#137: Kankakee’s Crown Jewel: A Billion Can Story – ON SITE!

Hello to all our Kankakee County listeners and everyone tuned in from afar! This episode has a special ring—a literal hum of machinery and the buzz of productivity as we dive into an iconic fixture of our local industry.

Welcome to an insider’s voyage into the heart of Kankakee’s manufacturing prowess and community impact, brought to you by our local Crown Holdings.

Redefining Efficiency: The Crown of Kankakee’s Industry

We’re peeling back the aluminum curtain on Crown, Cork and Seal’s Bradley plant, a testament to ingenuity in the world of beverage packaging. Since its shift from steel to aluminum in the mid-80s, this facility has been quenching our thirst for knowledge on how twelve-ounce cans make their journey from coiled metal to the pop-top containers we know so well.

Our equipment might be 30 to 50 years old, but it’s all about how you use it,” shares Juan Guzman, a seasoned employee focused on ensuring that Crown operates like a well-oiled machine.

A Symphony of Cans: Slowing Down to Speed Up

Imagine a facility pulsing with the rhythm of industry, yet one where slowing down was the secret to accelerating production. As Juan enlightens us, “By not rushing the equipment, we’ve sidestepped breakdowns and boosted output to 2 billion cans a year.”

It’s a tale of persistence and savvy problem-solving, with Juan Guzman and Ray Garcia orchestrating a delicate dance alongside 40-year-old machines, fabricated parts in hand, ensuring each aluminum vessel is crafted with precision.

“…pushing aged equipment beyond its limitations.” – Juan Guzman

Infinite Possibilities: The Lifecycle of the Aluminum Can

From the whirl of cutting and shaping to the finesse of printing and varnishing, the podcast episode reveals a 45-minute symphony that culminates in a gleaming can—ready for your favorite beverage, be it a local Brickstone brewery delight or a major brand like Coca-Cola.

But what truly shines through is the infinitely recyclable nature of these cans and Crown’s unwavering commitment to minimizing environmental impact.
“This river carries all,” Lupe Carroll reminds us with his theme song, echoing the continuous flow of aluminum—used, recycled, and reborn without losing its luster or integrity.

Community Ties: More Than Just a Can-Do Attitude

Juan and Ray take pride not in the magnitude of production but in Crown’s symbiotic relationship with Kankakee. By developing educational initiatives with local schools and fostering a culture of sustainability, their dedication to environmental stewardship and community engagement runs as deep as the Kankakee River.

“Community involvement is the cornerstone of our ethos,” Juan asserts, as both guests recount initiatives aimed at promoting recycling and contributing to the betterment of Kankakee.

Conclusion: Pride in Every Can

Our exploration of the Bradley plant is more than a technical tour—it’s a celebration of community, sustainability, and industrial harmony. As Jake LaMore signs off, we’re reminded of the melody behind Kankakee’s industrious spirit, where even the clatter of machinery has a rhythm that feels like home.

“Every can has its story, from production to purchase. I personally check for them.” – Juan Guzman

If you’ve been captivated by the journey of a humble can or the communal threads interwoven by Crown, Cork and Seal, subscribe to the Kankakee Podcast—your audio alcove of local lore.

Thank you to our Patreon supporters and fans; your enthusiasm fuels our mission to share Kankakee’s stories. To our dear listeners, let’s continue to make ripples in the aluminum sea, one recycled can at a time.

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