There is a strong possibility that the next six pack of Miller Lite you grab from you grocer’s shelves came from a brewery in Dayton’s backyard.
There is even a chance that one of your neighbors helped make it.
Denise A. Quinn, brewery vice president of MillerCoors sprawling facility roughly 35 miles away from Dayton in Trenton, said her plant annually pumps out 9 million barrels of Miller Lite, Coors Light, Keystone Ice, Miller Genuine Draft, Miller64, Miller High Life and more than 20 other MillerCoors brands. There are 31 gallons in each barrel.
As for what makes it into Daytonians’ bellies,”You would expect it would come from here,” Quinn said.
A good argument can be made that Dayton should consider Miller its beer.
About 100 of the plant’s 540 employees (430 members of United Auto Workers Local 2308 and 110 salaried employees) commute daily from homes in the Dayton area alone. The workforce includes several graduates from Dayton area colleges and universities.
Despite all of that, Quinn said many in the Miami Valley do not know the plant at 2525 Wayne Madison Road exists.
Unlike Anheuser Busch’s Columbus brewery near I-71 and I-270, the MillerCoors plant in Trenton is very much off the beaten path.
“It is unfortunate people do not know we are here,” Quinn said. “They don’t know that we are a good community citizen.”
The sprawling plant is on 1,056 acres. That includes the 33 acres in what is under the main building’s roof.
Interviewed in the plants’ seemingly never-ending main hallway, mechanic Joe Lambert of Dayton, a 14-year employee, said he enjoys everyday at MillerCoors.
“It is just a good place to work,” he said.
He said the biggest misconception is that people think the Trenton plant is located in Trenton, New Jersey, and not Trenton, Ohio.
MillerCoors’ other locations are in Albany, Georgia; Chicago; Eden, N.C.; Fort Worth, Texas; Golden, Colo.; Irwindale, Calif.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Elkton, Va.; and Watertown, Wis.
On the premise that many Miami Valley residents are unfamiliar with the goings on at the plant surrounded by farmland, the Dayton Daily News was granted a behind the scenes tour.
Here are eight things you may not know about MillerCoors in Trenton:
1) The Robot change their own batteries
When Quinn mentioned her plant’s 32 robots, we thought about moving arms on an assembly line.
The plant’s laser guided, automated vehicles are more than that. They literally drive themselves. Quinn said they are controlled by information loaded into a computer program. They move pallets of brew around the plant’s distribution center as smoothly as figure skaters move on the ice. Human workers towing products on three-wheel bikes seamlessly weave around the machines.
The robots can change their own batteries and, as we witnessed, pull themselves in for occasional repairs (see video). The scene we witnessed was akin to a human going to the doctor for a checkup. The plant’s massive inventory of beer is turned over every day and a half.
2) Employees wanted
A job at Miller was competitive when the plant first opened in 1991. About 52,000 people applied for the first 165 positions. About 540 people — mostly from cities in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana — now work there. Quinn made a game of pointing out Dayton residents and University of Dayton grads during our tour.
She said the plant is preparing to hire roughly 15 additional employees to help produce the new 40 ounce plastic bottle line. MillerCoors has 8,500 employees in total.
Quinn said employment at her plant has been stable for each of its 22 years, and there has never been layoffs or shutdowns. She stopped by the plant’s union office during our tour and briefly joked around with the union’s chairman.
3) Domino effect
Quinn did not have exact economic impact numbers, but said her company pays about $15 million in property, state and local taxes annually and buys $130 million in goods and services in the state each year.
Many area residents are employed in positions related to the brewery. Dayton-based Bonbright Distributors Inc. distributes MillerCoors brands locally.
“For every job in a brewery there are two more outside,” Quinn said.
4) Location and water
Quinn said the Trenton site was selected due to the surrounding workforce, location to highways and its plentiful aquifer. MillerCoors and its employees work hard to be good stewards of the water, and the company is involved in several conservation efforts, she said.
“It is a very high quality and high quantity aquifer,” Quinn said. “Water is very important to our process. We are sitting on a natural resource that needs to be protected.”
5) Clean slate
Besides the occasional puddle of beer (arriving home smelling of beer is not unusual for MillerCoors’ employees), the plant is freakishly clean. Even a repair shop we popped into was well organized. Quinn said it demonstrates how much pride employees take in their work.
The plant has a miniature quick response vehicle and 40 employees are certified as EMT/first responders. Crossings in the building are clearly marked. Quinn pointed out bulletin boards that discuss safety efforts. One stands out. That board has photos of children and other family members, and asks why employees choose to work safely.
7) Landfill free
The plant is landfill-free. Quinn said 99.8 percent of the the plant’s waste is recycled or reused. The remaining is burned and disposed of in an environmentally sound way, Quinn said. She pointed out that she doesn’t have a trash can in her office. Five out of MillerCoors’ eight major plants are landfill free, she said.
8) Taste test
MillerCoors employees say they are popular within their friendship circles. Each employee receives an allowance of beer each month. A select few drink samples as part of the job.
They test small samples of beer at each step of the process for taste, smell and color. The Trenton plant has about 30 sensory testers from various departments. Ten of those testers are considered advance testers.
Dan Dulude, a Brewing Process Leader and advance tester, said people often jokingly ask where they can sign up for his job.
Contact this columnist at arobinson@DaytonDailyNews.com or Twitter.com/DDNSmartMouth