Distiller doesn’t gin around with Matthews’ labelling solution
Wanting to speed up production and make labelling less labour intensive, one of Australia’s top craft distillers needed a system that was flexible enough to cope with its small, yet constant volumes of various bottle shapes and give a professional label finish to match their brand promise. They found one with the right horsepower in a semi-automatic labelling system from Matthews.
In 2002, Brad and Monika Spalding established a craft distillery, nestled at Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains. After perfecting their “wildbrumby” schnapps, Thredbo Valley Distillery opened to the public in 2005 — a pioneer in Australian craft distilleries.
In the early years, the Spaldings transitioned from their “proper day jobs” as ski instructors, moving from part-time in the distillery to full-time as word spread, sales increased and they broadened their range from a single type of schnapps to adding a fruit-based liqueur range, then vodka and gins.
Brad says, “When we began, all the schnapps into Australia was imported, so we thought we could take a little bit of that market share with a domestic product – which worked.”
He says while schnapps consumption was actually declining when Thredbo Valley Distillery entered the market, its “wildbrumby” schnapps became such a well-known product in the mountains, and their distillery then became such a well-known destination, that the decline reversed.
“Our first labelling machinery was pretty primitive machinery. We have a little spacer that we designed ourselves so that we got the labels in exactly the same spot each time. But it was very labour intensive. Then when we began producing more volume, we went to a semi-automatic labelling machine that had a lot of trouble keeping the labels in line and the spacing on the bottle correct. So that pushed us back to a much more manual system.”
Today, wildbrumby has 28 SKUs across schnapps, vodka and gin, with their products winning several gold medals, including the 2017 and 2016 Melbourne International Spirits Competitions and 2014 Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards. Lacking the necessary professional look and volume capacity, the distillery’s manual system became too labour intensive, absorbing time the small team didn’t have.
Cost-effective, flexible accuracy
After researching labelling systems at trade shows, Thredbo Valley Distillery condensed their choices, narrowing it to Matthews for the equipment and service. Matthews recommended a modern semi-automatic system for its accuracy, reliability and cost-effectiveness, while giving consistent, professional results.
Brad says, “We have a lot of different bottle and label sizes because we have a lot of different products, so it means that we’re constantly changing labelling. Because of this, we needed a lot more flexibility than say a winery. We’re also bottling and labelling year-round; we don’t have a vintage that goes through in one hit, so we needed a machine that was flexible and would cope with all of that.”
Three-fold and easy
Brad says training was relatively straightforward and eventually, all staff will be trained to use the labelling system. “There’s good information on the Matthews’ website about it too; you can just go in and watch the YouTube demo — that’s pretty easy to follow. It’s not a complicated machine to operate.”
As well as being easy to use, the solution has sped up the tourism-award-winning business’s labelling process three-fold.
“We have semi-automated filling machines, and with the labelling now being semi-automated as well, it’s streamlined our process and operations. It just means that we can be a lot more efficient within our workspace. We’re not going to double the amount of work in the next 12 months but we are seeing growth. This labeller has sped up our production and it’s not as labour intensive so we can label a lot more bottles and then work on other things. It gives us flexibility and saves us time — that’s why we have it. And as we do increase volume, it can cope with that.”
Sticking with the professional look
Brad says they’re very happy with the professional look on their products.
“This has taken away the hassles with spacing and rolls that we had in the old labelling machine. It used to run off-centre all the time, but by the time you went back and reset it you’d wasted a lot of time.”
They also no longer waste time in attempted re-work, peeling off skewed labels that may or may not come off cleanly.
“That was a pain, because we use an adhesive that goes off once it sticks to the glass — they’re designed so the label won’t be damaged in the fridge and against ice. But if the label hadn’t been applied straight, then you’d have to be really quick to peel it off.
“When your products are on the shelf, you want everything to be in line, with exactly the same spacing on every bottle. Even if there are different varieties, all the labelling needs to be spot on. You can’t have a crooked label — you just can’t. It just says that product is not professional.
“You want your labelling machine to give you that consistency, and this does that — as well as easily being three times faster than what we’ve been doing in the past.”
Brad says the small, compact unit doesn’t require a lot of room. “It’s fitted into our production pretty easily, which has been good.”
He says, “The reason we haven’t made this investment before, and fiddled around with a lot of other labelling things is because we didn’t see that a machine would give us the flexibility we needed in our production. But that’s why we’ve chosen this one, and it’s doing the job, and we’re happy.
“For a distillery or winery or even an olive-oil company that has small runs and maybe different bottle sizes, this is the machine. There are so many craft and boutique businesses around now that need a really efficient labelling machine. This is the one that does it. It’s a great little unit.”
As well as the semi-automatic solution Thredbo Valley Distillery uses, Matthews also has fully automatic solutions for high-volume production lines.
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