Ska Fab, the company started by Durango microbrewer Matt Vincent, a partner in Ska Brewing, and Durango machinist Dan Morris to meet the manufacturing needs of craft brewers, has been purchased by a private equity firm, Hanover Partners.
Ska Fabricating, more commonly known as Ska Fab, will remain operating at its current location, 545 Turner Drive, Suite A, in Bodo Industrial Park, Vincent said.
Its employee numbers are expected to grow from 60 up to 70 employees by the end of the year with the infusion of capital that will come from the purchase of the company by Hanover Partners, Vincent said.
“They had approached just about a year-and-a-half ago, with interest in Ska Fab and over the past year and a half of negotiating and working things out with them, we agreed to essentially partner with them,” Vincent said. “They are focused on keeping the company in Durango. That was big emphasis for us – that they want to keep all manufacturing here in Durango.”
Some local control will be lost. Hanover Partners will have three seats on Ska’s five-member board of directors, Vincent said.
Financial details of the acquisition by Hanover were not released.
Capital from Hanover Partners will be especially key in sustaining Ska Fab’s growth, which has ranged from 15% to 20% since its founding in June 2012.
Ska began by creating can depalletizers, machines that automatically stack cases of beer cans or other products on a pallet, that worked for smaller production runs typical of craft brewers.
Traditional giant depalletizers used by Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and Pabst Brewing Co. typically process 2,500 cans a minute and cost up to $200,000 – far more machine than typically required by a craft brewer.
Ska Fab now makes several manufacturing components – like conveyors and packaging line equipment – that meet the needs of smaller beverage and food producers.
Ska Fab has provided more than 1,000 businesses with depalletizers and specialized packing line equipment in all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces and in 23 countries.
Vincent said the move by craft breweries to move from bottles to cans and a move by consumers to favor smaller, niche food producers has fueled Ska Fab’s growth.
Ska Fab is especially aiming to expand beyond the beverage market and already is working with a producer of spices to automate the jarring of its herbs.
While Ska Fab started with lower-speed lines more suitable to smaller producers, Vincent said, it now is designing packaging systems that handle up to 100 containers per minute.
“One hundred containers a minute is a fairly large company, so they just have multiple lines that they run on,” Vincent said. “Our equipment is very diverse and has a very small footprint. It can be put in a lot of different facilities that previously had been manually handling containers. Now, they can automate that.”
Even 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, has not slowed Ska’s sales.
Initially in 2020, with its COVID-19-induced economic slow down, Vincent said business “looked scary for a little bit.”
“2020 started scary for everybody,” he said. “But given that people switched from drinking at bars and restaurants to drinking at home, it ended up increasing demand for our equipment from manufacturers.”