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How to approach automation in blueberry packhouse? | Packing and Sorting Equipment.

Introducing automation to a blueberry packhouse is a challenge that producers and growers have to face in order to improve performance of their production. We understand that the process itself might be difficult to approach properly and afterwards – to implement smoothly, therefore we’ve prepared a list of tips that will help start the procedure step by step.

  1. Packhouse

In order to design right amount of space it is important to understand the volumes that will run through the packhouse.

  • What is the harvest window?
  • What are the varieties and their timing of harvest?
  • What is expected yield per ha in next couple of years ahead?
  • What is expected storage / packing capacity per day?
  • How many shifts we plan to run?
  • Do we plan long-term storage or focus on quick sales?

Packhouse – do I have a required space?

Remember about people and the packaging!

Cold chain

A large amount of fruit and money is lost every season due to improper export cold chain. Food security becomes a growing concern during pandemic times. Any percentage of losses in such a significant sector is a huge problem for many producers and growers. The focus should be put on fruits exported in refrigerated containers, as it moves from the packhouse through the cold storage and transport segments towards the point of export.

Theory: Cool down to 0-2°C as soon as possible

Rule of Thumb:

Play with temperatures depending on humidity in order to optimise quality while creating comfortable working conditions.

Look at the dew point!

  1. Labour Management

Automation is a process. In order to make it successful you need to change the management style.

In manual work everyone is doing the same type of job so if you want to increase productivity by 20%, you have to increase the number of people by 20%.

On the other hand, if you decide to automate work, remember that it requires different approach such as specialisation which means wrong person can cause downfall in productivity. People’ skills should be adapted to the work that they are doing. It’s important to train people from the very beginning. Don’t forget to look at the bottlenecks!

Automation decreases the number of people but requires better skills!

Example:

Role of the operator:

  • Set up packing line for production
  • Adjustment for the packaging
  • Labels and printer settings
  • Communication with vendor’s service team
  • Adjust sorting settings
  1. Order Management

Plan the production in advance. Make sure that the changeover time is adequate to the production flow.

Conclusion

WORK WITH THE EXPERTS!

Introducing automation requires 360 view on the customer’s operations and understanding of the process.

MILBOR PMC combines the technical knowledge with experience of growing blueberries.

Our experts not only explain the details of the packing and sorting machinery but also help to implement the automation within the process in your company.