Ranked the 37th-largest craft brewery in the United States in 2014 according to the brewer’s association, Lost Coast Brewery capitalizes on the cool maritime climate and the exceptionally clean water of the Humboldt Bay region of northern California to craft award-winning ales. The brewpub outgrew its original space and moved to a larger facility where its production eclipsed 50,000 barrels for the first time in 2009. Now, Lost Coast beer is available in 22 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and three Canadian provinces.
With production levels increasing to meet fast-growing demand, owner and master brewer Barbara Groom saw the potential for adopting automation to replace the brewery’s existing practice of manually building case-load pallets. With plans for a new, faster bottling line in progress, Lost Coast needed an automated palletizing system to keep up with increased production and improve worker safety.
“Hand palletizing is not a good thing and I was worried about injuries,” said Groom. “We knew automation was inevitable and this was the right time to make the investment.”
To avoid disrupting the brewery’s production systems, the new automated palletizer had to fit in the same space as the legacy manual palletizing operation, a feat Lost Coast had not even thought possible. Through preliminary system design and layout work, Intelligrated confirmed the feasibility of an automated solution within the existing space. To familiarize Lost Coast with the equipment, John Fisher, senior sales engineer, Intelligrated, took Lost Coast stakeholders on a field trip to other installations to see automated solutions in action.
“That was really valuable,” says Groom. “He wasn’t just showing us something he thought we’d buy, he was showing us something that we should know about as we design our place and look to the future.”
After evaluating three vendors in 2012, Lost Coast selected Intelligrated as its preferred end-of-line automation partner, for its combination of exceptional service, design consulting services and robust equipment.
After testing multiple layouts to ensure minimal interference with existing systems, Intelligrated provided an Alvey® 780 series conventional palletizer integrated with Accuglide™ case conveyor and an automatic stretchwrapper to complete Lost Coast’s end-of-line solution. The Intelligrated team began installation on a Thursday and completed it over the weekend, with the new palletizing system receiving cases the following Monday.
The Alvey 780 keeps Lost Coast’s current production flowing smoothly at a rate of 10 cases of 24 bottles per minute, and can scale up to rates of 28 cases per minute to accommodate future production increases. The machine gently handles glass bottles, with row and layer pushers programmed to minimize acceleration and deceleration impact. Furthermore, without the burden of manual palletizing, Groom reports happier employees working the bottle line.
“For a company with a similar project, I’d suggest they talk to Intelligrated,” says Groom. “You can easily get it set up and it’ll certainly make your life a lot easier.”