Palletizing: Microbrewer palletizes product in a compact footprint
In 1989, John McDonald started the Boulevard Brewing Co. with a 5-gallon kettle in a converted railroad building in Kansas City, Mo. He soon moved the operation to a vintage Bavarian brew house, where he spent the next 20 years growing the business. Today, Boulevard delivers its distinctive Midwest brew to 19 states.
Although the company’s product range and distribution had grown, its used equipment hadn’t. “We had taken the vintage equipment as far as it could go,” says plant engineer Mike Utz. “The entire line needed to be revamped, and we knew that a proactive investment in our line was necessary to keep us competitive.”
So, Boulevard built a new 150-barrel, three-story brew house with a $6 million bottling line that could increase production and preserve quality and craftsmanship. Part of the new brew house was its palletizing equipment (Intelligrated, http://www.intelligrated.com).
But before installation, Boulevard had to be sure the machines could move and configure cases without shattering the product, especially since the trend in brewing has been toward thinner bottles for cost and environmental purposes. With no corrugated partitions and progressively weaker glass, gentle manipulation was critical. Another issue was the operation’s limited footprint; the equipment had to be compact and efficient.
The mid-speed palletizer is well-suited for single-line applications in the beverage industry. Cases containing glass bottles in 6-pack, 12-pack and 20-pack configurations are conveyed to the high-level infeed on a 90-degree-angled conveyor that preserves a compact footprint. After each layer of cases is placed on the pallet, it lowers one layer. When it’s filled, the pallet discharges from the machine at floor level and moves along a chain-driven conveyor to a semi-automatic turntable and stretchwrapper.
The system’s uniquely designed palletizing cell enables one operator to manage all functions of the palletizing and depalletizing process.
Since coming online, the palletizer has moved Boulevard from 11 workers running 300 bottles per minute to five workers bottling 500 bottles per minute. A total of 25 to 30 cases are palletized per minute, which is a 100% increase over Boulevard’s previous manual palletizing methods.
“The benefits we’ve received have been remarkable,” says Utz. “It’s truly a stout machine that will carry Boulevard into the next 20 years.”