Looking into a canning machine to help grow your beverage empire? Are you to eager to showcase your craft beer creation to the world? Here’s a brief overview of what to consider and expect before you begin canning your products.
When canning your beverage, there are two industry standards to choose from: opt for a mobile or contract canning vendor, or purchase your own equipment. Both offer their own advantages and disadvantages, but their pros and cons aren’t always clear. Knowing what to expect ahead of time can vastly reduce future problems before they arise.
Define Your Goals
As with any business venture, it’s best to outline your goals before going all in. This is especially true in the beverage world, as even slight variations in material and packaging can have immense effects on flavor, taste, or overall quality. To make certain your product’s standards are upheld from the production line to the consumer – and that you stay within your budget – set in motion proper planning and organizing.
But where to start?
To begin, ask yourself a few key questions:
First, are you hoping to distribute your beverage to outside markets? The size and scope of the canning machine you need will depend on how widely available you hope to make your product. If you plan on selling and sourcing locally, you might invest in a smaller unit with more specified functions, or begin with a canning line that can expand with you in the future. Or, you can simply start by hiring a mobile vendor or enlisting the services of a contract co-packer.
Next, consider the types of canned options you plan on providing consumers.
Giving your customers a variety of can sizes might be great for long-term profits, but make sure to consider how such services affect start-up, maintenance, storage, decoration and other in-direct costs.
Lastly, talk to industry insiders and experts. There’s a ton to learn from beverage creators with prior experience.
Think About Space
The sheer amount of space required in the canning process is an often overlooked element of beverage packaging. Make sure not to underestimate the amount of real estate involved throughout the process.
As canning is essentially the last step before distribution, be sure to have adequate space for storage and organizing. Plan ahead regarding the number of cans you plan on storing at any given time.
While buying in bulk will almost always save money, failing to allocate space for the material can create headaches if extra storage is required. Additionally, pallets take up space and can be a nuisance to move (the tinny sound of falling cans is undoubtedly the soundtrack to every packaging employee’s nightmares). Make sure your can pallets are able to easily fit through all entrances and exits.
Consider electricity requirements, essential supply equipment, proper drainage, cold room capacity, safety standards, and ease of loading and unloading as well.
Lastly, how ambitious are your production plans? Determine how much beverage quantity you plan on producing. Lofty output goals might have a massive impact on the space required to meet quotas and sustain profits.
Still, the production area can be as little as 100 square meters or as large as a football stadium. Luckily, building and safety requirements are typically friendly to a variety of production site sizes. Of course, this all depends on the location. But the vision is all yours!
Budget. It should be a four-letter word.
Beverage canning can have unforeseen and constantly changing indirect and direct costs. Fluctuations in material costs, disruptions in supply chains, and changes in consumer preferences and demands can easily affect the final product cost. This can vary greatly from month to month, and in these unfamiliar times can be as unpredictable as the weather. However, there are a few elements to consider when planning your budget around a canning solution.
New to the beverage scene? Mobile vendors or contract canners make it possible to launch your creation into the mainstream with lower upfront cost. They can be a great option for producers just starting out, and a practical choice if limited by space or staff. Organizations looking to scale up over time, or those simply testing out a concept, may opt for a mobile or co-packing vendor as they don’t involve any long-term dedication.
You’ll be outsourcing a large chunk of production responsibilities to an outside agency, and will be subjected to the vendor’s prices and schedule.
If you’re an established brand hoping to level up and jump directly into a canning machine, consider the following:
Cheaper isn’t always better. Just as one doesn’t purchase the most affordable clunker on the car lot, resorting to the most wallet-friendly solution might very well prove more trouble than it’s worth. Research and understand the short and long term implications of purchasing a canning system, and what value it actually provides for your customers and organization in the long run.
Consider the long-term: Is the canning machine scalable? Does the system come with a warranty or customer support policy? How expensive are parts to replace, and are they readily available?
Don’t forget installation and general maintenance costs.
Lastly, how fast can your machine output the product, and is it capable of keeping up with your demand? Efficient machines may be more costly up front but can easily save valuable time and labor costs in the long run, especially if the equipment is well-functioning and easy to maintain.
Ability to Run the Canning Line
Make no mistake, running your own canning line can take a lot of time, money, or human resources. Understanding all associated costs, supply chain protocols, as well as staffing boundaries and limits is paramount to establishing a well-functioning system of production.
To begin, all materials should be readily available. Cans, lids, labels, boxes, and all other necessities should be easily sourced from a trustworthy vendor. Even more, it’s wise to have secondary suppliers in case of supply chain errors.
Next, staff will need to be adequately trained to operate the equipment. Most canning machine companies will offer training. Confirm this is included in the purchase. Be aware if you have an extensive packaging plan that ancillary equipment may require additional training. Training workshops can lead to scheduling conflicts and require a costly training timeline.
Of course, training and preparing staff is all in the interests of safety. Make sure your canning system is built to local regulations and CE-certified, meeting all European health and environmental standards. Machines should be safe and reliable, which in turn gives you increased potential for customer satisfaction.
Lastly, make certain your organization has the capital required to operate the canning machine, including both direct and indirect labor costs, as well as any specialty staff that may be required for training and oversight. The process has upfront costs, but the payoffs of canning automation can be huge.
Mistakes are a part of the learning process, but planning ahead and educating your staff will help reduce possible setbacks in the future.
Finding the right canning solution can be daunting. However, with proper planning, budgeting, and preparation, determining the best option is painless.
Start with a business goal and a timeline. From there, it’s simply a matter of budgeting and becoming aware of possible space and staff constraints.
Whether you choose a durable and dependable canning system, or opt small with a mobile vendor, the possibilities in the beverage market are endless.
For more information, check out our helpful eBook: What to Know Before You Buy a Canning Line