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“We probably went through about 9 revisions to make sure that this fit, and had everything that we needed."

Upgrades, people, upgrades!

The past two years have brought a lot of changes to our production team, but this year has been particularly expansive, with our near Cellar 4 coming together this past spring, and now, a new and improved canning line!

We went out to the floor with Procurement Manager Mark Graves to see this new beast in person.

First of all—WOW. This new canning line set up not only adds some great innovations to our set-up, but also includes some fancy schmancy new equipment.

“It’s a big tweak and some additions to what our previous canning line was,” says Mark Graves. 

The line now takes up the majority (if not nearly all) of the space that we have in that area.

“One benefit is that the filler operators are really close to the labeler, so they can both monitor it and reach it a lot easier,” he says.

(Ed. note: No more frantically moving back and forth!)

“They moved the PakTech back and straightened a section out,” he says. “One of the biggest problems we had is that the conveyor came around to a real tight elbow and the cans kept getting stuck in the back.”

(Ed. note: PakTechs are those recyclable, colorful clasps that hold our cans together!)

Now, there’s a straight shot directly into the machine that places PakTechs on the 4-pack or 6-packs.

“There’s more conveyor overall now, too,” he shares.

The depalletizer has also been moved to the far left side to create some more space to load in pallets of cans to move into the line.  

“We now have a large collection table,” Mark says. “Before, the lanes could only push a row or two of cans until a whole layer was completed. This machine can push off the whole layer of cans, and this prevents cans from tipping over because of the start-stop motion of only moving pieces at a time.” 

“When we would run out of cans and change pallets, it would take several minutes from when someone loaded a new set to when it would come up into the line, so this will help eliminate stoppages,” he says.

“James and I ran the numbers, and if we’re running four or five tanks a day, those short changes would add up to about an hour over the course of one day. It’s about as much as adding nearly a whole other tank to the day’s canning run,” Mark shares.

While all of that is SUPER exciting, we’re eyeing a piece of new machinery as Mark walks us over to it. 

“This big boy is the DMM, the Swiss army knife of the back of the line. It’s going to be doing a lot,” Mark says with a laugh. “To start, it’s supposed to take the finished  package, whether it’s 16- or 12-oz, and build the tray around the case. It builds, glues, and spits out a finished can tray, so no more hand-building or orange getting stuck on shirts.”

“It also has the ability to make the can cartons that we wrap our cans in,” he says.

Putting that into perspective a bit, all of these changes are something we’ve looked forward to for a while.

Because of our limited space in the brewhouse, our previous set up had curves and sections that met back up to form a single layer.

When you’re running through as much beer as we do, though, it’s important to keep things moving as quickly as possible! Much of our packaging team had to monitor cans that would get stuck, or those that wouldn’t be able to move as quickly as we needed to.

Not only that, but those red-orange can trays that you can see out in the wild and in the Brewtique? Our packaging team HAND-BUILT each and every one of those. 

Until now! The DMM makes sure that our team is free to do all the other important aspects that go into filling and prepping beer cases.  

This project has been almost a year in the making, with plans starting in February of this year. A number of delays meant that we had to wait until after the busy summer season to start implementing it, so we would have more time to move things around.

“We probably went through about 9 revisions to make sure that this fit, and had everything that we needed,” Mark says.

The DMM is something Mark remembered from a catalog he saw at a previous packaging expo. Allagash has something similar, and many of the machines are quite a bit bigger (and more expensive), but ours can do an incredible amount of work at half the size and in a small space!

When we expressed surprise at the existence of packaging expos, Mark just smiled and admitted that “it’s a lot of cardboard.”

Brewery Operations Manager James Fox is also stoked about this upgrade.

“Mark worked with the integrator team and scouted out equipment and started by figuring out our next steps and what we needed in the future,” James says. 

The DMM machine, our Swiss army knife machine, is something James used at a previous facility that worked really well. 

“At the front end of the line, the big thing we noticed from an efficiency standpoint was that when it comes to the packaging line, you want to keep it running at all times,” James says. “All of these changes enhance run time drastically.” 

“It might not seem like a lot, but now, we can package about a pallet and a half of more beer each day, or about 150 cases of 12-ounce cans,” he says.

(Ed. note: Essentially, we wanted to make sure we could get out as much beer to folks as possible!)

“All the equipment was in-house on Monday, and the integrator team was here,” he says. “This week, we’ve already packaged Coastal Evacuation, Always Ready, and On the Way to Cape May No. 010 on this new line.”

“We’ll be getting into Snag & Drop season soon,” James says with a smile.

As a whole, our production Brew Crew is already excited.

“When you can come in and just do your work on the line, that’s ideal,” James says. “But when you have to fight little gremlins that pop up here and there because the cans aren’t transitioning quite right or they keep falling or get jammed, it interrupts your workflow. That’s something we wanted to eliminate.”

“Now, our team can focus on the more technical aspect of feeding the line and operating the machinery rather than just the physical workload of it,” he says.

The next time you’re cracking open a cold one, you now have a better understanding of what goes into getting your beer from the tanks to the can!

We don’t know about you, but we just might have to pick up some Always Ready and Coastal Evacuation to celebrate.