Snacks are a staple of the modern American diet, and the snack industry has always faced an array of challenges. These can range from ensuring the color and flavor of products to minimizing dust in facilities among other safety concerns. Steep competition in the world of snacks can threaten to sway consumers’ attention, but the right material handling solutions can ensure the quality and consistency of a variety of snack products.
Working in the snacks industry means that contamination risks affect not just the end product, but potentially consumers as well. Whether dosing or weighing, manufacturers must properly assess processes for contamination risks and the possibility of allergen cross-contact. These risks will differ from ingredient to ingredient.
Consumer trends and demands are also on the minds of many snack manufacturers. Not only do these companies have to ensure the quality of existing products, but changing consumer tastes and expectations are leading some to revise their recipe portfolios. Some of these trends include popular diets, gluten-free options, allergen management practices and non-GMO vegan consumables.
These growing consumer trends mean that some snack manufacturers find themselves utilizing new and unfamiliar ingredients. At times, these ingredients can present frustrating roadblocks throughout the manufacturing process and snack manufacturing can become increasingly challenging for companies that seek to immediately respond to consumers’ tastes. For example, as certain snack manufacturers look for alternative sources for proteins, some have even turned to include bits of insect protein.
Another hurdle for manufacturers can be government regulation, which continues to increase for accurately tracking every ingredient that goes into each batch. Snack manufacturers risk fines, which could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars due to inaccurate batching or faulty documentation (both caused by human error).
Fully automating minor and micro handling has the propensity to alleviate these pressures. It also makes way for the digitization of lot tracking. Automating large amounts of product while maintaining accuracy is a pertinent concern for snack manufacturers.
Automation may offer additional benefits beyond the operational efficiencies, quality and track and trace benefits. For instance, while our quick research hasn't uncovered any instances where it has been clearly adjudicated in court, some suggest that a company's proactive dust control measures may offer some protection against workers' comp claims.
OSHA, state agencies and trade associations often offer guidance on this matter. Compliance with those are table stakes. Still, companies can take further steps in efforts to not only help protect employee safety, but also protect the company should a claim arise.
Investing in equipment and technologies is one way to aggressively manage the inhalation and health risks of airborne dust. It could be worth a conversation with insurance, safety and legal advisors for their opinion on how these investments benefit the safety of employees. As in any industry in the world of ingredient automation, it’s at least advisable for snack manufacturers to keep up with NFPA standards by performing a dust hazard analysis. Multiple case studies have focused on the severity and importance of maintaining dust control.
Injuries are a concern across any and all manufacturing industries. Workers’ compensation insurance claims introduce huge liabilities. Direct costs that follow injuries can include compliance penalties. Again, for food and snack manufacturers, it could be worth a conversation with advisors to discuss how investing in fully automating the minor and micro handling of materials benefits the safety of employees.
Different configurations can be made based on the height of a PVC manufacturer’s facility. Many possibilities are available for plants with capacity for a hundred-foot tower.
From AZO specifically, multiple linear AZO COMPONENTERs can be installed in a plant with these towers. Product can then be weighed and dropped into the mixer from a higher-end system. Docked bag dump stations that drop down and are accessed by an elevator can also be installed in these types of facilities.
Still, quality systems with bag dumps and COMPONENTER machines can also be designed when these manufacturers don’t have as much height in their facility. Knowing height limitations early on will help us, the equipment manufacturer, design an effective system for a PVC plant.
Whether coming from smaller companies or established industry giants, snacking innovations are exciting from both a technological perspective and a consumer perspective. A partner like AZO is made up of employees driven to discover solutions for our clients. We know these solutions influence what we can find on our own grocery store shelves.
AZO provides sophisticated handling systems to handle both unexpected snacking trends and a facility’s “business as usual” in snack production. Our engineers have developed systems to handle each new and difficult ingredient as it rises and falls in popularity with global consumers.
We’re known for providing exceptional service and sophisticated handling systems including:
AZO solutions are individually fit to our customer’s requirements and optimized for the most economical and flexible results. Our systems provide fully automatic feeding to a variety of processes common in the snack industry. Here are some examples based on the size and make-up of components to be mixed: