When to Automate: A Guide to Pre-Roll Production

So you’ve got your pre-roll product line launched, and it’s starting to connect with consumers because you make a quality product at a good price, all in beautiful packaging that stands out on dispensary shelves.

The next consideration will be meeting demand and with that, it may be time to automate your processes to take your production capabilities to the next level.

But that’s a big step that comes with a new set of questions: When do I automate my pre-roll production? What are the pros and cons of switching? What are some of the important things to consider before I go all-in on pre-roll automation?

“You don’t want to rush into pre-roll automation,” said Harrison Bard, CEO of Custom Cones USA, a leading pre-roll supplier to the cannabis industry. “It’s best to start with tabletop machines until you are selling around 50,000 to 100,000 pre-rolls per month.”

How to Know When to Automate Pre-Roll Production

Deciding when to upgrade to an automated pre-roll filling machine is a numbers game. How many pre-rolls are you producing in a month, and what’s the cost of that labor compared to letting a machine do it?

Source: Custom Cones USA

Automated pre-roll machines make 1,000 to 3,000 pre-rolls per hour. That starts to make financial sense for companies when they need to produce more than 50,000 pre-rolls per month, which is rarified air for pre-roll manufacturers; less than 10% of producers make that many.

But the upfront cost is not the only thing to consider.

Automated pre-roll machinery, for example, works best with consistent inputs. If you are planning on making pre-rolls containing multiple strains of cannabis or if your cannabis source is not consistent, automation could increase turnover time between production runs, ultimately slowing you down.

If you plan to manufacture 3-5 different sizes of pre-rolls, with multiple strains per week, consider using tabletop pre-roll machines instead of making the jump to full automation. If you are planning on a wide range of SKUs, the turnover time from pre-roll to pre-roll might not be worth the purchase.

Finally, not all automated machines can fill both pre-roll cones and pre-roll tubes, so be sure to consider that when upgrading your production cycle.

Pros and Cons of Pre-Roll Automation

Fully automated pre-roll machines are the ideal solution for large brands looking for a more hands-off approach for their pre-roll production process. These machines can take boxes of cones, grind the cannabis, and automatically fill, pack, tamp, twist, and even weigh the final joint, delivering a level of consistency unmatched by traditional pre-roll manufacturing methods.

Additionally, pre-roll machines can run for hours with limited employee attention, freeing up workers for other projects.

However, these machines will not run themselves. If a manufacturer tells you their machine is plug-and-play with no human interaction, they are not being honest.

But there are cons to automated pre-roll filling machines, too. First, the cost can often be prohibitive for smaller operations. And as noted, they can also be finicky, because as an input, cannabis is rarely uniform.

There is also often a higher level of training necessary. Many automated machines are technically complex and require machine operation knowledge. Some even need workers with minor engineering experience. If there is a lot of turnover on your production team, the constant retraining of employees will lengthen your return on investment for the machine.

Important Consideration for Pre-Roll Automation

Still with us? Perfect. That means your company is probably a prime candidate for automation.

But once you get the machine, there are still some important things to consider so your pre-roll production process runs smoothly.

• Grind Size for automated pre-roll machine

Source: Custom Cones USA

As we’ve noted, consistency is key to smooth automated production, especially when it comes to particle size. So it’s important to have a good industrial cannabis grinder and sifter that will produce cannabis that has been ground to the same size and cleaned of debris like stems.

Most automated pre-roll machines need a particle size of 1-5 millimeters to keep things moving smoothly. Some automated pre-roll machine manufacturers may include even more specific instructions for optimal use, such as a particle size of 2.5 millimeters sifted through a 1/8-inch screen.

• Controlling humidity and water-activity level of flower for automated pre-roll machines

The moisture level of your cannabis must also be consistent. Material that is too moist will cause machines to not work properly. It’s recommended to store cannabis in humidity-controlled environments to maintain consistency.

• Best room temperature for automated pre-roll machines

Room temperature can also have an effect on your cannabis. If the room in which you are operating is too warm, the resin in the cannabis can become sticky. If possible, install and operate your automated pre-roll machine in a climate-controlled room.

• Trained and reliable automated pre-roll machine operators

These machines are expensive, and it makes sense to train a dedicated employee or two to keep them running smoothly and producing high numbers of pre-rolls day after day.

Source: Custom Cones USA

• High quality pre-rolled cones for automated machines

Finally, make sure you have high-quality pre-rolled cones. Inconsistent, flimsy cones aren’t good enough to work with automated machinery, so choose a pre-roll cone provider that cares as much about their product as you do about yours.

Final Thoughts

Pre-roll automation is a big step for any cannabis business, so make sure it’s the right move for your company. Always work with an expert and be sure your pre-roll supplier isn’t trying to sell you a machine you don’t need.

Learn more about Custom Cones USA and its broad pre-roll products offerings here

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