Craft brewer adds Douglas Machine cartoner
Flexible machine allows Summit Brewing to offer anniversary 30-pack
Summit Brewing Co., St. Paul, Minn., has served both craft beer and its community since 1986. To Summit, it’s not just a priority to brew fine, hand-crafted beer, but also to give back to the community that has supported it throughout the years. The company feels that great beer is even better when it’s shared with family and friends.
This year marks a great milestone for Summit — its 30th anniversary celebrating 30 years of creativity, consistency and community. A milestone such as this deserves to be celebrated in a grand way. To commemorate its anniversary, Summit is aiming to offer its loyal consumers a new packaging choice: a 30-pack of its canned craft beer.
Despite the old adage that premium beer comes in bottles and less-quality beer comes in cans, the market is proving otherwise. Summit decided to do its own taste-test to dispel this myth and found no difference in the quality of beer that comes from a bottle versus a can. Although craft brewers traditionally use bottles, many are making the move to cans. Cans have become accepted by craft beer consumers and are more convenient for them, especially in recreational areas such as beaches and ballparks. Cans also provide craft brewers the opportunity to expand their distribution.
To meet the growing market of canned craft beer, Summit introduced its can line in 2014 and began producing six-packs of its craft beers. Even from the start, offering 12-packs, or larger packs, was always was a part of the plan. The company aimed to give its consumers what they wanted — and more.
Through networking channels, Summit received a recommendation to connect with Douglas Machine Inc., Alexandria, Minn. Douglas uses the phrase “More. It’s who we are.” to describe its innovation and services. This seemed to align with Summit’s needs for its can line, so it made the call to Douglas.
Initial meetings at Summit’s facility proved successful and quickly turned into an in-person visit at Douglas to view the Vantra IM cartoner. Looking for a compact machine with big capabilities, Summit wanted to get a sense of how the machine operated. To be a good fit, the machine needed to carton 12-, 24-, all the way up to 30-packs.
The Vantra IM cartoner’s flexible size range was the more that Summit was looking for, giving the company the ability to run the variety of carton sizes it needed to fulfill its market’s demands and to best serve its customers. The Vantra IM’s compact size proved to be a perfect fit for the plant.
With the new cartoner, cans are delivered in mass to a recirculation table that creates and delivers lanes of product to the cartoner. Cans then are loaded into cartons with a high-speed loader, and flaps are tucked and glued. Cartons are produced at speeds of as fast as 50 in a minute, a range matching the needs of many craft brewers. For the craft beer industry, not many quality machines are offered in this range. The tool-less changeover optimizes production time, keeping product moving. The Vantra IM met Summit’s needs across the board.
Although machine specifications and installation discussions were underway, Summit realized that the clock was ticking away to make its August anniversary date. Installation needed to happen much sooner than anticipated or the 30-pack would not be produced in time for its grand appearance at the anniversary celebration. With Summit’s goal in jeopardy, Douglas and Summit worked together to adjust the timeline, and Douglas made it happen.
Additionally, Summit received an unexpected benefit — a smooth relationship between Douglas and the conveyor vendor. Often times there’s a lot of follow up and hand holding when integrating equipment. Because a relationship already was established between Douglas and the vendor, it made the entire process much easier. The result was a seamless integration. A benefit that Summit, and any producer, can appreciate.
“I’ve bought and installed every piece of machinery in this brewery, and this was by far the best startup I’ve ever been through,” says Tom Thomasser, chief operations officer at Summit. “Our efficiencies exceeded expectations from Day 1. I would definitely buy another Douglas machine.”
The Vantra IM’s performance and capabilities helped Summit meet its 30-pack goal. With an expanded capability to run cans and package a variety of carton sizes, the increase in market reach will be substantial, giving Summit its more. For small occasions or large gatherings, 12-, 24- and 30-packs make sure everyone gets to enjoy a Summit beer.