Decisions to Ponder when Upping Canning Load

In the state of pandemic the country is in and the lost venture of draft for many accounts, breweries have quickly switched to canning more and more, both in a variety of brands and volume of packaging. That means no slowdown to discussions of owning and operating a canning line or looking to work with a mobile canner.

Mission Brewery‘s canning load has increased significantly, said Lead Brewer Jeremy Castellano, both for the San Diego brewery’s own products and those they contract brew for others.

“It’s hard to predict what the market is going to look like as places reopen, so we will continue to monitor and adjust as we move forward,” he said. “Overall, we don’t expect our canning load to slow in the short term.”

Urban Artifact took a tactical approach in canning, opting to use a mobile canner in-house while also contracting out canning for growth.

“When you buy a canning line, you’re usually taking on debt, and almost no matter what, you’re hiring people — unless you were already overstaffed, but that’s another issue, said Brewing Ops Director Brett Kollman Baker. “And you’re now having to maintain a new piece of very finicky equipment.”

For Urban Artifact, it came down to math.

“When does the seemingly high cost of mobile canning actually cost me more than having to run, operate, maintain, hire, train, and keep an in-house packaging team?” Kollman Baker asked. “Well, somewhat surprisingly, the answer is: basically fuck all that owning packaging equipment game.

“We found the numbers don’t really start to make sense for us to own our own line until about 20-25,000 bbl/yr (the Cincinnati brewery produced about 6,000 barrels in 2019), but that also assumes we are not getting better rates than we have already negotiated down from the standard rates with our mobile canner.”

Kollman Baker points to large manufacturing companies that outsource large swaths of its production assemblies to subcontractors.

“It’s expensive to have employees,” he said. “It’s expensive to maintain intricate equipment. And when you dive into the numbers, it actually doesn’t save you much, if any, money to own your own packaging setup.”

Another negative aspect is lower morale and engagement consequences with employees.

“If I am not willing to work on a canning line all day every day, how can I earnestly tell one of my employees to go do it?” he said.

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