non-alcoholic drinks (apple, orange and multivitamin juice, lemonade, cola as well as table water) and 5,000 hectoliters of beer (four different types of beer). The non-alcoholic drinks and beer are sold on site at the brewery shop. The brewery delivery service also delivers to the homes of customers in the immediate area.
The inclusion company or brewery is run by a graduate social worker who is also a qualified master brewer and malster. Therefore, employees in the brewery can train as brewers or maltsters.

Disabilities and functional limitations of the employees:

They have the following disabilities:
- sensory disabilities
- physical disabilities
- psychic disabilities
- mental disabilities
Only one employees, who is wheelchair dependent, has combined or multiple disabilities ( spina bifida and a learning disability).

Sensory disability:
One woman is deaf. Because of this she is unable to perceive acoustic information like speech or the tones of alarm signals. Communication with her is only possible in writing, with gestures/ signs or with sign language. To improve social understanding with colleagues, the brochure and/or video "The newcomer doesn't hear" would be helpful.

Physical disability:
One employee has a malformation of the arms and fingers or a malformation of the limbs (dysmelia), and two employees are wheelchair dependent. One is wheelchair dependent due to an "open spine" or spina bifida. Their area of reach is severely limited and they are limited in their ability to transport loads.
Two other employees suffer from spasticity which severely limits their motor functions (eg. in relation to walking, holding, reaching and positioning). Therefore, one of them uses an underarm walking support for short distances and for longer distances an electric wheelchair is used as a mobility aid.

Psychic disease:
One female and one male employee suffer from psychic disease. They are limited in their ability to be stressed eg. with respect to time or performance pressures and constant fast changes in the work routine. They can therefore only be employed in clearly structured activities where there are only small deviations in the work routine and they are not tied to the rhythm of a machine.

Mental disability:
One employee has a mental disability. He has limited cognitive powers and has difficulty in learning and remembering.

Training and jobs:
Four have completed elementary school and two are qualified handworkers. Before their work at the brewery, they were at a sheltered workshop for the disabled (WfbM). One of the employees (with spina bifida) is currently undergoing training in the brewery as a brewer. The others, with their work in the inclusion company and practicals in other breweries, should also be trained for work on the open market or permanent employment in a brewery.

Workplace and duties:

The beer is brewed in copper kettles. These must first be filled with crushed malt and brewing water. Hops are added at the later beer boiling stage. The actual beer making process (1. mashing, 2. purifying, 3. boiling and 4. cooling) takes place automatically and is operated and supervised from a workstation or PC in an office by the apprenctice brewer employee in the wheelchair. The PC workstation is equipped for this with a transportable and height adjustable worktable. Alternatively, the individual steps can also be changed directly by his colleague at the control stand of the copper kettle. A fully automatic brewing process is now standard in the new and larger breweries. For the employees and especially the apprentice brewer, because of the high degree of automation, the lifting and carrying of loads (malt, water, hops, etc.), disappears as the copper kettles can be filled and emptied at the controls by means of a pipe system (with pumps). After the brewing process the young beer is cooled and then pumped into tanks for maturing. After 6 weeks the finished beer is pumped to the filling machine (filler) via the pipe system. The beer must be filtered before it can be pumped. After the filter process the filters used are manually cleaned by the psychically ill employee under instruction from the master brewer.In order for the beer to be pumped through the filter to the short in-between storage in other tanks and later to the filler, different connecting pipes on the so-called panel (switches with connections for diverting the beer) must be screwed with the appropriate tank connectors. The height of the panel was decreased for this so that the man in the wheelchair can reach and screw in the connecting pipes onto the panel despite his limited area of reach.
The filtered beer is finally pumped from the tank to the filler which is continually supplied with beer bottles cleaned in the washing machine, through the pipe system. The beer bottles needed for this (dirty bottles which have been returned) are automatically cleaned in the washing machine. The washing machine must therefore first be manually supplied with the dirty beer bottles. For this, the deaf employee or her psychically ill colleague take some bottles from the cases, which are placed at an ergonomic area of reach on a conveyor belt and place them on the bottle take up area of the machine. Disturbances and alarm signals are heard by means of signal tones or seen by means of signal lights on the display of the washing machine.
The deaf employee is warned or her attention is drawn to disturbances by means of the optical signals. With the additional machine display she can see directly the type of disturbance and where it is. The display enables her to target and localise the disturbance so that it can be quickly overcome so that the machine does not stop for long.
The washed bottles are transported to the filler by means of a conveyor belt. On the way a screening illuminator does random visual control checks on the cleanliness of the bottles. In the filler the clean bottles are filled with beer and sealed. This process is controlled by the employee with the limb malformation. By means of the operating elements of the control desk he can directly intervene in the filling process, to eventually match the amount in the bottles to the prescribed volume. The employee, whose area of reach is limited, reaches the control desk by means of a platform. On the way from the filler to the labelling machine the bottles are once again sprayed with water on the outside from a shower and the filled volume controlled by the employee with a spastic disability. He sorts out under and overfilled into boxes. During this activity he sits on the seat of his scooter which is turned at 90. Supplementary to the volume control the bottles go through the labelling machine which the deaf employee first fills and sets up with labels. The actual labelling procedure is also controlled by the employee with dysmelia as the filler and labelling machines are directly next to each other. The labelled bottles are finally automatically presorted and by means of a mass manipulator packed into boxes by an employee with mild spasticity. The filled beer bottles are piled manually by a psychically ill employee onto Euro-pallets. The full pallets are then driven with a manual lifter or an electric forklift transporter into the refrigerated room of the brewery or the brewery shop. In the brewery shop customers can order beer from the mentally disabled employee (delivery service) or buy directly.
The filling and sale of non alcoholic drinks is identical. However, these are not brewed, but manufactured from concentrates that are mixed with water by a propeller and if needed molasses (eg. manufacturing of cola). After mixing the finished drink is filled.
After the filling the cleaning of the machines, manual equipment and conveyor equipment takes place. Each employee takes on cleaning tasks which are possible with their disabilities eg. those in wheelchairs do cleaning work within their limited areas of reach.

Technical aids:

All machines, additional equipment and work aids (panel, acoustic signal displays, PC control stand and machine displays, platforms and passage conveyors) are standard equipment in the general assortment of the manufacturer. The available additional equipment is general and is not only specially for compensating for loss of function or limitations of disabled people. For example, optical signals serve to warn employees in companies with considerable noise thresholds about danger using other senses (non acoustic). In the brewery the optical signals on the machine serve specially to draw the deaf employees attention to disturbances and warn her of danger.

Assistive devices used:

elbow crutches
diverse motorized vehicles
bimanual handrim-drive wheelchairs
assistive products for alarming, indicating, reminding and signalling
workplace furniture and furnishing elements
hand operated lifting trucks
manipulators and weight balancers

Work organisation:

The work in the brewery is so organised that employees can compensate for mental, psychic and physical functional deficits and limitations with the help of technical aids. The physical work like lifting, carrying and transport of heavy loads is carried out by the psychically ill employees as they do not have any physical functional limitations. Mental activities, in contrast, like control work, setup work and work requiring flexibility (sorting out disturbances on machines, etc.), are carried out by physically disabled employees. In principle they carry out the function of foremen in the brewery who lead and supervise the mentally disabled in carrying out their activities.
Activities carried out by the mentally ill have a simply structured course and are repetitive. Over tasking with suddenly occurring problems is thus avoided.

Further Information

The inclusion company or the equipping of the brewery was (and is) supported by the foundation Welfare Care, "Action People" and the Integration Office, which took over personnel costs for the disabled employees in the introductory phase (2 years). In addition, the brewery receives material (machines) support from Henkel AG.

ICF Items

Reference Number:


Last Update: 3 May 2011