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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4 Strategies for Mitigating Supply Chain Disruptions in Your Next Construction Project

Construction firms are fighting an uphill battle to maintain project budgets and schedules as the industry grapples with global supply chain disruptions. 

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) reported that material prices for nonresidential construction soared 21% from February 2021 to February 2022, and analysts predict costs will continue going up. Additionally, logistical bottlenecks such as overseas shipping delays and shortages in the transportation sector are drastically impacting project lead times. 

Stellar’s industry veterans are discovering there are ways to mitigate supply chain disruptions and their effects on construction projects — but only if construction firms are willing to shift their paradigm and use a different approach when working with their clients. 

Here are four ways our teams are navigating the waters.

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Low-Impact Development: From Eco-friendly Trend to Industry Standard

Environmentally conscious construction sites have earned praise over the years as the world’s priorities have shifted to address growing climate concerns. 

The World Green Building Council (GBC) estimates the building and construction sector is globally responsible for 50% of the world’s resource consumption, 36% of energy consumption and 38% of energy-related carbon emissions. Keeping this in mind, any time a building or facility can feature sustainable design, it’s a win for the planet.

Expectations are changing, however. What was once seen as the “cherry on top” of a construction project is quickly becoming standard practice.

A prime example of this is the evolution of the use of low-impact development (LID).

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Factors to Consider Before Using a Spec Building for a Food and Beverage Facility

If you’re considering sites for a new facility, you may come across listings for speculative (“spec”) buildings. Developers often construct these basic, pre-engineered buildings in anticipation of a future tenant, and they can be attractive for owners looking for a new space.

Upfront, spec buildings offer to reduce costs by cutting out design and construction steps from a tenant’s to-do list — but there’s a catch. Food and beverage manufacturing has unique needs and it’s impossible to guarantee a spec building will meet them without retrofitting. Although leasing a spec building may be attractive to manufacturers who want to ramp up production quickly, there is the potential that they will incur additional costs the owner wasn’t anticipating.

It can be a valuable option in certain situations, but there are factors to consider before making a final decision.

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The Stage-Gate Approach and Why it’s at the Root of Successful Project Development Strategy

Process-related project development can be a lengthy, expensive and unnecessarily complicated process without a solid plan to guide the project from start to finish.

Imagine investing in a large, complex piece of equipment or component for your facility without first confirming the question of how it will be integrated into your existing controls/automation system. If it doesn’t easily “connect” (plug-and-play), then you may need to reengineer the system(s), buy additional hardware/software, and/or delay the project timeline to resolve an issue that should have been identified prior to the purchase. The same holds true for other questions, such as when this equipment should be installed. If it does not align with your overall business objectives and strategy, then there could be negative consequences.

The AIA stage-gate process (also referred to as the phase-gate process) is a project management technique that breaks down complex projects into structured phases to mitigate risk and ultimately minimize (ideally eliminate) the consequences of poor planning.

In this article, we will address the stage gate approach and how it pertains to the process equipment integration portion of a project.

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Inside the World’s Largest Sous Vide Processing Facility [PHOTOS]

“Sous vide” is French for “under vacuum” and has been around for decades in France. Since 1971, Cuisine Solutions — along with subsidiary CREA and Chief Scientist Dr. Bruno Goussault — has been perfecting the sous vide technology utilizing cooking time and temperature as the foundations of its development.

As the need for food safety and consistency has dramatically increased in recent decades, the company continued investing in more production capacity, new adjacent technologies and greater innovations — including a new plant in San Antonio, Texas.

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4 Sustainability Features from Our Latest Award-winning Food Plant

Stellar’s recent design-build project for Cuisine Solutions was named Food Engineering magazine’s 2021 Sustainable Plant of the Year. The LEED-registered facility in San Antonio, Texas, is the largest sous vide processing plant in the world with nearly $200 million in investment and measuring 315,000 square feet.

The state-of-the-art facility boasts innovative eco-friendly technologies both inside and out. In addition to saving millions of gallons of water annually via reuse in storage silos, Cuisine Solutions embraced many other sustainable measures. Let’s look at four of its notable sustainability features that could be relevant for other projects, regardless of product or processing.

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Will COVID-19 Change the Future of Food Plant Design?

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a number of immediate and temporary changes to daily life: reduced occupancy limits, partitions, social distancing, one-way stairwells and more.

While these short-term adaptations were necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus, will the pandemic change the way facilities are built in the long term? The likely answer is, not dramatically.

However, it is shaping the way we think about designing these spaces. Let’s look at some examples of trends we may see in the post-COVID era.

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4 Ways Site Location Can Affect Construction Costs

Building anything right now can be daunting and expensive, much less a large industrial facility. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of construction materials has skyrocketed, labor is scarce and demand is surging. But that doesn’t mean the food supply chain can stop.

Food manufacturers and distributors still have customers to serve — and, for some, that still means investing in a new facility. At a time when construction costs are high, a company might make up for it in savings by reconsidering where the facility is built.

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4 Tips to Get Your New Process Facility ‘Off the Ground’

Facilities that support process operations produce some of the most expensive and complex buildings in the world. And they run the gamut: “Process operations” can range from baking desserts such as cakes to processing raw meat for grocery operations, to manufacturing parts and components for U.S. Navy submarines. 

So what do facilities across such diverse markets have in common besides being founded on their process? For one, the costly and painful struggle of getting the project started. Many times, important early stages are executed out-of-order or even too late. Let’s look at four recommendations that may seem obvious, but if executed properly, will take some of the pain out of beginning your next process facility.

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