Summit Brewing Increases Production with Cartoner Solution

Summit Brewing Co. in St. Paul 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 them throughout the years. The company feels that great beer is even better when it’s shared with family and friends. 2016 marked a special milestone for Summit as they celebrated 30 years of creativity, consistency and community. A milestone such as this deserves to be celebrated in a grand way. To commemorate the anniversary, Summit aimed to offer its loyal consumers a new packaging choice: a 30-pack of its canned craft beer. 

Canned Beer vs. Bottled Beer

Despite the old industry 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 have traditionally chosen to use bottles, many are making the transition to cans. Cans have become accepted by craft beer consumers in large part because of their convenience. Enjoying canned beer in recreational areas such as beaches and ballparks is much easier, and safer, for consumers than fragile bottles. Cans also provide craft brewers the opportunity to expand their distribution.

The Challenge: Packaging 30 Cans in One Carton

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 a primary focus of Summit’s 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. They were told that Douglas is an employee-owned company in Alexandria, Minnesota who have long maintained a reputation for excellence in providing outstanding secondary packaging solutions for their customers. When Summit learned that Douglas uses the phrase “More. It’s who we are.” to describe its innovation and services, it seemed to align with their can line needs, so they 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 packs of beer that contained 12, 24, and 30 canned beers in each case package.

The Vantra IM Cartoner

The Vantra IM cartoner’s flexible size range was exactly what Summit was looking for to solve their packaging challenge, giving the company the ability to run the variety of carton sizes it required to fulfill the markets demands, and to best serve their 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 up to 50 per 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.

Meeting the Deadline

Although machine specifications and installation discussions were underway, Summit realized that the clock was ticking away to make their August anniversary date. Installation needed to happen much sooner than anticipated or the 30-pack would not be produced in time for the 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 when integrating equipment. Because a relationship already was established between Douglas and the vendor, it made the entire process easier. The result was a seamless integration from start to finish. A benefit that Summit, and any producer, can appreciate.

The Result

“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 ensure everyone gets to enjoy a Summit beer. Want to discover how Douglas Machine Inc. can help solve your packaging challenges? Contact us today.