Expanding production is a positive sign of growth for beverage producers and can also be thought of as an exciting time in one’s business. However, expansions also bring challenges and sometimes headaches if a well-thought-out plan isn’t executed properly.
Marc Finer, project/packaging engineer for New Belgium Brewing Co., recently oversaw the brewer’s canning expansion that increased its capacity six-fold while introducing a new package, a 16-ounce Tallboy can, in addition to its 12-ounce can offering. The new canning system, manufactured by KHS, features a 40-head filler capable of filling 360 cans per minute; the previous canning line filled 60 cans per minute.
The canning line was installed east of New Belgium’s bottling facility on its 50-acre campus in Fort Collins, Colo. New Belgium contracted Neenan Co. of Fort Collins for the construction. The canning line and facility cost nearly $8 million to build, the brewer says.
Finer says that finding a turnkey supplier is something that should be considered carefully. “We all need to find the partner that works for us and the partner that is delivering what we need them to deliver,” he says. “In the end it’s an interview process.”
After doing some research and interviewing different companies, New Belgium decided to partner with KHS, a company it had worked with in the past, installing a bottling line in 2007. “We interviewed two companies,” notes Finer, “and the best partnership to go with was KHS and its filler on this job.”
Doing your homework is key, agrees Matt Johnson, head brewer of San Diego, Calif.-based Karl Strauss Brewing Co., which recently underwent a brewery expansion as it expanded its market to include Northern California. The brewery increased its production capacity by 31 percent from 2011, to 80,000 barrels. It added four, 240-barrel JV Northwest fermenters, a new Comac keg machine that can clean and fill 60 kegs an hour and a cooperage investment of an additional 600-plus kegs.
“We do our research,” says Johnson. “We chose JV Northwest, but we also did research on other companies…we get three or four bids, assess the quality of those bids and those manufactures and make our choices that way.”
Karl Strauss has purchased equipment from JV Northwest before, notes Johnson, adding that the Oregon-based company makes superior quality equipment that also is made in the U.S. In addition, the company has purchased equipment from World Packaging Co. (filler) and Krones (labeler).
Johnson, who has worked in the brewing industry for 14 years, advises others to also talk with nearby companies that might have used a particular equipment company to learn more about the performance of their equipment and the service provided. “Don’t rush it; because if you rush it you tend to make bad decisions,” he says.
In Mexico, Jugos del Valle also found itself in need of a turnkey supplier to help meet growing demand for isotonic drinks and ready-to-drink teas. The leading provider of teas and carbonated beverages in the country found a partner in Sidel and upgraded its production equipment with Sidel’s Combi equipment.
Today, Jugos del Valle produces Powerade and ready-to-drink teas in various formats on its two hot-fill Combis, including 500 and 600 milliliters and 1-liter PET bottles. The Combi system achieves an output of up to 36,000 bottles per hour. Both lines are running seven days a week. Despite regular changeovers and varying production rates, Jugos del Valle achieves optimal line efficiency.
For the first time, Jugos del Valle invested in an integrated system, combining blow-molding, filling and capping into a single high-performance solution. The all-in-one approach of the Combi now eliminates conveying as well as handling, accumulation and storage of empty bottles.
“A solution like this helps us reduce costs,” says Alejandro Malagón, general director of Jugos del Valle. “We no longer have to deal with transportation costs for the bottle, because it now arrives without being transformed. This also allows us to make [the bottle] slightly thinner, which helps reduce costs even more.”