Perhaps more than anyone, craft distillers understand the meteoric rise of the craft distillery industry in the US; the most recent data shows operating craft distilleries in the country at numbers quickly approaching 2,000, a staggering figure when you consider that there were just 57 in 2005. Craft operations have also seized an ever-growing share of the spirits market at 4%, up from just 1.1% in 2012.
The numbers don’t lie – Americans are beginning to value small-batch, local, family-owned, craft spirits with a story, just as they’ve done with the craft beer industry.
Is Your Facility Functional?
As anyone currently operating a craft distillery soon learns, however, maintaining a successful distillery goes far beyond the story behind the business and the flavor of the spirit – although those aspects are obviously crucial for sales and marketing purposes. Whether you’re considering opening a distillery, in-process, or even upgrading your equipment, it’s essential to address the functionality of your facility first.
One of the most important keys to a successful and profitable operation is optimizing your equipment layout. It’s essential to arrange your facility in a way that not only increases your productivity but ensures that you’re staying within regulations.
Before you begin, address these six concerns:
A crucial part of any distillery facility set-up is the potential cost of it all. Many craft distillers enter into the business with a great story and a premium product but fail to understand just how much really goes into the purchase of a space, equipment, permit fees, taxes, and more. Before you make purchasing decisions, compile a detailed purchase plan that includes floor space, equipment, and more.
Then, navigate through your plan item by item to build a detailed budget. Be sure to include the cost of permitting, utilities, licensing, and other expenses. Prepare for the worst – your budget should include cash reserves to cover any disasters or incidentals.
It’s no secret that the craft spirit industry is much more heavily regulated than even other craft alcohol sectors. You’ll need permits from multiple entities, and each will perform an inspection of your plans or facility to ensure adherence to the law. Entities such as your city, the fire department, the health department and the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Bureau will need to approve your plans first.
Watch for specific building requirements surrounding the electric elements and plumbing in your facility. Ventilation is another key compliance area for most distilleries. Attention to the above will prevent expensive remodels and fines down the road.
Planning by process
Once you know the shape and size of your equipment and have dimensions of the space it will occupy, it’s time to arrange it all. However, placing your equipment is much more complicated than simply arranging it all where it fits best. Instead, consider the process your spirits undergo in the distillation, distribution, and warehousing steps.
It makes no sense to require pre-products such as mash to be carried through your bottling setup, and you definitely don’t want to slow down your operation. Avoid transporting materials across your facility with a setup that keeps one step congruent with the next. You’ll find that you’ll increase your production, reduce wasted time, and reduce wasted materials as well.
Humans and machines
Even if your setup allows for a natural flow of product from one step to the next, you should consider both the humans involved in your process and the machines you’ll utilize for movement. If your entire wash back setup is in a tight corner where foot traffic is limited, you’ll find a significant gap in your production. Similarly, if there’s no space in your bottling setup or warehouse to allow movement of machines, you’ll quickly realize just how much extra labor is required before packaging.
Ensure you have a well-defined central roadway that is kept clear for machine traffic, as well as sufficient space near the necessary equipment. Other areas that require mostly foot traffic can be kept narrow, but it’s important to ensure you don’t cause hazard or productivity issues by arranging machinery too close together. In general, leave room for efficiency and safety anywhere that requires human or machinery access.
Service and maintenance
While employee access to the operating parts of your equipment is crucial for production, you’ll also need to take service and maintenance into account. For day-to-day maintenance, employees will need access to clean, power off, and otherwise operate the equipment for maintenance purposes. For regular and emergency service calls, a technician will need access to the most commonly repaired parts.
In general, leave enough clearance between pieces of equipment for all necessary parties to access the front, back, and sides of each. Similarly, keep equipment away from walls so even the most obscure portions of each are available for servicing. You’ll cut down on maintenance labor considerably by taking the time to plan for service access.
Final packaging and distribution
Even after the distilling process is complete, you’ll find that efficiency is key in bottling, packaging, and distribution as well. For starters, it’s important to choose packaging elements that adhere quickly and seal well, avoiding excess time in production and messy, unreliable packaging. For most bottlers, this includes the use of hot melt adhesives for both labeling and boxing.
In addition, consider locating your packaging equipment near your warehouse floor or at least near a wide pathway for transport. Carrying cases of finished product through your active production areas is a practice you should avoid at all costs. Meanwhile, locate functions like bottling, labeling and packaging near one another for maximum efficiency.
APPLIED Adhesives Can Help You Stay Efficient
Just as the best spirits in the industry can’t save a distillery that struggles to produce them efficiently, an excellent distilling process means very little if you aren’t able to keep your bottling and packaging operations running at pace with production. Hot melt products from APPLIED Adhesives can help you streamline your production times and ensure you’re delivering a beautifully packaged product to your customers.
For more information or to receive a quote, contact us at (800) 274-9801 or complete an online inquiry.
Written by Bob Hamilton