Choosing Your Supplier

How to find them, what to ask them, and how to ensure you’re getting the best value for your business.

By Kinnek Community  |  June 11, 2018

Choosing Your Supplier:

How to find them, what to ask them, and how to ensure you’re getting the best value for your business


I’m a brewer at a 7 bbl brewery with a 6-tap taproom and a few accounts to where I distribute kegs. The time of year is approaching for when I’ll need to brew my seasonal beers, and this year, I want to try something different--selling them in 22 oz bombers! The thing is, after brewing it, I have this beer sitting in my fermenters, and I have this pallet of 22 oz bombers sitting in the corner… how do I get that beer into those bottles?

The easy answer is get a bottle filler, but I don’t know the first thing about what they are or how they work. I could get a mobile bottler to come by and help me out, but I only need to fill a pallet now and the guy in my area has a 400-case minimum to do a job. So, I decide to invest in an entry-level bottle filler. Where do I start?


  • Request a Quote on Kinnek


I fill out a form on Kinnek to request quotes. I indicate that I’m looking for something that can do a maximum of 400 bottles an hour (~33 cases). I don’t know what my budget is yet since I’m not sure what to expect, but I know that I’m not going to want to pay five figures for what’s supposed to be a once-or-twice-a-year operation.


  • Survey the Quotes that Come In


I have some quotes! Right off the bat, I know I don’t need any that are over $10,000, so I immediately remove those. I’m left with two options: a two-head, benchtop filler for about $3,000 and a four-head filler for about $6,500.


  • Take a Step Back… What Value Do I Need from this Bottle FIller?


Every supplier offers something unique, but to choose one, I have to first define for myself the kind of value I need to get out of a bottle filler. Value propositions could include (but are not limited to) any of the following:

  1. Low price
  2. High quality
  3. Low freight quote
  4. Fast lead time

And so on.

I need something to get the job done, but the prospect of investing $3,000-$6,500 in a piece of equipment I might only use twice a year isn’t very appealing. I want to spend that kind of money knowing that not only will the machine be able to perform at the level I need year after year, but I also want it to be capable of higher production volumes so I can grow into it. What happens if these bottles are a hit, and people start asking to see them on the shelves of their local beer store? I want to know that I have the capacity to go from 1 pallet to, say, 4 pallets every time I do a bottling run, so I have a new value proposition to get out of this bottle filler: the ability to add filling heads to accommodate a higher output.


  • Which of These Suppliers Has What I Need?


I go back to the two quotes I’m still considering, and the 2-head filler looks like a box with two heads on it and doesn’t fill me with too much hope of adding more filling heads if I need them down the line. The 4-head, though, is more inline and could appear to offer room for expansion. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the 2-head can’t become a 4-head, or that the 4-head can easily become a 6-head. How do I find out what these things can do?


  • The First Question to Ask a Supplier


Now that I know what value proposition I need from my bottle filler, it’s clear what the first question I should ask these two companies should address--the ability to add additional filler heads.

So, I go to Kinnek’s message box and I ask the same question of the suppliers of both the 2-head and the 4-head filler:


“Thank you for the quote--yours is one of two that I’m considering at this point. I’m looking for a filler for my seasonal beers, so the initial output is low. However, I anticipate that production should increase by four times over the next two years. I was wondering, is it possible to add filling heads to this bottle filler if that happens?”

I send the message and wait. I know that there's a possibility both suppliers can come back and say their machines don't do what I need them to do, so I browse Kinnek's catalog to get a feel for other options on the market.

While I'm browsing the catalog, the supplier of the 2-head filler responds first. He says:


“Unfortunately, no, you cannot add additional filling heads to this model or any of our models. We also sell a benchtop 4-head filler for when you need to upgrade. That retails at about $4,500.”


$4,500 isn’t a bad price, but if I buy a 2-head now and a 4-head later, I’m out $7,500 in all, which is more expensive than the other supplier’s quote. I can always buy the 4-head now and use it to half capacity at the beginning, so I file this away as a possibility even though it isn’t the ideal situation for me.


The supplier of the 4-head filler responds. She says:


“Yes. This model allows for the addition of up to 8 filling heads for a total of 12. Additional heads can be purchased from our online store, and we have technicians who can install them for you when you need them.”


Jackpot! That sounds like a win. I think I’ve found my supplier!

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