Your greatest enemy in the quest for efficiency might be your own equipment.
What’s the point of running a brewery? This isn’t a rhetorical question. Really, what’s the point? The answer has to be to get the highest possible amount of quality beer into the hands of ready and waiting customers, right? So if you have recurring issues with ruined batches, underfilled containers, labels falling off, and low production numbers, then you need to get to the bottom of the problems pronto. No brewery owner throws their hands in the air and says, “that’s just how it is. Every brewery has its issues. It’s just the way it is” This is not the mentality of breweries that want to retain employees and customers.
The solution isn’t necessarily hosing money at your production line, either. You probably hear “changes need to be made” and picture your credit card melting down after purchasing a room full of new shiny machinery. Your existing equipment might actually be perfect for your needs. It might be that your line layout needs revising. Perhaps a new piece of equipment here or there could be in your future, but you might be surprised at how much a simple analysis of your layout can reveal low-cost ways of fixing your production woes. Let’s start examining.
First things first, have your equipment in the right order. Here’s a layout that works well:
Depalletizer → Conveyor → Twist Rinser → Filler → Seamer/Capper → Inspection → Rinse-Off Tunnel → Blow-Off Tunnel → Labeler → Coder → Ring Applicator/Carrier Packer → Case Packer → Palletizer
If your labeler is in line before the rinse-off tunnel, for example, your labels could wash off. Or, if your coder is before your filler, you could be wasting time and ink by coding bottles and cans that might get rejected at the inspection station.
Next, make sure there’s minimum space between your equipment. Any excessively long conveyors or spaced apart machines will require additional time and energy to get the containers from one part of the process to the next.
Let’s say once your cans leave the blow-off tunnel, they need to be taken to a separate room for labeling. This means your layout is actively fighting your ability to bottle and can your beer properly. Your production floor should have enough space for all line machines — and in the right order — to set up and maximize proper flow.
If you’re stuck in a building that won’t let you put your equipment where you want, whether it’s due to a confined or unusual layout, it might be time to move. This sounds like a costly proposition — and yes, generally, moving your operation or changing a building to suit your needs isn’t cheap. But it will cost you more to keep using an inefficient process in a facility that won’t allow for expansion of production. If you want to grow, your building needs to allow for that.
While your machines need to be close together to avoid wasted energy transferring containers from one station to the next, you still need enough room to get in and clean your equipment and your production room floor. Defending against the buildup of biofilms and microbial contamination keeps your beer tasty and safe to consume. Develop a cleaning routine for your equipment with safe detergents and sanitizers. Clean your tools, too. When an OSHA audit comes rolling around, you want to display that the cleaners you’re using are the correct ones (keep them properly labeled) and that there’s no cross-contamination happening.
Your floor also has the potential to harbor germs. A non-porous floor surface, such as epoxy, will help keep contaminants from growing and spreading in cracks and corners. You still need to clean it, of course. Keeping your facility clean will also have the side effect of lowering your energy consumption. For instance, the coils in your cooling units will work far more efficiently if they’re kept clean.
Earlier, you read that you wouldn’t necessarily have to buy new equipment, and that’s true. Optimizing your layout, keeping your equipment clean, making sure machines are maintained, using them as the manufacturer intended, and keeping spare parts around in case of a breakdown may be the sum total of the changes you need to make. Your equipment’s manufacturer should offer training and responsive service and repair. But perhaps you DO need to make some upgrades. How can you determine that?
Examine what your equipment is doing at every stage. Is each machine receiving containers, doing its job, and sending the containers on to the next machine without any problems? Do you have to modify the speed of your line to accommodate one machine that can’t keep up? Is there some process being done by hand that could be automated? A relatively new machine to enter the world of craft brewing is the depalletizer. Instead of manually removing bottles from pallets, a dedicated machine can take loads of bottles and insert them directly onto a conveyor belt, saving significant amounts of time.
Move from Manual to Automatic
Another area where many breweries waste a lot of time is in the process of hand labeling their bottles. A simple addition to any production line is an automated labeler, which will ensure every bottle that hits store shelves will have perfectly placed labels that look professional and polished. Speed up the time it takes to label your bottles and cans and ensure each looks perfect every time — this is just one example of how moving from manual to automated can be a game-changer.
Pack Leader USA has helped many microbreweries create spectacular-looking beers thanks to inline, easy-to-use label machines. If your brewery needs a packaging line upgrade, but you’re not sure which labeler is right for your beer packaging line, check out our article, How to Choose a Labeler That Fits Your Packaging Line and Meets Your Operational Goals.
If you’re still not sure which machine fits your needs, packaging line layout, and budget, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. We want you to be successful — and we’re here to help.