In crisis, business owners need to find areas to streamline. Cannabis brands and retailers alike should be considering automated alternatives to traditional labor. Vibrating pre-roll machines are one option with high returns and a relatively small initial investment. Industrial grinders and sifters are also coming onto the scene to make pre-roll production a less laborious process.
Automated systems create fewer touch-points or opportunities for contamination. Further, production can continue regardless of labor shortages. When finances are tight, a vibrating pre-roll machine can fill hundreds of cones in minutes as opposed to paying staff to fill the same amount in hours.
In the words of author and entrepreneur Richie Norton: “The most profitable hour is the 11th hour. Keep going.”
If one has the means, moments of vulnerability can be a good time to invest back into one’s business. Approachable, sensible machinery like pre-roll equipment offers numerous advantages over hand rolling.
Pros & Cons of Buying a Pre-Roll Machine
Pre-roll machines are a powerful way to pump out tons of joints in very little time. Whether you own a dispensary or a cannabis brand, finding a fast, efficient way to fill cones could be the difference between profit or loss.
An automated pre-roll machine decreases labor costs. How long would it take one member of staff to fill 143 cones? Is it more than one minute? If so, you’re losing money. Some pre-roll machines can fill that many cones in 60 seconds flat. Not only does this efficiency create more shelf-ready cones in less time, it provides staff with more time to focus on higher-level tasks. But it’s not just filling the cones that takes up staff time. Grinding, sifting, weighing, and twisting cones are all value-added processes in the production scheme.
Vibrating cone-filling machines are designed to create consistent pre-rolls. Some models, like the STM Mini RocketBox, guarantee no more than ten percent difference in weight from pre-roll to pre-roll. This is where it’s important to consider the quality of the machine one is purchasing.
Some of these machines can be quite costly, while others such as the King Kone and Fast Fill machines, use similar vibrating bases at a lower cost.
Some commercial pre-roll machines have a high variance in the weight of each cone, as well as a fluctuating fill rate. Some may only fill cones to 70 percent capacity, whereas others offer a consistent 90 percent fill rate. Consistent, quality pre-rolls will protect your brand and create lasting bonds with customers.
How Much Does a Pre-Roll Machine Cost and Is it Worth It?
There are many options available, ranging from relatively inexpensive to large investments. Consider the size of one’s business and the output desired.
The King Kone, for example, fills up to 169 cones per run and only costs around $1,800 but is sturdy and versatile, able to fill most cones right out of the box without attachments.
If you’re operating a small-to-medium sized business, there are some $5-6000 options capable of filling 100-300 joints in just two minutes.
For larger operations, top-of-the-line models like the RocketBox are capable of filling up to 25,000 pre-rolls a day (that’s nearly 500 in three minutes). These machines can cost up to $16,000 but often come with substantial warranties.
When deciding if this is a worthwhile investment for one’s business, consider the following: what are your current pre-roll production capabilities; how much would you like to produce in the future (think scalability); how are you encouraging customer loyalty; and what are you spending on labor costs? It’s worth noting that even the least expensive pre-roll machines can fill cones 3-4x faster than a staff member.
Some machines, such as those offered by STM, even offer online support and virtual training. Such programs ensure you and your staff can quickly, easily use the machine and solve any technical issues that might arise.
Finding the Best Commercial Pre-Roll Machine
Now that you know the pros and cons, what should you look for in a quality pre-roll machine? There are a few key factors to consider:
How long will the machine last? Consider what materials were used in its construction. Those constructed from steel will last longer and require less maintenance than those made of plastic or foam.
If your production requires high volume to remain profitable, a larger, commercial grade machine will better serve your needs. Production capacity can range from 3,000 a day to more than 25,000. Keep in mind, you may wish to produce larger quantities in five years than you do today.
It is worth noting that many cannabis farms start out with multiple, smaller machines. Several top farms have had as many as 10 vibrating filling machines with 10 to 20 employees working until they move up to a fully automated machine.
Though vibrating pre-roll machines may seem like they’re using the same method to pack cones, each processor uses their own proprietary approach. Some machines vibrate flower into the cones in layers, eliminating loose joints, gaps, and air pockets. Others shake the material into the cones simultaneously and in bulk, potentially creating gaps or loose joints. What you save during the initial investment you may pay for later in lost customer retention.
How to Buy a Vibrating Cone-Filling Machine
After conducting a thorough comparison and finding the right machine to suit your needs, you’ll need to find an authorized dealer or retailer who can answer any lingering questions.
Many companies offer the ability to purchase online and have a unit delivered to your door. Others can arrange for shipping to a local retailer for a lesser price.
Which is the Right Pre-Roll Machine?
With many options available, it’s up to you and your team to decide which one will best fulfill the demands of your business. Size and intended scalability are important factors. Also, consider current labor and operating costs.
Look at the quality of your pre-rolls and determine if they’re consistent enough to keep customers coming back. Ask yourself how much time your staff spends on pre-rolls each week. Would your operation be more resilient if you incorporated more automated systems?
Perhaps you’re finding yourself with more time to think about your business model and long-term goals. Refining and adapting your business strategy now could be pivotal in gaining market share as the global economy recovers from pandemic lock downs. Sometimes the only wise investment is an investment in one’s self.