Advantage craft breweries: robots take the frothiness out of cartoning

A sealed can of beer is the ultimate satisfaction for a craft brewer. But what’s better than a can of beer? A full case ready for the retail shelf. It marks the beginning of a brewing success story, and when cartoning reaches 40 cans per minute, you know you’ve reached your tipping point.

However, as beer packs increase, so do the cartoning challenges. Growing capacity means bringing more hands on deck or investing in an automated system.

Manual operation may have a lower initial cost, but labor costs quickly add up. Moreover, while direct human control allows closer monitoring, automatic cartoners ensure higher consistency. On the whole, machines bring a steady hand.

But automation has a cost too. Mechanical processes open the door to operational and maintenance issues that put the viability of 40 cpm threshold into question.

Growing by keeping it small

Small brewers would cheer for a system that combines the simplicity of manual operation with the accuracy of automated systems.

“This need is peculiar to craft brewers,” says Dave Shepherd, president of Mpac Switchback. “Like all businesses, breweries want to expand, but production typically remains around 3,000 barrels a year.”

Backed by decades of experience in beer can cartoning, Dave’s team went on to innovate a solution that achieves both. The Mpac system provides the precision of a machine but without its mechanical complexities.

A robotic arm lends a hand

Conventional technology designed for higher speeds involves separate units for erecting, filling, and closing boxes, apart from the intricate tracks connecting them. The Mpac engineers went back to the drawing board and rebuilt a system around a robotic arm that guides the carton every step of the way.

The platform simplifies the cartoning process while perfectly matching the volume requirements of small breweries. Dave explains how the robotic arm eliminates a layer of complexity: “We managed to replace a whole series of electromechanical tools with a single, low-maintenance device.”

40 cpm is a significant breakthrough, but brewers do not need to complicate their line just to keep up with the cartoning demands. The helpful robotic arm takes your production from tipping point to sipping point without mechanical hangovers.

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