Food Processing Automation: Key to the Labor Shortage

Pork chops that have been sliced using a food processing automation system.

Post-pandemic labor shortages are forcing more and more food manufacturers to increase levels of automation to make up for a continued shortage of workers. Let’s take a look at how food processing automation is changing our industry and how smart choices about critical equipment like industrial blades can make a big difference.

Food Processing Automation: Challenge or Opportunity?

The food processing industry makes up a big chunk of the U.S. food manufacturing sector, an area that has been hit hard by a shortage of workers. While wages have been rising and hiring remains strong, managers across the industry continue to report that there are far more open vacancies than candidates willing to fill them.

Long-Term Trend

Post-COVID labor shortages and soaring inflation have been accelerating a long-term trend towards automation across the U.S. food processing industry, driven by improved technology, changing demographics, and increased competition from overseas producers. Boosters of food automation say the process can:

  • Improve quality control
  • Increase output and productivity
  • Improve food safety
  • Allow workers to focus on higher-value tasks

“It’s so hard to find people that have a desire to do these manual labor types of roles now,” one plant director reported in a recent study by Deloitte. “We’re trying to automate as much as possible, wherever possible because it normally gives you speed and consistency.

That said, the food industry has lagged behind other manufacturing sectors in adopting automated systems driven by:

  • Short investment horizons in a fast-moving industry
  • Unwillingness to invest in untried or unfamiliar equipment
  • Shifting demand and supply chain challenges
  • Concerns about the reliability of automated systems

Automation processors were once the domain of high-volume bulk producers. Today, with labor expenses going up and technology costs coming down, automation is now within the reach of smaller and more specialized producers.

A Cutting-Edge Solution

All of that adds up to strong opportunities for producers who can leverage the power of automation to increase raw productivity but also to make better use of the time and skills of the workers they have.

Consumables like industrial blades have an outsized impact on the efficiency of your processes and the quality of your products, no matter how automated your line is. Supplementing your capital outlay in automation technology with an investment in quality “sharp-end” equipment will ease adoption and drive long-term profitability.

Expert’s Choice

TGW International supplies industrial knives to OEMs, producers, and equipment distributors across the food processing industry. Our knives are crafted to the highest quality with:

  • Superior quality material grades and hardness
  • Industry-leading finishes and coatings
  • Precise dimensional tolerances

Our cutting solutions are designed to maximize the efficiency of your processing, allowing you to make the most of your staff’s increasingly valuable time by:

  • Improving performance and productivity: Durable, clean-cutting blades keep equipment working at optimum levels and reduce batch rejects or do-overs.
  • Reducing equipment damage and wear: High-quality blades minimize the chance of damaging edge failures while sharper knives reduce strain on other machine parts.
  • Reducing downtime: Line staff workers spend more time on the job instead of waiting for knives to be replaced or damaged equipment to be repaired.
  • Reducing maintenance: Optimized systems and quality blades mean fewer maintenance costs over the life of all your automated systems.

The TGW Difference

TGW brings more than 100 years of industrial blade-making experience to our quality machine knives, with service and support to match. Here’s how we do it:

Right Blades for the Job

Our experienced craftsmen and technicians work directly with OEMs to supply them with the optimum blade design, hardness, and edge for their product. We work with processors to produce replacement blades that match or surpass the original equipment, or to develop customized edges for specialized processing applications.

We’ll make sure you have the ideal blade composition and finish, plus the right edge design and tolerance so you can slice perfectly every time.

Blade Coatings

We work with our customers to solve process-specific problems by applying a range of specialty coatings that can improve knife performance and durability. These include:

Titanium nitride: Improves knife wear and reduces friction, especially in high-speed-high temperature applications. Also prevents corrosion to improve durability.

Titanium carbonitride: Offers hardness similar to titanium nitride but with significantly reduced friction and excellent food safety characteristics.

Diamond-like carbon: This ultra-hard, impervious coating provides superior corrosion and abrasion resistance in extremely humid or saline food processing applications.

PTFE: A Teflon-like coating that improves efficiency by preventing sticky food build-up or adhesion on a wide variety of blade or edge types.

Product Availability

TGW International is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of straight and circular industrial knives, with over 2,500 knife designs in stock and end-to-end control of our global supply chain. We offer:

  • Next-day shipping from our warehouse of all in-stock blades
  • Manufacturing and shipping of made-to-order blades in as little as two weeks.

Customer Service

We aim to be your long-term cutting solutions partner. We deliver tailored solutions to your business needs and we stand behind every blade we make. Our service staff double-checks every order to make sure we ship the right blade with the right dimensions every time to keep your downtime at a minimum.

We conduct quarterly business reviews to reassess each of our customer’s needs so we can meet changes in demand. We’ll even work with you to manufacture and hold your specialty knives in stock until you need them, so you can invest in automation equipment knowing that we’ll have replacement blades whenever you need them.

TGW International: Your Automation Partner

While food processing automation may alter many things about the way you do business, choosing TGW International as your partner will allow you to get the most out of your investment in new equipment while letting your staff make the most of their time and skills.

Click below to learn more about TGW’s industry-leading products.

FOOD PROCESSING BLADES & KNIVES

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