In the wake of COVID-19, U.S. food processors are experiencing an array of challenges, including quarantined workers, changing sanitation requirements and new on-floor personnel restrictions.
Specifically, meat and poultry processors are seeing significant change as demand for product skyrockets. In March of 2020, there were over two million new buyers in the frozen chicken category. And meat sales are up 40.6% from 2019.
As an essential part of the U.S. food industry, many meat and poultry plants are full of employees who work within close proximity of one another. But now, fewer workers are on the floor because of social distancing requirements. And companies could face significant downtime as a result—and potentially even closed doors.
While some industry players have already embraced this new “normal,” many still have not. How do meat and poultry processors adapt to ensure a successful path as the industry shifts to new safety requirements for workers?
Implementing automation is key to plant success
A first step in reducing the risk of excessive downtime in this surging market is to take extra safety precautions—like screening people before they enter the plant and increasing space between workers on the floor. But these actions alone are not enough.
Fortunately, automating manual practices can help mitigate many challenges the industry is experiencing today—while helping businesses better pivot to new dynamics and prepare for the long-term. Automation provides the consistency and efficiency needed to:
- Enhance worker and product safety—Not only can automated systems handle more complex tasks and reduce risks, but less human intervention also helps prevent contamination.
- Improve product throughput—Leveraging automation in some areas can significantly speed meat cut up and packaging for faster processing and higher production.
- Satisfy constant demand—Automated systems always “show up” to work and can help meet the required supply needs with fewer workers on the floor.
- Meet social distancing guidelines—Automating specific tasks makes limiting on-floor personnel possible—to not only satisfy guidelines but also increase employees’ comfort level.
Where to go from here
First, it’s important to take an objective, holistic look at your practices to decide where you can (and should) innovate and automate. The more automated your systems, the more hygienic your processes can be—and the faster you can meet product demand.
We know this all may seem complex and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. We at Habasit are here to help. With experience supporting meat and poultry processors all over the world, we’ll help you get started by taking a deeper look at things like:
- Productivity impacts—How can conveyor systems help maximize the number of workers on your plant floor
- Sanitation practices—Are your belts optimized for sanitation?
- System efficiency—Do your belts need updating to function optimally?
Don’t worry; we’re not suggesting you re-engineer your entire plant. But whatever automation means for your business, we’ll be there with you every step of the way.
For innovative belting systems, turn to Habasit
Habasit has the innovative belting products, solutions and complete systems you need to automate practices and stay up and running safely. And we always put safety and hygiene first.
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