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?
The construction industry continues to face a tight labor market as contractors manage ongoing demand, leaving some no choice but to turn down projects if their workforce cannot meet the project needs. In 2021, more than 40% of construction firms reported turning down work due to labor shortages, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
However, demand for construction workers is only expected to rise. In November 2021, President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law, which is expected to create an average of 1.5 million jobs each year for the next decade and provide $550 billion to improve the nation’s infrastructure over the next five years. This legislation would fund airports, ports and waterways, roads, bridges and more, which would provide food plant owners with better access to farms, raw ingredients and distribution channels.
As demand rises, plant owners should understand the options for securing the necessary labor to complete their new-build or expansion projects and how their choices could impact the project lifecycle.
The food and beverage design-build process demands attention to detail and a high level of expertise to navigate a maze of regulations, adhere to strict food safety guidelines, stay within budget and guarantee the facility is well-equipped to meet long-term production goals.
Effectively coordinating different disciplines, vendors and subcontractors to ensure timely and on-budget execution is an ongoing challenge in construction projects that requires careful planning and communication.
As an owner, you’re in the driver’s seat and play a pivotal role in the overall success of the project. Here are some key things you can do to support your design and construction teams and help streamline the process.
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.
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.
Poor drainage in a food and beverage facility can impede the sanitation process and greatly affect overall food safety. Meanwhile, proper drainage design speeds up cleaning and reduces health and safety risks for both workers and production.
When done incorrectly, your facility’s drainage system can contaminate ingredients and products that then must be discarded, directly impacting your bottom line. In addition, recalls caused by product contamination can damage both your company’s reputation and your product category.
The flooring systems in food and beverage processing areas are an essential component of the facility’s daily operation. Whether you’re evaluating flooring in a food production, storage or welfare space, the floor’s cleanability, resilience, durability and surface characteristics are integral to the space’s sanitation and safety.
Selecting the appropriate flooring system for each area is an important and nuanced operational and budgetary decision, especially in a highly regulated industry like food processing. The decision requires careful consideration in the earliest stages of the design and construction process.
“If the workplace is designed to meet peoples’ needs, it demonstrates the employer’s commitment and enables employees to be fully engaged in the workplace,” says Jeff Sanford, an ergonomics expert at VelocityEHS, a provider of environmental health and safety (EHS) solutions.
Sanford recently spoke at a webinar hosted by Food Processing magazine, in which he shared best practices for improving ergonomics and employee safety within the food and beverage industry.
The goal of ergonomics is to prevent soft-tissue injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)caused by sudden or sustained exposure to force, vibration, repetitive motion and bad posture. This is especially important in the U.S. food and beverage industry, which has the highest lost-workday incidence (LWDI) across all industries with a rate of 6.5 injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers, compared to the standard of 3.3.
These numbers especially matter in today’s competitive labor market. A recent study on ergonomics cited in the webinar found employee turnover dropped anywhere from 23% to 49% within companies that employed an ergonomics strategy. Meanwhile, the same study found absenteeism dropped between 42% and 116%. These statistics could help some processing facilities justify the cost of implementing ergonomic changes.
What can facility owners and plant managers do to improve employee ergonomics? Below are some common issues and solutions shared during the webinar.
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.
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.
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.