In 2014, Colorado made history as the first state in the country to open recreational dispensaries for legal cannabis sales. No one really knew what to expect, but one thing was clear right away: The infant industry was growing fast. As consumers became more savvy and product lines became more diverse, entrepreneurial-minded individuals working in the space saw a wealth of opportunity.
One sector that provided this opportunity hinged on growing interest in vape products. Two Colorado budtenders at a boutique dispensary, Jake Berry and Coley Walsh, quickly recognized the need for affordable, high-quality products as vaporizer devices became more and more popular with consumers. They founded Pyramid Pens, now operating as Loud Labs, a CO2 extraction company that manufactures concentrates and vaporizer devices.
Demand continued to rise, and the company continued to expand until they ran into the same challenges most growing companies in the industry face: scalability and efficient process implementation.
Rapid growth poses challenges for manual processes
Many cannabis companies started out with a small number of passionate employees and a production approach that relied heavily on manual processes. As recreational use becomes legal in more states and consumer demand for products like vape cartridges increases, many companies are scurrying to keep up and stay competitive.
At Loud Labs, for example, the team initially consisted of three full-time employees who hand-filled and capped cartridges. Unfortunately, this bottleneck in the production process is a common story among manufacturers, making it difficult for them to meet demand, create new products, and reach expansion goals.
Using inefficient processes on the manufacturing floor is not sustainable for a swiftly growing industry. Companies need better ways to streamline production, produce products that are competitive within the marketplace from a price and quality standpoint, and scale up to today’s more sophisticated industry landscape.
Automation enables potential
Implementing automation allows manufacturers to reach their goals for the future. Growers, processors, packagers, and manufacturers across the continuum look to automation to increase efficiency, lower costs, and launch products on an accelerated timeline. In addition, widespread labor shortages now challenge the manual labor tactics on which the industry has relied for so long. Almost every business could benefit from adding equipment and machinery that automate processes and impact long-term scalability.
Loud Labs implemented a solution that was purpose-built for its exact challenges. Berry and Walsh turned to an original-equipment manufacturer that creates automated solutions for filling and capping vaporizer cartridges to increase throughput, efficiency, and accuracy on the production floor. By using the right automated solution in daily workflows, Loud Labs resolved the constraints of the manual processes, drastically reduced turnaround times on orders, and laid the groundwork for growth and product innovation.
“Using automation, we were able to fulfill and get orders out the door much faster than before while still bringing a competitive, affordable, and high-quality product to market,” said Berry. “This has allowed us to continue to grow our business, provide top-notch customer service, and see the return on our investment in a very real way. With these machines, we have set in place a great framework within our business to ensure our future success.”
The time to automate is now
If your business is hamstrung by manual processes, you’re not alone. But as the industry continues its rapid growth, smart business owners can’t afford delays and production holdups. To understand whether automation is right for you, first examine your business goals. Do you want to make your business scalable for future growth, or are you happy with the status quo? Next, it’s a good idea to take a look at marketplace trends. Is the space in which you operate growing quickly, requiring you to meet increased demand now and in the future?
If you decide to pursue automation, find a partner that not only understands your business but also is committed to high standards. Consider whether or not an automated-solution provider has certified, qualified, and verified equipment. For example, cETLus certification ensures equipment has been tested and certified for operation in North America and is compliant with prevalent product-safety standards. In addition, your partner should strive to adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) guidelines to guarantee consistent and controlled manufacturing.
The cannabis industry continues to grow and expand with every passing day. To keep up, companies must learn to take advantage of more efficient manufacturing practices and the automation of manual tasks. Because Loud Labs took the step toward automation, the company now is able to continue moving into new markets, expanding its national brand, and creating innovative new offerings for consumers. The time to automate is now.
Jacob Haugen is the value-stream manager at Thompson Duke Industrial, a leading original-equipment manufacturer supplying filling and capping equipment for cannabis-oil vaporizer devices. He is responsible for increasing efficiencies and eliminating waste to help customers succeed with Thompson Duke Industrial’s line of patented filling and capping machinery.