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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Your Checklist for Updating Your Facility’s Risk Management Program

Facilities, including food and beverage manufacturers, that use certain flammable and toxic substances in amounts that exceed threshold quantities must have a documented Risk Management Plan (RMP) per Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements. Companies must update and resubmit their RMP at least every five years.

The EPA requires each facility to review all sections of their RMP, update where appropriate, and certify that the entire RMP is accurate and complete.

According to the EPA’s checklist, here are the key elements that should be reviewed for resubmission:

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Does your PSM compliance training meet the latest OSHA requirements? [infographic]

Industrial refrigeration managers know that their personnel must undergo Process Safety Management (PSM) compliance training — but how do they know if their current training meets with the latest requirements from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)?

For example, did you know that simply sending your refrigeration team off for generic training at another facility is not enough? OSHA 1910.119 mandates being trained on your specific equipment and process.

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17 Common Ammonia Safety Issues Your Refrigeration Personnel Can Control (and Correct)

It’s always a good time to check up on your facility’s safety — but now the stakes are even higher when it comes to safety violations.

Employers across the U.S. have been facing higher penalties from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) this year. In January 2021, the federal agency announced it was increasing the maximum penalty for serious and other than serious citations to $13,653 and the maximum for repeat and willful violations to $136,532. 

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3 Must-have PSM Elements to Prevent Dust Explosions and Other Disasters

Process Safety Management (PSM) is the OSHA standard that mandates employers identify, evaluate and control potentially hazardous activities, chemicals and components used in their processes.

While PSM audits are performed every three years, you should periodically perform self-audits to protect your facility from punitive measures from OSHA and, more importantly, to protect your employees from potentially catastrophic events that could lead to loss of life or property.

However, this isn’t a guide on performing self-audits (you can read more on that here).

Instead, we’re going to walk through a few PSM elements that you should pay special attention to while performing self-audits.

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Digital PSM: A Look at Stellar’s Updated NH360 Compliance Software Platform

When it comes to your facility’s process safety management (PSM), switching from paper to digital is a no-brainer. Using a digital platform saves time, makes document storage more convenient and allows you to have more control during OSHA audits.

We live in an online, digital world where software technologies make our work more efficient. Why should one of the most important elements of your business — the health and safety of your employees — be any different?

Stellar has been a pioneer in the digital PSM market since 1998, and we’re raising the bar.

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What Refrigerated Warehouses Need to Know About Ammonia Utilization in California

Source: CalARP Resource Compliance

California has long been an epicenter of food manufacturing in the United States. With more refrigerated warehouses looking to become sustainable in the 2020s, California is primed to be a major market where cold storage facilities transition to natural refrigerants.  

However, “The Golden State” has unique regulations that refrigerated warehouses must follow when updating their systems. Most critically, there are strict regulations on ammonia, which traditionally has been the preferred refrigerant because of its efficiency, low cost and safety when the system is properly designed.  

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Ammonia Refrigeration: Is Your Machine Room Ventilation Up to Code?

When it comes to ammonia refrigeration machine rooms, ventilation updates can often be overlooked.

Current and new mechanical codes — International Mechanical Code (IMC) and Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) — defer to IIAR 2 (and sometimes ASHRAE 15) as the referenced code for ammonia refrigeration systems, including the machine room ventilation.

Just because your ammonia system was designed to code years ago it may not necessarily be code compliant today.

If you have updated your refrigeration system recently, did you update your machine room’s ventilation as well?

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The Food Facility Safety Double Standard: Keeping Your Maintenance Crew as Safe as Your Product

There’s a prevalent double standard when it comes to food facility safety management. Think about the measures taken when a visitor enters a food plant production area: You have to dress out, walk through a foot bath, take off jewelry, wear a smock. All of these precautions are designed to keep your product safe — but what about your maintenance crew?

It’s not uncommon to see safety standards and attention to cleanliness become more relaxed in maintenance areas or on the roof of a food plant. Food safety precautions get a lot of attention because owners (rightfully) fear product contamination and highly publicized recalls, but what about the risks outside your building? One maintenance or construction accident can do just as much damage in negative publicity and lawsuits as a product recall.

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7 PSM Audit Violations and How to Avoid Them

Quality assurance is one key to a successful food safety audit

 

Process Safety Management (PSM) compliance audits are specific and comprehensive, focusing on 14 elements of OSHA’s PSM Standards. A well-planned and organized audit process — including cross-trained personnel, audit checklists and self-audits — can help ensure a successful outcome.

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