Packaging Distilled Spirits - Levels of Automation
Distillers can be large and small. From craft distillers that may serve a local or regional area, to large distillers whose products are found on shelves around the world. With businesses filling this type of range, distillers needs for packaging also greatly vary. With plenty of options in between, presented below are three common solutions for distilleries packaging their own product.
Tabletop Packaging Equipment
For distillers with limited floor space to dedicate to packaging product, tabletop equipment offers a space-saving, cost-saving solution that still provides benefit by adding consistency and reliability to a number of packaging tasks. Tabletop equipment is semi-automatic, requiring an operator for each cycle that is run. A four head tabletop filler would require the operator to place bottles under the fill head, activate the fill, and remove the bottles once complete. This process would be repeated until all production is done.
While a complete tabletop system can be used - to fill, cap and label bottles for example - many craft distillers will use tabletop packaging equipment as a first step, to add automation to the most difficult of the packaging tasks. For example, if placing corks into 750ml bottles is taking up more time than filling or labeling bottles, the distiller may use a tabletop bottle corker to help add efficiency to the corking process. Other distillers may choose a filler or labeler as the first step, simply depending on the product, bottles, caps or corks, labels and many other factors. Of course, other equipment can be added at a later time to build to a complete tabletop packaging line.
Semi-Automatic Full Frame Equipment
Semi-automatic full-frame equipment works similar to tabletop equipment in that an operator will be necessary for each cycle that is run. However, the full-frame construction gives distillers additional options when setting up a packaging line. These machines can still work as stand-alone equipment, allowing for the most tedious packaging task to be automated.
Full-frame liquid fillers can offer more fill heads, meaning up to sixteen bottles can be filled each cycle, in comparison with four to six on tabletop machines. Conveyors may also be used to move bottles from one machine to another, reducing transfer time, or indexing systems could be used to help position bottles on certain machines. Semi-automatic full frame packaging equipment may also give the distiller the option to upgrade the machinery to fully automatic equipment in the future, allowing the packaging line to grow with the distiller.
When production demand is high, a fully automatic packaging line may be the only way to add efficiency to the packaging of a specific brand or spirit. Automatic packaging machinery removes the need for an operator to assist in packaging with each cycle run. Instead, operators will set up the machine for the bottle, product, closure, label and other components to be used. Once production begins, operators will only need to monitor the production line and add bulk components as necessary. Power conveyors will move bottles from one machine to the next, where cycles will continue automatically until the desired number of bottles are prepared for the shelf.
As noted above, many different options are available between these three automation levels. Some distillers may combine automatic and semi-automatic machinery to prepare products, while others may only automate some packaging tasks. For those with unique projects, custom packaging machinery can be engineered and built to suit specific needs. To learn more about the packaging equipment available to distilleries, or for help identifying the best solution for your own project, contact a Packaging Specialist at Liquid Packaging Solutions today.