Automation and Reduction of Labor and Energy Costs should be a point of interest in all Fresh Fruit and Vegetable budgets. The COVID-19 virus underlines the need to invest in Material Handling in the Cold Chain.
“A Grower” has the BEST Berry in the marketplace, yet does “A Grower” have the BEST Material Handling Practices?
Combatting the effects of COVID-19 on Material Handling is key. Covid-19 restrictions and some regulations ultimately cause a shortage of pickers and packers of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables (FFV) at Grow Sites and Packing Houses. In addition, the end user and retailer have concerns over virus advocacy. Attention to every facet of the Cold Chain System is critical. This includes material handling, all 3rd party and refrigerated transport, and trans-shipment centers across the country.
A solution to reducing the number of hands involved is automation. In other words – "Take HANDS out of the Packing Equation".
Focusing on the grow site picking and cooling process - where do you begin to “take the Hands out”? This should include: Mobile Blast Cooling and Vacuum Chambers at the Grow Site. Pack House Carton / Pallet Conveyance – will provide ‘head count’ Labor Reduction of well over 50%. Spiral Coolers should replace the ‘ANTIQUATED’ fan assemblies and tarp covered pallets. The ‘old school’ system of multiple pallet touches in the cold chain should have changed decades ago’ yet the system is still, ‘synonymous' throughout.
LABOR (Cost and Availability), ENERGY (Cost) and Cull associated with this Antiquated Method can be Reduced SIGNIFICANTLY.
The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Industry moves into an ‘Age of Change’ that will be rewarded by: 1) Reductions in Energy through Less Dwell Time resulting in, 2) Less Weight Loss promoting 3) Greater Revenue, Productivity and Throughput. Revenue will be further extrapolated by 4) Quality and Shelf-Life Improvement and, Let Us not Overlook, the certainty of 5) Returning Happy Customers.
Oh, I almost overlooked Labor, No I wouldn’t do that, because, Labor is our Covid-19 Issue, and Labor Reduction will be the result of ‘Material Handling Systems’ that Take HANDS out of the Packing Equation!