Yeah, equipment has a lot to do with it. If you are using hobbled together equipment you will have a harder time repeating consistency.
Experience is just as much to do with it. Making the jump to commercial size operation is challenging no matter how good a homebrewer you are. It's a similar craft but different. The more you do it the better you get, just like homebrewing. I don't think my stuff got really consistent until about 2 years ago.
I'll echo these statements based on my experience in going from the "cheap and easy" method to a Sabco BrewMagic. Suddenly, my process needed to be spot on in order to produce beer. Sure, I could cheat a bit one way or the other with the cooler mash tun and gravity. But when you add in pumps, hard plumbing, recirculating mashes, etc... your process needs to tighten down. A lot.
I've spent nearly this entire year brewing 1.050 beer, 10 gallons at a time. Not varying any part of the process (same amount of grain each time, basically the same water treatment) has allowed me to learn this new system almost completely. I can brew the exact same recipe, several months apart, and have it be the exact same beer. I get that it's exciting to produce epic one-off beers, but if you can't produce the same (or close to it) pilsner every time I visit - I may not visit again. Just my $0.02.
So I absolutely think that these are the keys to consistency:
- Don't go the 'hobbled together' route
- Brew the same thing on it countless times to learn the ins and outs of it