How to Write Better Electrical Specifications for Food Manufacturing Equipment

There are certain performance expectations your food processing equipment should meet to maximize your return on investment (ROI). Failing to establish and standardize equipment specifications (specs) during the procurement process can directly impact your plant’s safety, sanitation, efficiency and profitability.

You may be thinking, “But Michael, I already have a specs list written out, and it’s worked perfectly for us so far.” And that may be true! However, in my experience, many small- and mid-sized companies have room to improve in this area. 

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2022 Recap: Our Top 5 Blog Posts of the Year

This past year has been a big one in the food and beverage industry, with new technology rolling out and (some) supply chain constraints waning. While new trends and practices are already appearing for 2023, it’s critical for manufacturers to reflect on 2022’s challenges and successes when planning for the one ahead.

That’s why we’re revisiting the topics our readers found most useful this year. From coffee trends to labor availability to cyberattacks, here are the five most popular Food for Thought posts of 2022.

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How to Choose the Best Process Valve Solution for Your Food and Beverage Facility

Designing the processing system for a food and beverage facility is a lot like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You can probably force many of the pieces to fit into various spaces. However, if you do not find the perfect fit, you’ll ultimately wind up with holes and weaknesses in your finished puzzle — or in this case, elevated food safety and quality risks that may cost your business valuable time and money.

To make an educated decision about valve selection, owners and their construction partners should consider the different types of valves available in the market and how they will interact with other components in the individual facility’s production lines.

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7 Best Practices for Designing a Clean-in-Place System

A clean-in-place (CIP) system is a cost-effective and time-saving tool that rinses and washes the inside surfaces of food processing piping and equipment without mechanical disassembly. When designed well, a CIP system improves sanitation and enhances food safety while both simplifying the cleaning process for plant operators and reducing downtime. It automates what has traditionally been a laborious and time-consuming manual process of disassembling the piping, hand-cleaning each component and reassembling equipment.

In addition to lost revenue from halted production, improperly cleaned equipment can spread foodborne contaminants from batch to batch, which is dangerous to consumers and can lead to recalls that directly impact a company’s bottom line and reputation.

If you’re considering investing in a CIP system for your facility, it’s important to ensure you’re getting a design that is reliable and up-to-date. Your process design team should consider the overall needs of your operation, including changeover efficiency, water conservation and how the design will affect the complexity of the system.

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Should You Automate Your Packaging Process to Meet Growing Demand?

Food and beverage companies have seen a major increase in demand for their products in the past few years. The COVID-19 shutdowns changed consumer habits: Instead of dining out or ordering takeout, consumers spent more money having their groceries delivered, making their own meals at home and discovering new food and beverage products. 

This increase in demand is driving many food manufacturers to consider automating their packaging processes to improve efficiency. However, choosing the right level of automation takes time and research. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, since the level of implementation will impact your initial costs as well as your return on investment. 

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Wraparound or RSC Packaging? How Case Design Can Impact Your Bottom Line

The accelerated expansion of e-commerce over the past five years paired with ongoing supply chain constraints have affected a crucial area of food and beverage processing: packaging.

The price of corrugated has been steadily increasing for years, but recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals a sharp spike in cost since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The cost of corrugated and solid fiber box manufacturing products reached an all-time high in February 2022.

In the face of significant price increases, owners must be strategic and intentional with material purchases and investments. This is the perfect time to reevaluate your facility’s current packaging process, including whether a change in case style could help optimize your process and save money.

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Struggling to Staff the Third Shift? Combat Labor Shortages with These Automation Solutions

As labor market woes continue, adopting some degree of automation is no longer optional for companies looking to remain agile and equipped to meet future consumer demands.

Even industries that historically haven’t struggled with labor shortages are now finding it challenging to hire staff. With a peak record of 11.3 million jobs open in January 2022 and not enough workers available, more manufacturers are turning to robotics to fill the gaps.

In fact, U.S. factories ordered a record 29,000 robots during the first nine months of 2021, a 37% increase from 2020, according to data from the Association for Advancing Automation (A3).

The good news? Automated systems are getting cheaper to implement and improving technology is making systems more reliable. At Stellar, we’re constantly monitoring developments and best practices for leveraging robotics in our clients’ facilities to help them improve efficiency and productivity — not to mention combating that growing labor gap.

Let’s review some modern automation tools and the many ways robotics can be implemented into the food manufacturing process.

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Choosing a Systems Integrator (SI) to Advance Your Automation Strategy

The use and development of industrial robotics and automation technology has accelerated in recent years, and that growth remains at full speed ahead. According to a recent ABI Research report, more than a half million mobile robots will be shipped to warehouses globally by 2030. That’s a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of nearly 40% in the next decade — and that’s just for distribution warehouses, not to mention manufacturing and processing facilities.

Many large food and beverage manufacturers have in-house engineering teams that provide automation and system integration services to their various facilities. However, most small- and medium-sized processors don’t have that capability, meaning they must often partner with an outside systems integrator (SI) to advance their automation strategy and bring new systems online.

With so many available options in the vast field of automation and robotics, selecting an SI can seem like a daunting endeavor — but it doesn’t have to be.

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Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems: Advantages and Considerations for ASRS Warehouses

E-commerce retail is at an all-time high, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest quarterly report. Total e-commerce sales for 2020 were estimated at $791.7 billion, an increase of 32.4% (±1.8%) from 2019.

While this isn’t exactly unexpected, the COVID-19 pandemic has only sped up e-commerce trends that were already taking place. And that means distribution warehouses — and the workers and technology that power them — are in the spotlight.

This has more companies considering how to best capitalize on this demand, and automated robotics are taking the storage and distribution game to new heights — literally.

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Don’t Put Off Upgrading Your PLCs: 3 Red Flags and a Cautionary Tale

“If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

It’s a question we’ve all heard before, but when it comes to older programmable logic controller (PLC) installations, it’s not an answer you want to find out the hard way. While some components can be found and purchased online, if your primary source for replacement parts is a site like eBay or obsoletePLCparts.com, it’s likely time to upgrade your system.

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