The Florida Brewery, the second oldest brewery still in operation in Florida, had a packaging problem—a good problem, one that comes with growth and expansion.
Brewing more than 28 different styles of beers, lagers and ciders. The Florida Brewery (TFB) packages its own products and co-packs for partners worldwide. To keep up with increasing demand, one thing was clear—more packaging options and new equipment were needed.
The challenge: Who could The Florida Brewery trust with expanding and upgrading packaging operations not only for today, but also with an eye to the future?
Sometimes things work out when you need it most. Challenged by packaging operations slowing down production, TFB’s CFO Stacey Oakley called on Mauricio Samaniego, Packaging Corporation of America’s (PCA) field sales representative located in Winter Haven, Florida. Samaniego knows the beer packaging business well, and while working with another company, he made a positive impression with his ability to listen and present solutions that worked. It also didn’t hurt that PCA Winter Haven is located just two miles from TFB.
“I thought, ‘let’s keep it local and reach out to our neighbors,’” said Oakley, project lead on the packaging expansion project. “PCA is just down the street, Mauricio knows our business and our contract with our previous partner was up, so let’s talk to him. It all came together and worked out.”
Sustainability Drives New Packaging
Focusing on the can side of the business, the challenge of transitioning from plastic-top carriers to more sustainable carton packaging for all brands and co-packs drove a need for new equipment.
Samaniego met with Oakley, listened to her team’s concerns and developed a plan with the help of PCA’s design, production and customer service teams in Winter Haven and San Bernardino, California. With a hands-on, personalized approach, PCA won the business and began guiding TFB through packaging modifications beginning in November 2019.
- Developing more sustainable cartons to replace plastic-topped can carriers
- Adding a new carton and tray maker on-site
- Revamping existing trays to maximize the efficiency of new machinery being purchased by TFB from Design Machine & Manufacturing (DMM)
Handling Pandemic Challenges
During normal times, PCA collaborates with its customers on-site at its manufacturing and design facilities. During a global pandemic, that process proved impossible. PCA’s strength of 100 well-connected facilities kept TFB’s packaging transition on schedule.
Instead of TFB staff shipping samples directly to DMM’s facility in Fresno, California, and visiting the plant to see the machines operate and oversee testing, PCA’s team in San Bernardino streamlined the process. They developed the new package design, sent sample trays and shared the CAD files needed to set up the new machinery. The plant also replicated product runs, testing more than 8,000 trays on the new machine.
“Normally we’re flying to the plant and seeing the machines operate and doing the testing side by side,” Oakley said. “But obviously COVID changed how we operate. Luckily when we needed samples sent, PCA was able to make them and send them from their facility near DMM’s in California. It all worked out great.”
The new packaging machine was delivered to the brewery on time in August 2020, and testing began on schedule. About 2,000 of each carton tray has already been tested—more than 80,000 trays total—and last month, the last test product for 12-ounce beer cans was complete. The new fully automated packaging operation was launched and will be fully up to speed by 2021.
Packaging Improvements = Immediate Results
TFB’s new packaging operation is already paying off:
- Labor costs have been reduced by full automation, eliminating the need for temporary staff.
- Waste costs have been reduced through efficiency and elimination of plastic tops.
- Capacity has been expanded, and more products and customers are being onboarded.
“We have a great relationship with PCA,” Oakley says. “Their quality is better, and their responsiveness is fantastic. And the solution fit very well with how we operate, accommodating very large runs to smaller ones that don’t use much volume.
“It’s a large project to put in a new machine, get it situated from build to delivery and to work out the inefficiencies. But we’re ready for 2021 with what we need it to do.”
For Samaniego, he says this project’s success comes down to three PCA strengths:
- Guiding customers through packaging challenges painlessly
- Leveraging capabilities of multiple PCA plant operations so transitions are seamless for customers
- Excelling at the “hard to do,” the main reason he says customers trust PCA
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