On March 18, the MBAA Ops/IT Club went on a trip to visit Ball Corporation’s Williamsburg factory.
Ball Corp is the leading manufacturer in aluminum cans for companies such as Coca-Cola, Pepsico and Anheuser-Busch. The beginning of the tour was a walkthrough of Ball Corp’s history and different departments they have, like their Aerospace division in Colorado which works on all the satellites and shuttles that have gone into space for the past 30 years.
After the history lesson, we went through the manufacturer floor. This was no normal tour, we were behind the red rope and walked up to the machines to get a close encounter. The floor was one of the loudest places I have been in; workers claim it can be as loud as a jet engine. We saw all the processes of cutting the stamps out of the sheet of aluminum, to the forming and stretching machines, the printing machine which painted all of the logos onto the can and finally to the inspection stage. One can alone takes 45 minutes from start to finish which may not sound impressive, what it impressive is the whole process can produce 3 million cans per roll in three hours.
My personal favorite part of the trip was the storage warehouse. There we two warehouses on the premises and an additional four a few miles away. Each warehouse holds 200 million cans stacked on pallets. Each pallet was 10 feet high and four pallets could be stacked up on each other. Walking through the warehouse was like walking through downtown New York. Towers of all colors like red, blue, green, orange and black; all different kinds types of cans like the typical 12-oz soda and beer cans all the way up 16 and 14-oz Four Loco cans.
Along with a previous visit to Anheuser-Busch, this trip was one of my favorite trips of the year because we got to experience how a typical, everyday product that we take for granted is made. We have all drunk from cans and carelessly threw them away. You get to appreciate it more when you see how fast they are made. The high level of technology and automation used the make them is staggering and impressive.