Over the last year or so, we’ve had more and more requests for flexible lines, capable of handing more than one product with little changeover through a multi-function line. Sometimes, this is due to a combined/mixed final output and a mutual output timing desire due to a freshness requirements. Other times, it is due to space and budget constraints, resulting in a need to be inventive with both. Regardless of the drivers, a firm such as ours that prides itself in engineering prowess combined with knowledge of and partnerships with global technology providers affords our customers the ability to innovate and automate rapidly.

By reducing barriers to entry for production changeover flexibility as well as options to set new category and new recipe trials, processors equipped with multi-function lines are able to swiftly adapt to changing market conditions, demand and labor availability. This can often be done without past years’ levels of capital investment for facilities and equipment. Additionally, these enterprising processors find themselves in the advantageous position to operating with agility – empowered to take on more strategic category and product pivots quickly.

Consider how much day-to-day technologies have improved. The most broadly applicable analogy is your mobile phone. Over the last 15 years, that device has morphed into an everyday use productivity monster, replacing everything from day planners to business and personal correspondence to encyclopedias to cameras and more. That small device enables you to perform all of these tasks in the palm of your hand, replacing a need to purchase all elements separately. When it’s time to upgrade, you do so for one item rather than several. While these devices have only been easily affordable and attainable for a relatively short period in history, memories of life before them are fleeting. It’s hard to remember how you operated prior to the digital age.

This now holds true to a variety of food processing options, especially in produce. Many more fresh products are being created and made for grab-and-go purchases. For others, quick shifts between products in the same operating space are crucial to success. Depending on your overall capacity, space and throughput needs, processors have more multi-function line options available to execute these kinds of items. Of course, the execution and speed are dependent on the quality of your engineering and integration partner. Let’s walk through a project for a recent ProEx Food customer along these lines.

Our customer wanted to wash, peel, slice and/or dice, blanch, cool, freeze, sort, package and QA multiple products in a single line. Sometimes, the products would be run independently. Other times, different mixes of the products would be run across several recipes. The initial products and configuration needed to cover carrots, green beans, onions, bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Other products would be introduced at a later time, requiring a manual cutting section still integrated into the rest of the line for certain products and experiments. The goal was to mitigate future needs to add more machines. Our engineers created this custom multi-function line that isolated some functions, but came together jointly for blanching, cooling, freezing, optical sorting, packaging and QA.

This is just one example, and we’d be happy to help customer solve for other unique processing challenges. Our process helps create solutions that are truly optimized for their specific needs. Let us know how we can help, we look forward to helping you in your journey.