As Australia's 'craft beer boom' continues, manufacturers are working with breweries to develop more focused, industry-specific technology.
Brisbane-based packaging company Fibre King, is the first in Australia to tailor packaging machinery design to accommodate the needs of independent, craft-sized breweries. The company designs, builds, installs and maintains end-of-line packaging equipment for companies across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. While most of their customer base have high volume facilities Fibre King saw an opportunity in the Craft Brewery market and set about developing affordable, compact solutions that would help brewers get their product to market more efficiently and cost effectively.
“We’ve identified craft breweries as a growing industry and knew that we could develop equipment specific to their needs that would eliminate the need for manual packaging processes.” Said James Windsor, Chief Executive Officer of Fibre King. “Having had the opportunity to work with breweries such as Stone and Wood and Balter Brewing we were able to understand the challenges within their production line and alter our machines to suit”. Windsor said.
Fibre King is currently working with Gold Coast-based Black Hops Brewery to develop the first can specific case packer that’s affordable, flexible and compact. “This collaborative R&D project will provide the market with an off-the-shelf machine that solves a common problem within small to medium sized craft breweries of how they can transition away from manual packaging processes to an automated one that ensures that their beers are packaged and ready for distribution efficiently and consistently”. Says Windsor.
The new brewery-specific case packer named “Little Packer” has been designed for smaller operations and will be able to pack four- and six-pack clusters, with the option to pack loose cans if required, and can run both 24 and 16 can cartons and glue the boxes with no full-time operator. Windsor said that because most machinery manufacturers focusing on high value, high speed machines, the requirements of the Australian craft industry have been overlooked. Fibre King’s Little Packer is the first-of-its-kind and is designed specifically for craft breweries and is compact, flexible and affordable.
For Black Hops owner Michael McGovern, the new machine will help the two-and-a-half year old brewery jump into its next growth stage. What started as a contract gypsy outfit in 2014, Black Hops is now producing 500,000 litres per year at its own production facility on the Gold Coast. “It’s been almost like a new evolution in Australian craft beer,” McGovern explained. “We’re moving on from small boutique businesses into large national brands, and with that comes growth and scaling up production. “This project that I worked on with Fibre King was really coming up with a solution that I couldn’t find anywhere in the world.”
“I spoke to a number of case packing manufacturers and they all offered solutions but they were all just so big, just too big to suit our needs.” The collaboration has resulted in a prototype packer and sealer that suits Black Hops' “small but larger” canning line.
McGovern explained that with its current setup, Black Hops’ canning line can do about a 24-pack carton a minute with three or four people. “With the automated case packer and sealer, that allows us to maintain those three to four operators on the packaging line but increase our output,” he said. “Without that case packer, we would have five or six guys there, with potentially three or four of them just gluing boxes shut like mad all day long, everyday.”
The new machine, McGovern explained, will free staff up to engage in more rewarding work and help Black Hops to compete in the larger retail market, particularly in packed beer.
For more information on how the “Little Packer” can help in your production line contact Fibre King at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07 3293 8800.
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