SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE
When Spotlight on Business had the opportunity to chat with the owners of Twin Monkeys Beverage Canning Systems in Aurora, Colorado, I was immediately captivated by their backstory – and it put me in mind of a quote. At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco in 2012, Jim Goetz, the famous Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist, told a room full of reporters and aspiring startups that “It’s shocking we don’t see more engineers and entrepreneurs interested in enterprise.” Simply put, Goetz gets it. He’s a Stanford educated electrical and computer engineer who sits on the board of directors for the likes of Carbon3D, Jive Software, Barracuda Networks, and WhatsApp. He knows that no one is better qualified to establish the evolutionary fitness of their business than engineers and Josh Van Riper and Brian LeFevre are proof. “We take our customer feedback and we use that to continually redesign our lines,” Josh told me. “It’s basically an evolutionary process that we practice here and that’s just not true of everybody in this industry.” Their affordable inline filling systems, from the tiny footprint, tabletop Yampa system to the full-sized Animas and San Juan systems that have a throughput of 35-plus and 70-plus cans a minute respectively (and two new filling systems debuting soon that will be the smallest in their class), are proving to independent small and big batch brewers everywhere that “Yes, you CAN!”
By David MacDonald T hey’ll create a fully-automated packaging line that fits in your facility. They’ll meet your CIP (Clean-in- Place) and SIP (Sanitize-in- Place) needs. They have equip- ment experience with box erectors, palletizers, depalletiz- ers, drop packers, fillers, crown conveyors, fill level inspec- tion systems, marking systems, automated valve controls – and more. They have controls experience with PLCs (Pro- grammable Logic Contollers), HMIs (Human-Machine Inter- faces), SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), remote system control, process PID (Proportional-Integral- Derivative) loops, databases, and alarming systems. “We can help with the systems and anything that helps run the systems that help make beverages,” Josh said. “Brian and I are both automation engineers and we both came at it from different angles; he’s more of a mechanical engineer and I do more of the programming and electrical work.” Between the two owners of Twin Monkeys Beverage Canning Systems and their on-site engineering team there is over 60 years of combined experience designing custom applications and integrating various pieces of equipment from a wide variety of vendors. “Brian and I met 15 or 20 years ago on a job doing the same kind of project work,” Josh explained. “We have deep experience with automa- tion engineering. Meanwhile, I had been home brewing since it was legal for me to do it; I worked at Anheuser Busch for a bit and then opened my own brewery in 2013. I was a professional brewer for about two-and- a-half years and created some nice recipes before I sold it to my business partner so that I could concentrate on this startup Brian and I had put together: Twin Monkeys.”
“It came about because we identified a particular need in the market for a kind of quality we knew exactly how to deliver with canning lines,” he continued. “What we were seeing out there we thought were either over-priced or of poor quality so we thought we could deliver a pretty good package. We had created a canning line and a keg washer for my brewery back in 2013/2014 and that’s when we knew we had this thing nailed. We said, “Let’s go!” and we opened the business up and started to sell them to everyone.” Brian explained that the sales side of Twin Monkeys starts with a specification worksheet that their customers order from like you would with a brand new car. “You can think of it like someone saying, ’I want the chrome wheels, but I don’t want the CD six-pack in the back.’ We have lots of options. That process allows us to talk to the customer about their exact needs, which often allows us to identify some unique needs that we will then take a look at before we finalize the release of the project. Being automation engineers we latch onto these unique needs and we get to work figuring out what it is we have to do to for each customer. What we hear more than anything about our competitive advantage is that we don’t sit still. Most of our competitors – or at least some of them – won’t redesign or customize their product with any kind of regularity and we do – all the time.” “It’s basically an evolutionary process that we practice here and that’s just not true of everybody in this industry.” Part of not sitting still is reaching out. Josh’s and Brian’s respective and extensive backgrounds in equipment and controls integration have made them a lot of friends. “Our resumes really enable us to pull in others – what we call “solutions partners” – into the full system,” Josh said. “We design canning lines and what that means is that the portion we do fills the can, puts the lid on the can, and it seals the can – and then cleans up after itself. But there are other things that are needed in a canning line to make it fully functioning from start to finish. Some people need depal- letizing, which takes the cans off of a pallet and into our filling line; some people need specialized rinsing systems; and others need accumulation systems or labeling systems. Sometimes these are things we don’t do in-house because there are others who we’ve partnered with who do that quite well. It’s nice for us because we can approach a customer, or vice versa, and they know that one of their options is to order the entire kit and caboodle from us. They don’t have to just buy one component from us or a portion of what they need; they can get it all from us. They can also just go with what we design in-house, as well.”
Canning lines also do a lot for the curb appeal of any
brewery, Brian explained. Many Twin Monkey customers spotlight their systems on social media platforms because it’s great for business – but some craft brewers take it a step further. “When people are sitting in a typical brewpub, for example, they’re gathered together and looking onto the floor of the actual brewery at the tanks and the whole process and they’re seeing that what they’re drinking is being produced right there. Many of our customers will situate their canning lines right there, front and center, and it really memorizes people. People aren’t used to watching automation like that and it really is a cool thing to just sit there and watch. It really brings people in if they know that they can see everything that’s going on.” “Brian and I are both automation engineers and we both came at it from different angles; he’s more of a mechanical engineer and I do more of the programming and electrical work.” And it really is that everything element that is driving the ongoing renaissance in cans. “In the end it’s being driven by the consumers,” Josh explained. “The consumers are demanding cans more and more for their own reasons: It’s
easier to maintain the quality of the product because there’s no light that can get into those cans and light will skunk a beer over time; the cans are also lighter and more portable and easier to take when you’re backpacking or going on a beach adventure and that kind of thing; then there’s the recycling part of the equation. So I think the market is being driven more by the consumers than anything.” Brian continued. “There are also a lot of laws restricting bottle usage in places like public parks throughout the United States and Canada. That’s also pushing a lot of people to cans. You can take a six-pack out with you for the day and then smash ‘em flat when you’re done and, typically, you can find some sort of aluminum can recycling bin somewhere – you can also just put them in your backpack and take them back for a refund.” “We felt that we had to educate ourselves about what the process takes so that our customers, who often don’t know what to do, have their options in front of them when they talk to us,” Josh explained. “Cans have a unique problem in that most of the people who make cans and deliver them don’t want to deal in small volumes. A lot of times the big can manufacturers tell small brewers that they will supply them with one semi-truck full of one type of can and then a second type of can would require buying a second semi- truck load – that’s hundreds of thousands of cans. One of While Twin Monkeys does not provide cans in-house, Josh and Brian have got you covered.
the challenges is to figure out how to get lower volumes of cans to these smaller breweries and there are some great middlemen out there offering unique labeling solutions on what they call bright cans, the undecorated cans that help with the lower volume market.” Josh and Brian are truly motivated to find the afford- able options their customers around the globe need to bring their product to cans and the thanks they get, Josh explained, isn’t always free beer. “What we hear more than anything about our competitive advantage is that we don’t sit still.” “It’s such an exciting day for a lot of our customers when they first get their canning line from us. There’s so much that comes together when it’s up and running. The can is the package that they’ve been wanting to get their product into, so it’s a little bit like Christmas for a lot of breweries. Most of our customers want to show it off, they want to profile it for everyone so they take pictures and they take videos of their new canning lines. We received a link to a video at Christmas time of someone who basically made their canning line look like it was pulling a sleigh and their team at the brewery was in the sleigh being pulled by the canning line. That sort of thing really means a lot to us.”
many thanks to our advertisers
TWIN MONKEYS BEVERAGE SYSTEMS INC.
3250 Quentin St, Unit #114, Aurora, CO 80011 888.315.7462
as spotlighted in the FEBRUARY 2018 issue of SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE
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