Automating Your Variety Pack Production

Variety packaging isn’t a new game in the beverage industry. Product sales for beverages like flavored malt beverages (FMBs), ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails, seltzers, etc. are driven by variety packs. With the market shifting from glass bottled to canned variety packs, and with the heightened production speed and efficiencies entailed, more companies are searching for variety packaging automation that will fit their unique product requirements. If you’re looking to add automation, here are a few notes to get you started on the right foot.

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Consider Your Output Needs

One of the first things to consider when evaluating the addition of automation to your variety pack production is the level of production you need to obtain. In short, how many cases or cartons are required during a specified time period? You’ll also want to consider how many flavor combinations and formats you’ll be building. Output requirements are typically determined by sales volume and customer demand.

Information to gather:
  • Type of product you’ll be packaging (cans, PET bottles, glass bottles, etc.)
  • Packaging type (cartons, cartons in trays, tray-only, tray/film, pad/film and film-only, etc.)
  • Number of flavors
  • Flavor combinations
  • Production output goals

Determine Availability of Resources

Historically, the justification process for automation was primarily based on labor costs. Now it’s based on labor availability. With pandemic regulations and low job application rates, labor availability and skillset is one of the biggest challenges for any type of packaging line and is a large consideration factor when determining automation needs.

One of the ways we help producers face this challenge is by keeping their systems’ technology and operation as simple as possible. Frequently in the past, robotics was used in packaging equipment to help producers reduce labor costs. However, with the changing skillsets many producers are finding in their personnel, turning solely to robotics is not a guaranteed solution. Simplifying system design and operation allows laborers to operate sophisticated equipment with little need for training.

As with any project, the availability of capital is a key contributor in the decision of what and how much automation to implement. While producers will see a reduction in labor costs over time, choosing the right investment level and stepping in to automation at the correct pace is a difficult process. Working through options and forecasting ROI with an industry expert can be extremely helpful.

Variety Pack solutions require various amounts of floor space, but can generally be configurable to the space you have available. It’s important to determine how much space you can allot to the entire packaging process and work with an expert to configure solutions to fit that space.

Choose the Right Level of Automation for You

Check out this infographic that illustrates how to go about choosing the right level of automation for your business » View Infographic

How Douglas Can Help

One thing we’ve learned in this industry is that technology evolves to meet producer’s output needs. At Douglas, we’re happy to walk with producers from the early educational phase of variety packaging all the way through the life of their equipment.

Discover Douglas’ line of Variety Pack options » View Options