Boulevard Brewing Co., based in Kansas City, Mo., has experienced substantial growth since it first began production in 1990. This year, the brewery plans on brewing 188,000 barrels of beer. It currently offers seven year-round and five seasonal brews, as well as a rotating line of artisanal beers named for its iconic brick smokestack, packaged in 750ml bottles, 12-ounce four-packs, and kegs.
Boulevard’s growth called for a facility expansion in 2005 and an investment in packaging equipment—a high-speed packaging line that could deal with the brewery’s demand.
Packaging lightweight glass bottles in multiple packaging sizes (6, 12 and 20 packs) with no carton dividers proved difficult for the repurposed 939S Versatron machine from Standard-Knapp, a Portland, Conn.-based manufacturer.
The unit met the brewery’s need for speed, but resulted in a high breakage rate because of the lightweight bottles.
“We had breakage and mis-packs on the order of 1 percent and greater on certain packages, partly due to light-weight glass bottles and partly due to partition-less cartons,” notes Mike Utz, Boulevard’s director of engineering.
The solution was to install a new Pic-N-Place packaging module from Standard-Knapp, which picks the product from the infeed conveyor and gently places it into the bottom of the empty case, according to the company. This technology gave
Boulevard soft container handling as it’s engineered to grab product in the optimum, most secure position or spot.
The 2-axis servo-controlled Pic-N-Place acts just like human arms, offering smooth operation. The PLC configurable placement profiles are designed to make it easy to configure gripping action, and the distance that the product travels into the case can be set from the operator interface.
“We had a complete machine, identical to our existing case packer (with the exception of being a place head instead of drop packer), fully assembled and tested at the Standard-Knapp factory prior to shipment,” says Utz. “Once the machine was delivered to the brewery we removed the old machine, upgraded power feed, installed the new machine, integrated the control system and commissioned the new packer over a three-day weekend. We were back in full production with our line the very next day.”
The result: “Significantly reduced breakage to an acceptable, sustainable level,” says Utz, adding, “Breakage and mis-packs have been virtually eliminated.” The brewery is also seeing increased throughput of about 10 percent.