The signs of the US labor shortage quite literally surround us. Help Wanted placards adorn storefronts and street corners while newspaper headlines proclaim the labor shortage is hindering the American business boom. At the same time, competitive pressures compel business to continually reduce costs and increase efficiency.
As a result, more and more businesses are looking to mechanical solutions and automation to resolve staffing challenges. And surprisingly, it’s not solely to reduce head count, but to redirect employees away from repetitive, low-value tasks to higher-value positions that contribute to the company’s bottom line – and the employees’ peace of mind.
“…monotony often results in a vicious cycle of low employee motivation and turnover, which impacts quality and productivity and, ultimately, the cost of production.”
The food processing industry is a good example. Food plants – especially chicken and seafood processors — can be very labor intensive. Some estimates report that labor can represent as much as 50 percent of product cost. Additionally, a lot of a food plant’s manual labor involves uninteresting, repetitive tasks. This monotony often results in a vicious cycle of low employee motivation and turnover, which impacts quality and productivity and, ultimately, the cost of production.
A team of engineers and food industry specialists from Food Process Systems Inc. (FPS) recently addressed these challenges at a large poultry processor serving the food service industry.
The team replaced a traditional wire belt conveyor with an FPS vibratory alignment system on the plant’s batter/breading line. The line was using 10 people per shift to spread and align chicken tenders at the exit of a drum breader. FPS’s vibratory alignment solution reduced the number of shift employees to four, freeing up 18 employees over three shifts to address other production needs within the plant.
Like other businesses, today’s food processors need to accomplish more with fewer people. While automating repetitive tasks can reduce costs, improve quality and efficiency and reduce accidents, an equally important benefit is its ability to address today’s labor shortages and hiring challenges.