Established in 1997 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Founders Brewing is one of the most well-known and popular craft brewers in the US. They owe their success to their focus on creating quality product rather than just growing their bottom line.
But it seems the craft brewer has been successful in both areas. Last year they were on track to reach 585,000 barrels of production, selling to 47 US states and selected countries throughout the world. “Every single container that we package at Founders is somebody’s experience,” says Matt Sutton, Packaging Manager for Founders Brewing. “And we look at every beer as something even our grandmothers would be proud of us for producing. There’s a great amount of care that goes into each one.”
A self-proclaimed House of Krones
As a self-proclaimed House of Krones, Sutton relies heavily on Krones technology – from brewing to packaging and palletizing – to achieve consistently high product quality. A few years ago, Founders installed the first CombiCube B small-scale brewhouse in the US, setting the stage for automated production. They installed a new can line in 2014 and, most recently, a second one running at 750 cans per minute, which is nearly double the output of the first system. “We have a relationship that’s rather deep and broad now with Krones,” says Sutton.
Founders’ new Krones can line contains:
- 64-head Volumetic VFS-C filler for 12oz cans
- Checkmat control system
- Pressant Universal 1A depalletizer
- Variopac Pro packer
- Modulpal Pro 2A palletizer
This new line has enabled Founders to increase not only production but also efficiency and waste control. “We used to give away damaged cans free to employees. It’s been fascinating to see that dwindle down,” says Troy Terwilliger, Fabrication and Equipment Installation Manager. Terwilliger also notes the importance of product consistency, which he believes Krones has been instrumental in helping them to achieve and maintain. “If I drink one of our beers here in Grand Rapids and travel to, say, California and drink the same type there, I want it to be consistent. And Krones has definitely enabled us to do that.”
With the new Line, our efficiency has skyrocketed.
Automation for the brewhouse
Back in 2013, Founders invested in a Botec F1 process control system, which automates complex production workflows and enables massive flexibility and customization. According to Alec Mull, Vice President of Brewing Operations, it also contributes to consistent product quality. Botec monitors and controls every stage of batch production, making it 100 percent reproducible. Under these conditions, it is possible not only to produce beers of consistently high quality but also to use raw materials and energy far more efficiently.
The Founders/Krones Partnership
Over the years, the relationship between Founders and Krones has evolved from a vendor relationship to a true partnership, according to Alec Mull, Vice President of Brewing Operations. “Partner is the right word for our relationship with Krones,” he says, and Troy Terwilliger adds: “It’s amazing to see how Krones has evolved for us craft brewers. I feel like they’ve grown with us.”
Maintenance Manager Cash Molski references Krones’ online shop – Krones.shop – as his most recent favorite. “I’ve not known another manufacturer to have that kind of resource available to its customers,” he says. “All of my maintenance guys can log in, look at the parts. Most of the time they can see the picture of the part to make sure it’s what they’re looking for.”
So what does the future look like for Founders and Krones? Sutton brings the answer full circle to maintaining the focus on individual product quality and consistency. “We want to make the highest quality beer we can possibly make, exactly the same it was last time, and in the right container for customers,” he says. “All of the growth we’ve experienced up until this point has been because of the quality of the liquid itself and our ability to contain that quality using Krones equipment.”
Wouldn't that be something for you too?