How Aagard invented a unique combination cartoner, case packer, palletizer to help
a growing premium beverage maker drive business growth
Over the past several years, a premium beverage maker had experienced rapid growth. The business had taken off due to making an outstanding, award-winning product, developing a distinctive, authentic brand, and getting distribution in major retail channels, as well as in liquor stores, bars, and restaurants. The company was also a great marketer with unique, compelling packaging and a strong shelf presence.
Big Volume. Little Bottles. Big Challenges.
To continue to drive its growth, the company made promoting a 50 ml bottle a top priority.
These small bottles provide a single-serve portion, are an excellent sampling vehicle, and can be offered in distinctive 6-packs, 10-packs, and 12-packs with a strong retail presence.
However, this beverage brand’s challenge was producing and packaging these small bottles at scale: packaging the bottles into cartons, getting the cartons into packed cases, and palletizing them to prepare them for shipment.
The specific challenges included:
Meeting demanding marketing requirements. This is a marketing-driven company with specific requirements for the look and feel of its product. This includes how the multi-pack cartons look and ensuring absolutely no damage to the bottles’ beautiful caps. Everything has to look perfect when consumers view the package on the shelf.
Achieving aggressive operational requirements. The company had specific requirements of 600 bottles per minute, 100 cartons per minute, and 10 cases per minute.
Fitting within a finite footprint. Adding to the challenge, the company had space constraints in its manufacturing facility and said clearly, “Here is the space that we have.”
No Standard Solutions
As this company explored various secondary packaging solutions, they found that
because of their unique bottle and cap, their multiple unique carton designs, and their
exacting requirements, there was no standard off-the-shelf solution.
Even companies with long histories of packaging glass bottles informed the beverage
maker that they would have to make some sacrifices in what they were trying to
achieve. Or, as one maker of packaging equipment concluded after looking at the
requirements, “This can’t be done.”
Hearing about particularly difficult challenges that other companies shy away from, such as
the challenges experienced by this beverage brand, is precisely what motivates the inventive problem solvers at Aagard.
Founded in 1997, Aagard created the first machine that was a combination cartoner, case
packer, and palletizer on a small footprint—which was unheard of. Aagard continues to be
inspired to partner with clients to develop flexible, automated solutions to extremely difficult
Representatives initially approached Aagard from this beverage company at Pack Expo. They were looking for a secondary packaging solution but were not entirely sure of their exact needs. Despite having no experience designing solutions for bottled products, Aagard has significant experience working with clients across multiple industries on unique, hard-to solve problems. Aagard followed its proven approach of:
Listening and understanding. Before beginning to think about a solution, Aagard’s applications team first listened carefully and asked questions to fully understand the beverage company’s business goals, operational goals, unique packaging requirements, and constraints.
Developing and iterating. Aagard went through an intensive process of creating a design to solve the customer’s problems. This process was highly iterative, with extensive back and forth and approximately 20 iterations.
Forming a partnership. During this process, a true sense of collaboration and trust developed. The client came to see Aagard as an expert in packaging and trusted Aagard to develop a unique design to meet their needs.
Through this collaborative, iterative process, Aagard developed an entirely automated
downstream packaging system that met the client’s marketing and operational needs and fit
within the small footprint requirements.
Cool Machines and Exact Solutions
The operator-focused process that Aagard used with this customer shows how Aagard works with each customer to develop the unique solution that each client needs to meet its business goals and win in the marketplace. Aagard likes to say, “We build cool machines that are the exact solutions that our customers need to win.”
Aagard’s comprehensive process involves multiple departments working together under the
leadership of a vital project management function.
For this client in the beverage business, the exact solution was a combination machine that
included a cartoner, wraparound case packer, palletizer, and stretch wrapper system. This
machine is essentially the entire secondary packaging line.
After almost two years of collaboration to design, iterate, build, install, and test this equipment, the solution went live in January 2021. All of the hard work is paying off as the client is off to the races, producing a high volume of 50 ml bottles with various creative carton designs. This combo solution is on its way to helping this company achieve its business goals.
Aagard’s work with customers is never done. When Aagard builds an exact solution for a
client, it often represents just the beginning of an ongoing partnership that lasts for the life
of the machine. That’s because customers’ needs are continually changing and evolving.
Customers have new ideas, want to introduce new products and new packages, and hope
to retrofit their existing equipment instead of purchasing a new piece of equipment. At any
given time, Aagard is often working on more than 100 retrofit projects for clients, including
retrofits on equipment that is more than 20 years old.
Even before the equipment was fully operational with the beverage company, the company’s marketing team had a new and very different carton design that wasn’t part of the project’s initial scope.
Instead of panicking or forcing the company to purchase an entirely different piece of equipment, Aagard’s team could retrofit the machine by making a few minor modifications that allowed it to pack the new carton. A leader from the beverage company told a member of Aagard’s team, “This is cool. I’m so glad we did this style of machine, or we couldn’t have
adapted so easily for this new carton.” Aagard saw the client as surprised and pleased that
they could run this new carton on the same equipment.
For Aagard, working together in partnership with clients on retrofits is an area where the
company excels and which is particularly rewarding—helping clients constantly adapt and
derive lasting value from the custom equipment.