Food production is a multi-faceted operation, extending beyond the actual preparation and cooking to overall plant operations, business practices and the supply chain. In addition, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has produced its own set of challenges. With producers striving to maximize both food product quality and production rates, food processing efficiency continues to be critical to drive profitability. Forward-thinking producers are taking a holistic and systemic approach to improving food manufacturing efficiency, and wringing savings from their operations.
Here are five strategies to elevate the manufacturing efficiency of your production facility:1. Reduce processing costs
A good way to start reducing processing costs is to evaluate your electricity consumption and water usage. Then, consider ways to decrease usage of both. Here are some strategies:
- Upgrade the efficiency of motors in refrigeration and cooking equipment, plus conveyors, heating and other plant operations – to generate energy savings of five to 15 percent. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that electric motors account for more than 70 percent of electricity usage in food and beverage manufacturing, so this step can make a big difference.
- Outdoors, consider controlled irrigation systems and native landscapes. While water requirements may be substantial and primarily a fixed resource in the processing operations, there are opportunities for water re-use and conservation in landscaping, bathrooms, kitchens, and in cleaning. Inside, install low-flow systems in kitchens and bathrooms.
- Especially now with COVID-19, consider foot activated hand-washing stations. Initiate new, water-saving cleaning processes.
By implementing just one strategy above, you can combine energy efficiency and food processing efficiency while maintaining quality of your finished product.
2. Anticipate and adapt
Anticipate business trends by paying attention to mega-trends and determining how they may affect your company. In this time of COVID-19, food consumption is shifting from restaurants and institutional environments to grocery and retail demand, as well as direct to consumer services. As a result, demand is increasing on retail processing production lines and outpacing capacity. The surge in orders is forcing plants to extend hours of operation and retool other lines. Additionally, plant managers are dealing with the need to replenish and protect workforces impacted by the virus, as well as the critical importance of maintaining industrial hygiene and sanitation systems.
Consider these strategies to help get ahead of industry changes:
- Get close to your customers and learn about their needs and expectations. Evaluate new technologies for usefulness, appeal, sustainability and relation to other trends.
- Adapt to the dynamic food industry environment. In the wake of the pandemic, watch for diversification of the supply chain, increasing emphasis on health benefits in consumer food purchasing and the challenges of manufacturing healthy foods that remain on brand. Respond quickly to changing circumstances and new business opportunities.
- On the plant floor, look for solutions that offer food processing flexibility and manufacturing efficiency. For example, rather than isolate the process for production of one particular product, work with experts to provide flexibility to freeze a wide variety of products without having to retool or switch lines, add another sanitation step or pause production. Experienced supplier engineers and technicians can help define operating parameters for each one of your particular products and provide the best equipment options.
3. Look long-term
Building or retrofitting your production line for the long haul can boost manufacturing efficiency. Trusted engineers can boost food processing efficiency by retrofitting the production line using state-of-the-art freezing and chilling technologies. Consider whether your current technologies have the capabilities to achieve your efficiency goals. Download this checklist before buying another cryogenic freezer.
4. Halt cryogenic performance drift, optimize operations regularly
At start-up, cryogenic systems work as designed, meeting specific operating parameters such as production rate, cryogen consumption, fan and belt speed, inlet and outlet temperatures, all of which have been optimized for best results. But over time, the optimum performance may deteriorate. For example, by adding products on the line, the system may drift out of process control due to the changes in specifications. As a result, the freezer may be running too cold, at negative pressures, or nozzles may become plugged. A quick check of a system's components could boost manufacturing or reduce operating costs by as much as 10 percent.
5. Take a holistic approach to cryogenic food processing
First, focus on your core competency, leaning into your strengths. But call on experts for other processes, including freezing and chilling. Rather than settle for equipment off the shelf, work with a cryogenic gas company that evaluates a food manufacturing process holistically and can engineer a solution to meet your needs. Help the cryogenic experts understand your process, and, if necessary, perform product tests, even virtually, to determine the true heat load and specify the best system to meet present and future production goals. Build in flexibility and plan for multiple food products.
Qualified cryogenic engineers analyze the food products, cost parameters, cryogen (N2 or CO2), equipment options (baseline or customized), efficiency targets, individually quick frozen (IQF) requirements, etc. to optimize a cryogenic solution and specify the technology that best meets your requirements. These engineers work to determine heat removal and develop a solution that maximizes the effect of each BTU and to meet your goals in the most cost-effective way. Our experience shows trusted, state-of-the-art solutions can improve chilling/freezing throughput and/or food processing efficiency by 25-50 percent.
- Pierino Frozen Foods, Inc., Lincoln Park, Michigan, increased production rate by 25 percent.
- Interstate Meat Distributors Inc., Clackamas, Oregon, optimized its chilling system, switched the cryogen to liquid nitrogen and reduced chill time in the blender from eight minutes to three minutes – a chilling productivity increase of 266 percent.
- Wolverine Packing Company, Detroit, Michigan, switched to a bottom-injection chilling system using liquid nitrogen, thus reducing chilling time and adding 30,000 lbs/day of processing capacity.
- Tip Top Poultry, Marietta, Georgia, replaced CO2 flighted freezers with liquid nitrogen wave impingement freezers. This switch reduced labor costs and overall cost to freeze while also improving the quality of the product.
Are you ready to elevate the manufacturing efficiency of your production facility?