Proactive Measures for Minimizing Downtime in Automated Facilities

Automation is an integral component of a modern facility’s competitive advantage. In addition to enabling rapid throughput, robotics and automation solutions can help minimize production issues stemming from fluctuating factors like labor availability, supply chains and material prices. 

Historically, hefty price tags have acted as the main bottleneck to investments in cutting-edge manufacturing technology. The good news is technology is getting cheaper and easier to implement, making it harder for plant owners to ignore the long-term return on investment (ROI) of upgrading their facilities. However, plant managers face another challenge in today’s market: What happens when these sophisticated systems need maintenance or repairs? 

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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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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, it’s likely time to upgrade your system.

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Machine Learning and AI in Food Plants: Where to Start

So you want to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning into your food processing facility — but where do you start? These tools have grown increasingly popular, and you’ve likely heard people discussing different platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. But how do you get access to these tools and what can they do?

Three layers of cloud computing

When it comes to introducing machine learning to your processing, think of it as a three-tiered ecosystem:

1. Service providers (AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure)

2. IoT solutions partners (system integrators, data experts, etc.)

3. End users (Facility operator, plant owner, etc.)

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5 Ways Hoses and Flow Panels Can Be a Risk to Your Brewery or Distillery

Breweries and distilleries can be infamous for their “snake pits,” the areas of the facility where transfer hoses can become a tangled mess.

Flow panels and hoses are widely used to route product and cleaning solutions through brewery and distillery piping systems, and they are a cost-effective initial investment. However, as a facility grows, so do the number of connections — and that can quickly get out of control.

These snake pits can pose serious problems for your facility’s efficiency and the safety of your workers. Let’s examine five major risks associated with snake pits, and what you can do about them.

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New Automation and Controls System? Educate and Involve Operators Early

As more food and beverage processing moves from mechanical to automated, it’s important to hire the right people who can operate and troubleshoot from the plant floor. Once you have qualified technical staff in place, transferring knowledge about your automation and controls systems to them is crucial.

At Stellar, we often help food manufacturers configure new facilities, so we understand the process and what it takes to make it go smoothly. When it comes to training your plant personnel on the automation and controls, follow these tips for an efficient startup at your next facility.

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