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Automation

Is Vape Cartridge Filling Automation Worth It? Part Two

Investment Analysis

Investing in Automation: A Technical Perspective 

Businesses understand the importance of sustainable growth, but allocating investment capital can be a difficult process. At Vape-Jet, we believe in approaching these decisions from every angle with the best possible information.  

In our previous article, “Investment Analysis: Is Vape Cartridge Filling Automation Worth It? (Part One)” Director of Sales Josh Maramba and CFO Brian Kuo outlined several key marketing and financial questions to consider during automation investment analysis. Although these questions are vital to new process considerations, they are only one part of your assessment.  

With the help of COO Devon Reid and CEO Ryan Hoitt, this article expands on the technical considerations of your investment, showing how Vape-Jet’s technology reduces bottlenecks and labor costs while allowing you to reallocate resources and establish long-term security.  

Chemistry and Workflow Considerations with Devon Reid

Although the mere mention of chemistry might give some business owners a migraine, resident chemist, engineer, and COO Devon Reid is here to simplify the implications of chemistry and workflow for growing businesses.  

According to Devon, when manufacturing cannabis products, bottlenecks begin at the point of extraction and compound through the process to obtain finished goods.

Unrefined vs Refined Workflow Comparison
Unrefined vs Refined Workflow Comparison

“[The] quality of finished goods flows from upstream processes,” Devon says. While unrefined products are less capital intensive, refined products “yield a more consistent end-product.”  

“If formulation, filling, and packaging bottlenecks are roughly analogous for both workflows,” Devon says, “the major exception lies in the filling of unrefined products.” Filling with a refined product is more consistent because “extraction impurities are removed, and formulation with pure terpenes is precise.” On the other hand, “unrefined products are susceptible to bubbling upon filling, due to impurities and uncontrolled percentages of terpenes.”  

As a result, refined distillate fills faster than unrefined product, while “unrefined workflows generally require more time to produce a product that can be filled.” For example, unrefined products like rosin are labor-intensive to extract, time-intensive to prepare for filling, and slower to fill.   

Unrefined Workflow Labor and Equipment Cost Comparison
Unrefined Workflow Labor and Equipment Cost Comparison
Refined Workflow Labor and Equipment Cost Comparison
Refined Workflow Labor and Equipment Cost Comparison

The solution demands a machine that can react to these highly variable products and workflows. Lucky for us, Devon has spent 10 years developing high-tech automated equipment to eliminate such bottlenecks. He affirms that “automation at any step of either workflow will alleviate bottlenecks and result in a more consistent product.”

Even though unrefined and refined workflows vary from place to place, Vape-Jet’s vape cartridge filling automation technology increases efficiency while decreasing variability, representing a reduction in bottlenecks across the board. With Vape-Jet equipment that you can “set-and-forget,” you can even reallocate labor to other tasks, boosting productivity without increasing labor costs.  

Technical Considerations with Ryan Hoitt

When it comes to investments in new technology, CEO and developer Ryan Hoitt identifies three critical factors to consider: the hidden costs of automation, data collection and compliance, and the rigidity of new machines. 

Reducing the Hidden Costs of Automation

The first hidden cost of automation lies in the training process. The cost of training personnel on complex mechanical automation machines can be high. However, Vape-Jet overcomes this hidden cost “by building the operating procedure into the user interface,” Ryan explains, “users always have the most up-to-date reference information available immediately, lessening the need for extensive training.”  

Secondly, machine adjustments and worker changes lead to slowdowns in the production process. With most machines, Ryan notes, moving between SKUs can be costly and require operator institutional—or legacy—knowledge. If that employee leaves, the company is at risk of losing that knowledge. “With Vape-Jet’s saved profiles, changing between active configurations only takes a few clicks and requires no physical machine interventions.”  

Finally, a prevalent but often ignored cost of automation is equipment maintenance. What happens when something goes wrong with your machine? Can you rely on vendor support? Will getting replacement parts add downtime and negatively affect your production output? “At Vape-Jet, we offer dedicated industry-leading product support with same-day response times and overnight shipping as standard in our support contracts.”

Data Compliance and Collection

With industry compliance needs constantly changing, it is essential to manufacture your products with compliant hardware. Powered by data reporting software, safe fluid paths, and clean-in-place procedures, Vape-Jet exceeds industry standards giving you peace of mind in the face of compliance changes.  

Because manual data collection is “costly and unreliable,” Ryan highlights the importance of computerized data systems. The software in our Vape-Jet collects data from “automated points of inspection, then feeds that data to external systems, with labor cost reductions and increased accuracy.” With this cutting-edge software, you can integrate our automation equipment with your ERP system.  

Machine Rigidity 

Ryan encourages companies to distinguish between flexible and rigid automation. “Heavy investment into single-purpose machines which require extensive adjustments or retrofits to work with evolving product lines can trap you into a cycle of non-innovation.” Instead, flexible machines with remotely updatable software “will always win against rigid designs especially as SKUs and consumer needs evolve.”  

In short, Ryan summarizes, “in a world of rapid technological change, highly specialized automation just doesn’t make sense.” Rather than curtailing innovation and making your business less agile with rigid automation technology, isn’t it better to invest in a machine that can update itself?   

Invest in the Future of Vape Cartridge Filling Automation

With any automation technology comes new opportunities for reducing operating and labor costs, but Vape-Jet machines aren’t just any automation technology. We believe that filling a vape cartridge ought to be as dependable and intuitive as possible.   

With state-of-the-art hardware, unparalleled customer service, and innovative software, our equipment stands alone. Our flexible fully-automatic and semi-automatic machines are designed to complement any workflow and bolster your business for the future.  

Fill smarter than your competitors by investing in high-quality automated equipment from the start. Reach out to our team for a consultation to see if our automation solutions are the right fit for your new production facility or process. 

Categories
Automation

Is Vape Cartridge Filling Automation Worth It? Part One

Investment Analysis

Let’s face it: automation can be intimidating. Representing a movement away from established procedures to something new, the shift to automated machines can be empowering and frightening at the same time. The reality is, whether you are ramping up production or building a brand-new facility, automation technology accelerates the growth of your vape cartridge filling production by standardizing processes, reducing variability, and scaling to meet market demand.  

Although investing in a new piece of equipment can seem daunting, it is important to ask the same questions you would about any other investment: What is my potential return on this investment? How does this equipment increase my workflow efficiency? Does this technology prepare my company for the future?  

At Vape-Jet, we’ve built our products in response to these questions.  

By working through investment considerations with two senior members of our team, we’d like to share how Vape-Jet machines can not only strengthen your business today, but inspire an ambitious and promising future for your company. 

Sales and Marketing Considerations with Josh Maramba

When it comes to quality assurance, what is the cost of short-term thinking? Director of Sales, Josh Maramba, says that some companies, especially early on, overlook the importance of consistency and scaling.  

“During the early stages of their business, some customers are confident that their operators could fill cartridges fast enough by hand and question whether an automated system would make sense.” 

“Even if they matched the filling speed of an automated system,” Josh says, “they would still need to contend with a significantly higher error rate.”  

Ultimately, there is much at stake when implementing a manual filling process. Underfilling leads to bad customer experiences and overfilling means wasted product. By upgrading to an automated system and standardizing processes early, businesses can foster better customer experiences and reduce product loss.  

Purchasing a lower-end automatic filling system is another common short-term oversight Josh stresses. “Sadly, many of our customers come to us only after purchasing a lower quality system and having a terrible experience with inconsistent filling and extremely poor technical support.” 

Josh has heard countless stories from customers detailing how the inconsistency of their old filling systems required them to refill cartridges by hand. “Even though purchasing a lower quality system may save some short-term money,” Josh says, “it often leads to costly problems.”  

With the Vape-Jet, we’ve reduced fill variability to ±0.25%, far outpacing our closest competitor’s ±2.5%, not to mention the inconsistency of hand-filling. Investing in a high-quality automatic system enables you to accommodate for both the short-term and the long-term. Vape-Jet semi- and fully-automatic filling systems have the lowest operating cost of any system, allowing for more flexible and leaner manufacturing operations; you’ll be spared from costly headaches, and able to scale your business while maintaining a dedicated customer base. 

Repeatability Cost comparison of Vape-Jet (0.25%) vs competitors (2.5%)
Repeatability Cost Comparison of Vape-Jet (0.25%) and Closest Competitor (2.5%)
Operating Cost comparison per cartridge of hand fill, jig-load and Vape-Jet
Operating Cost Comparison Per Cartridge of Hand Fill, Jig-Load and Vape-Jet

Financial Considerations with Brian Kuo

With over 15 years of experience in finance, CFO Brian Kuo understands that financial decisions regarding automation can be overwhelming. “Any large capital expenditure can be intimidating, and when a company is investing in filling automation, the financial decision-makers need to spend adequate time analyzing their options.”  

Stressing the significance of this investment analysis period, Brian suggests asking several questions: 

  • What is the return on investment of using human labor vs. automation?  
  • Is full automation necessary, or are we still in a phase where semi-automatic solutions are sufficient? Are there pathways to scale up with semi- and fully-automatic solutions?  
  • What are the risks of a stop in production? Does an automated vape cartridge filling machine attenuate that risk?  
  • How valuable is obtaining data on our operation? Can we reasonably collect data using human labor?  
  • Are there health risks with using only human labor that can be quantified (such as injury/insurance)? What are the safety risks and potential costs with an automated machine?  
  • How valuable is having outside resources and customer service to assist with our automation? How much would it cost us if we tried to contract with engineers to do it on our own?  

As Brian notes, there are numerous considerations when it comes to automation. Yet, with each question comes the opportunity to streamline processes, improve reliability, and increase the scale of your production.  

For an in-depth look at the unit economics and differences between manual and automatic vape cartridge filling, check out our blog post “Why are There so Many People“.

Vape Cartridge Filling Automation: An Investment Worth Making

So, to automate or not to automate? The decision comes down to where you see your business in the future. Delaying investment in vape cartridge filling automation may seem like a prudent financial decision in the short term, but the long-term costs of waiting can negatively impact several aspects of your business. 

But this is only half the story. In part two of our investment analysis series COO Devon Reid and CEO Ryan Hoitt explain how workflow bottlenecks, data collection, and machine rigidity are critical considerations for your investment analysis. 

Fill smarter than your competitors by investing in high-quality automated equipment from the start. Reach out to our team for a consultation to see if our automation solutions are the right fit for your new production facility or process.