Beer canning plant for Vocation Brewery

2020 was a particularly difficult year, but it did not stop us from completing some very interesting projects. Undoubtedly, one of these was the new beer canning plant for Vocation Brewery.

Vocation Brewery was born in 2015 in England, between Leeds and Manchester, thanks to the particular “vocation” of the founder John Hickling, who in 2008 had abandoned his job in the bank to produce his own beer. Today the brewery has a staff of around 60 people and sells the equivalent of 10 million cans a year.

We are particularly proud of this project for two reasons: firstly, we have guaranteed quality service and assistance to the customer despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic. In fact, our intent was to minimize the delays due to the lockdown, and with commitment and determination we were able to install and start the line in May 2020, when the general situation was of full emergency.

The second reason that makes us proud is the confirmation that our technology is truly capable of turning the brewery business around. In this case, the Master C Block filling and seaming monoblock is the spearhead of the Vocation Brewery beer canning plant. It is a compact 24-valves machine, easy to install, with a speed of 15,000 cans per hour and a flow-meter filling technology that guarantees very high precision. A flexible solution that is having considerable success in many markets, together with other CFT Group’s machines for craft breweries such as the Smartcan and the Microbrew by our company Comac.

Beer canning plant - CFT

Canning plant for craft breweries

To celebrate the great success of the project, we asked Richard Stenson, Managing Director of Vocation Brewery, to tell us about the experience with CFT from his point of view.

Richard, how would you present Vocation Brewery? What makes you different from the other breweries?

All breweries are different. The beers, the processes, the people. At Vocation we have always done things our way and quietly gone about brewing beer and trying to improve with every decision we make. I think it is this constant striving for improvement that has allowed to gain the reputation we have. Wherever possible we have invested in new and better equipment with a view to improve our processes and consequently our beer. It helps that we love what we do!

Why did you choose CFT Group for this project?

The purchase of our canning line was a major investment for us, so it was not a decision we made lightly. Like all decisions it was a combination of factors but the main one was the strong reputation CFT had within the industry and in particular the recommendations of other breweries that were currently working with them. Of particular importance was service levels after the machine had been installed and making sure we had a supplier that recognized the critical nature of any breakdowns and did whatever possible to get us back up and running. What we heard from others was all very reassuring.

How did you feel with the CFT people you met and who managed the project?

The installation was not the easiest, as it was in March/April of 2020 when we were in lock down, so it did not make things easy. Despite this, the CFT engineers did an excellent job to get us up and running. I still maintained some contact with Matteo who I dealt with during the purchase, which is reassuring from a buyer’s point of view, and if I had any problems always felt he could help to rectify them.

Describe your beer canning plant. Which are the main components?

Pallets of empty cans are fed into the depalletiser.  This lifts the cans to the correct height and sweeps them onto the feed conveyors where they are inverted, internally washed with high pressure jets and then fed into the CFT filler. The filler is of a rotary design with 24 fill heads and 4 seaming heads.  The individual cans are clamped, purged with high pressure CO2, filled with product using very accurate flowmeter technology, seamed and then discharged from the machine on conveyors. The cans then pass through a Xray machine that verifies correct fill heights and rejects those out of spec. The cans pass through a drier unit and are then inverted, dried on the base, prior to date coding.  They are then re-inverted and pass into or through the labeller dependant on product. From leaving the labeller the cans pass onto mass accumulation conveyors and are laned prior to loading into the packer. Once sorted & laned the cans feed into the auto packer and are packed in either a 2×2 format or 3×4 dependant on weekly planner. Upon leaving the packer, the boxes are labelled & barcoded (if necessary) and pass through to the final pack stage.  At this stage, the 2×2 cartons are collated into trays or boxes (dependent upon customer) into 24 packs and palletised.  The 4 x 3 formats are simply palletised. The final stage of packing is the wrapping of the pallet.  This is done on an auto palletising unit, to ensure uniformity of all our completed palletised final pack products.

Comparing your production process before and after the installation of CFT Group’s beer canning plant, which are the main benefits you have obtained?

The biggest impact has been going from 3,000 cans an hour to 15,000 cans an hour. On top of that, we have seen increased consistency, lowered TPO’s and seen better efficiencies. These improvements have made us better beer and greatly enhanced our reputation. 

Beer industry market: future perspectives

The beer market is expected to record a CAGR of 5.2% over the period 2021-2026.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the beer market can be witnessed by a rise in prices. This increase is associated with the interruption of the supply chain, which has increased both the costs of raw materials and the transport of the final product due to the limited availability of raw materials, due to production interruptions and labor shortages.

However, the market has still managed to grow in recent months, with consumers opting for home consumption when bars, pubs and restaurants are closed. In the same period, the sale of beer cans increased exponentially.

Matteo Avanzi – Regional Sales Manager