Manual vs. Automatic Bottle Labeling Machines for Craft Beer

Manual vs. Automatic Bottle Labeling Machines for Craft Beer


Does your budget dictate what equipment you use in your brewery packaging line? 

Your budget may force you to decide which brewery processes need to be done by an employee and which require machinery. The cheaper option seems obvious when comparing the cost of an automatic labeling machine vs. the hourly wage to label craft beer bottles manually. In the formative days of a new brewery, most often, hand application wins. The beer has to get into the hands of customers, and if you wait until you have every piece of equipment you want, you’ll never get the first 6-pack out the door.

When you analyze the cost of hand labeling vs. automatic or semi-automatic labeling with a machine, you may realize the cost to pay an employee to place a label on each bottle adds up fast. Is it worth deferring the price of a labeling machine for your craft beer labels with temporary employee labor, or should you get a labeling machine first? Let’s take a look.

Consider the Speed of Your Labeling Process

If you want your operation to serve more customers, you’ll need to label many beer bottles and cans. How fast do you think an employee can place a label on a bottle compared to a machine? If you had to guess what your efficiency improvement would be if you moved from hand labeling to machine labeling, what percentage would you say? 50%? 100%? Moving from hand labeling to an automatic labeling machine for bottles can increase speeds up to 300%! This can mean 600 bottles or cans going through your packaging line every hour, depending on the machine.

Consider the speed of your labeling process

Let’s address a concern right now that your employees may have. Upon learning that your operation is shifting to automated machines, they may feel threatened. You can assure them that their job isn’t in jeopardy. The highest possible productivity from any automatic or semi-automatic labeling machine requires well-trained staff. Equipment needs to be optimized to work with other machines in the line, maintenance and repairs are cheapest when done by someone in-house, and new labels need to be fed into the machine. People will still be needed.

How Accurate is Your Current Labeling Setup?

Customers determine whether they want your product in only 7 seconds, so that first impression needs to be stellar. Every label should be straight, even, and free of bubbles that can cause labels to peel or tear. A shelf full of your beer with labels at different angles and heights might not seem like a big deal, but the immediate impression is one of carelessness. Your employees might have the steady hands of a tattoo artist, but they’re no match for dedicated labeling equipment. 

You only have 7 seconds to make a good impression.

Every aspect of your production needs to be of the highest quality, especially if your brewery is just starting or is scaling up. People will take pictures of your bottles or cans and share them on social media, and there’s nothing worse than negative word of mouth. A labeling machine can ensure that every container you produce is consistently photogenic. 

Labels Should Always be Consistently Applied

Machines apply labels accurately every time, and they never get tired or need a break. Hand labeling speeds vary wildly depending on which employee is assigned this task, how they’re feeling that day, whether the weekend is coming up or just ended, and any distractions that cause them to make errors. Your labeling machine doesn’t need a coffee break or a vacation. You can expect a specific number of label applications on a given day and meet that number.

Now, it’s true that machines do need calibration and repair. Even the best, most reliable modular labelers made from durable materials will need to be fixed now and again. Choosing a labeler or labelers that have readily available, easily swapped parts keeps this from being an issue. You can also purchase or rent multiple labelers for redundancy. Downtime is devastating to your brewery, so minimize it.

Preventing Packaging Line Bottlenecks 

When you rely on employees to perform a specific function over and over again in a set amount of time, you’re setting them up for failure. Bottlenecks happen because different tasks take more or less time, and if one job takes considerably longer than others, that’s where the work will back up. When you move from hand labeling to machine labeling, you can match the speed of all the other equipment in your packaging line.

Preventing Packaging Line Bottlenecks

Even if you prefer a semi-automatic labeling machine for your line over an automatic one, you’ll still eliminate the bottleneck of labeling. The employee who used to painstakingly label each bottle now only needs to transfer the bottles from one machine to the other. If you purchase an automatic labeling machine, your beer bottles and cans can move through the line with no human intervention at all. That way, your line moves smoothly and back up free.

Choosing a Labeling Partner

Your budget may rule most decisions, and the prices for semi-automatic and automatic labeling machines for craft beer bottles and cans can vary. We’ve put together The Brewer’s Guide to Craft Beer and Microbrew Labeling Equipment to help you choose the right labeler for your craft beer. We’ve got the labeling system for your packaging line and budget, and we’ll show you how a labeling machine can increase your output and your profits! Contact Pack Leader USA for quality labeling equipment and transform your brewery into a powerhouse of productivity.

Beer Labeling Equipment Guide [Download Now]