ProEx Food knows that the main bottleneck for our customers is becoming even more widespread and restrictive: it’s just plain difficult to hire, train, re-train and retain reliable employees, whether full-time or seasonal. Also, food quality and sanitation guidelines are rapidly changing, and difficult to achieve at scale. So much operational energy is spent on patching together the operational fire of the day, that product innovation/differentiation and operational efficiency gains become distant priorities.
Our operators know this can’t last, as consumer tastes constantly shift and changing regulation mean they need to be both agile and consistent. Your customers don’t care if someone didn’t show, is new/inexperienced, or threw out their back. Your customers expect to receive consistent, high-quality products when they order them.
The labor pain point spans many portions of your operation, from intake and initial QC, to placement and orientation, to sorting, to balancing loads between lines and equipment, to pick and place in packaging, to boxing, and more. Many current processing and packaging lines are stacked with personnel to get the job done. If you are packaging in multiple formats and increasingly precise requirements, you know all too well how much rework goes into the output of finished goods. Your business health often relies on people to function at high levels, and they are far too often unreliable and inconsistent.
As Ross Lund, CEO at ProEx Food put it, “Labor shortages are making it hard for our customers to grow their business, and we want to help them overcome it. Plant ops directors tell us all the time that if they could find people to do the work, they have the orders to support it. When we show them options with our automation and robotics, they want to hear more, and ask how fast we can get it in place. We work to determine what the right level of automation would be for their operation, and also work to calculate the payoff period of the investment, which is often a lot faster than they think it will be.”
ProEx Food is well-versed in solving these problems and offers innovative, integrated solutions that deliver immediate value. We have refined, robust conveying systems, platforms and controls to move your product between lines and equipment automatically. Need to scan input product pre-processing for both surface and internal defects, and add additional layers in and post process? We have optical and x-ray scanning products to tackle this at the proper, most optimal steps in the process, and remove your need to have personnel furiously check, and often recheck product as it recirculates back to your inspection points.
Our cutting and finishing equipment deploy new technologies that offer high levels of precision with less waste. We also have pick and place robots that are faster, more consistent, and often gentler than the staff you currently have performing these and many other tasks. When it comes to packaging, robots lift at beyond-human weights with more precision and are able to execute with speed far beyond what you’ve seen before. When you need to move product to other portions of your facility, do so while removing concern over timing and safety.
Dan Ghadiri, CTO & President at ProEx Food explains: “Older robotics were a bit harsh on product, and our customers often don’t know about modern advances in soft-touch and other evolutions. When we engineer solutions now, we show our customers that current technologies are faster than a human hand can go, and far more precise. The repetition is also more exacting, as the robot doesn’t get tired towards the end of a shift. Our requests to include robotics in our designs and proposals are picking up and are often ordered.”
That really stands out and is often overlooked in automation discussions. Robotic applications are available 24/7, don’t fatigue and only need to be re-trained when you change a process. When you’re changing over the line, they are ready to start up again when you are – no need to review protocol and take time away from production.
John Swanson, Customer Solutions Manager at ProEx Food, spent the most of his career in manufacturing operations leadership and is excited about current automation options. As he puts it, “It’s funny how often a conversation with one of our clients turns into both of us commiserating on past stories of employee woes. Many of us believe we could have increased our efficiency with the ‘right people’; and now – the solution to that roadblock is even better than an idealistic team of super workers. It’s great that I can now help our partners reach these levels performance.”
ProEx Food recently displayed some equipment as well as videos of automation and robotics as the Midwest Food Processors Association (MWFPA) annual convention in the Wisconsin Dells. The display unit was a belt-weighing unit for dosing, primarily frozen final product into bags and first-stage packaging. This unit is considered an entry-level step into automation.
Nick Maglio, Director of Marketing at ProEx food, says.” We received interest in the dosing unit we brought to the show, where our operators could see how it could help in their packaging. Really, though, the star of the show was on our video loop. We included some live examples of the robotics and heavily automated lines we’ve put in place for our customers. Our example for peach unloading, washing, polishing, drying and sorting absolutely captivated the audience. We realized that we need to spread the word on this more aggressively! We also had a lot of attendees ask about our options in canning and post-packaging, which we certainly have items for, as well.”
Robotics and automation solutions help maintain uptime, consistency, quality, and ultimately are the path to profitability. They also help you refocus your time and attention to your products themselves, and how you can further differentiate from your competition.
About ProEx Food, LLC
ProEx Food, LLC is the premier Integrated Automation Solutions provider for Food Processors, Packagers and Warehousing, specializing in Fruit & Vegetable Applications. Headquartered in Milwaukee, WI, USA with European operations in Düsseldorf, Germany and manufacturing partners in the US and Europe, ProEx Food, LLC delivers best-in-class solutions for food production operators globally. ProEx Food, LCC focusses on bringing automation benefits to the company’s clients in terms of equipment, robotics and integrated control systems to reduce labor and increase food safety.