Amidst the many thousands of headlines relating to coronavirus and Covid-19, there have been some relating to the food industry and food processing.
Almost uniformly, they have been bad news. Food suppliers shut down because of a flare-up of Covid cases, processing plants where dozens of employees have tested positive.
In every case there is of course human cost – the virus spreading, people having to isolate, potentially suffering serious health complications.
However, there is also the impact on food supply. To date, this has been manageable, it has been individual suppliers affected, but there is clear potential for wider disruption. Numerous plants could be shut down, production of key foodstuffs could be heavily impacted.
One fascinating development that could help to minimise the impact of coronavirus on food processing and packaging has come to the fore – the use of water jet cutting.
One recent example comes from the United States.
Tyson Food is a huge company, an institution in the States. They employ around 125,000 people and produce close to a quarter of the country’s chicken, beef, and pork.
Their investment in technology is also huge, coming close to an estimated $500 million.
Of late, they have been investing in water jet cutting. The reason for this is that water jet cutting machines, tied to sophisticated software, can help to ensure their meat production keeps running even if coronavirus heavily impacts their workforce.
Representatives from Tyson told the Wall Street Journal that the water jet cutting can carve chicken breasts with more efficiency than humans can. The machines will also be used in the slicing of meat and numerous other processes.
Human interaction is still required to oversee the software, but turning to water jet cutting helps to maximise the chances vital industries keep running.
We are likely to see similar trends in the UK and across multiple industries. The move from human hand to technology has been accelerated, greater automation will be commonplace.
The food industry was already making greater use of water jet cutting, recently we looked at how a German company was using an automated approach to cut asparagus. It may seem niche, but it is saving them hundreds of thousands of pounds per year and also reducing waste.
The move to greater automation does not have to mean mass redundancy. The changes will take time and provide time for the upskilling and retraining of existing staff. The technology can do what its best at – automated tasks – and humans can use their advantages in tasks machines can’t tackle. Yet!
Much will change as the world adapts to the changes brought by coronavirus and perhaps one of the greatest truths is that changes that were always going to happen will now be greatly accelerated. Working remotely has become the new norm, this would have happened in future, but taken longer to occur.
The same is true for greater automation. Would Tysons have brought in water jet cutting to aid their meat processing? Almost certainly, but the pandemic has made such changes vital for business to continue.
Water jet cutting is helping some key industries continue as normal in difficult times.
At TMC, we are a water jet cutter who serve the whole of the UK and increasingly Europe too, with clients across the content trusting us to work on their projects.
Despite our success, we remain a company that focusses on every client and work on projects of all sizes.
If you think water jet cutting might be of use for your project, please do get in touch for an obligation-free chat.
Call us on 01625 610 441 or use our Contact Form.