High-Mix/Low-Volume Food Production
In our recent whitepaper we mention High-mix/Low-volume Food Production. But what is that exactly, and what can be added?
What is HMLV Anyway?
Sometimes you may see High-mix/Low-volume Manufacturing (HMLV) mentioned as ‘Make to order’ manufacturing. That is not an entirely true comparison, however. You could be a HMLV manufacturer and still ‘Make to stock’. But in Food Manufacturing basically everything is made for orders, also Low-mix/High-volume productions.
In essence, HMLV involves many processes and/or changeovers on the production line during a shift to produce a wider array of SKUs and products – either different products altogether or variants of one product. There is no clear definition of how many changes that are involved to be considered a HMLV manufacturer.
We consider Ready-meal manufacturing as HMLV in most cases, as there are many processes involved and a plant rarely produces one product only. However, Meat Manufacturing is also increasing their mix when outputting their products in many different weight ratios and cuts. Therefore, these could also be considered HMLV producers – especially if their variants and products involve a lot of manual processes holding them back from producing higher volumes cost-efficiently.
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HMLV production setups adapts to changing demands and is very agile and flexible. Alas, this flexibility comes with a cost as it is often done manually. We will argue that when the complexity reaches a point where it would seem automation is largely not possible, it should be considered a HMLV manufacturer.
The flexibility needed to adapt should be implied and expected from all technical equipment henceforth.
Automation Levels within Food Manufacturing
HMLV Food Manufacturers still lag in automation. Traditionally HMLV producers have a lot of manual operations as some equipment can be difficult to change and apply to other processes needed to uphold the production.
Automation within Food Manufacturing still lag behind, albeit being one of the biggest production segments. In comparison Food Production have a higher complexity due to many changeovers, variants in products and/or higher difficulty in handling that are troublesome for a robot to solve.
Food Manufacturing cannot be compared with manufacturing of streamlined products, where you are in total control of the design. Food can have many shapes, sizes and textures each craving a different approach to solve when automating a process. Marinated protein on a conveyor is certainly not the same as non-marinated protein. It acts and behaves differently. Humans can adapt to this quite easy, but for an automated production line, there will be more considerations.
But it is a good investment to automate nevertheless, if salary costs can be decreased in the long run.
The level of automation within Food Manufacturing is rising though as Cobots are entering the field and becoming more suited to also participate in the complexity implied within Food Manufacturing. Other types of equipment – processing and packaging – are also becoming a lot more flexible and fit into HMLV Food production. This can be done today.
Changeovers for different tray types, sizes and materials is an easy thing with QUPAQs line of tray denesters and can be done in minutes. This will balance the increased external cost levels by investing in reducing the internal costs. And hopefully even increase the output volume.
3 Things HMLV Manufacturers Can Do Today
There are proven options on the market already, that can improve HMLV Food Manufacturing. Equipment that at its core has been designed with flexibility in mind to support an increasingly agile business. Allow us to recommend these:
1 – Automatic Tray denesting for different tray sizes
If your output has many different sizes, shapes, weight ratios and require different trays, you have options. QUPAQ denesters can handle a lot of tray variants and changeovers can be done smoothly. Need a new tray – just change the tool in the machine.
2 – Automatic product loading for different products.
If your products/variants should be distributed and loaded into trays differently, then you have options. QUPAQs loading systems can also be adapted to different recipes and products on the same equipment.
Our loaders can outperform any manual labor.
3 -Automatic End-of-Line handling and palletizing
One of the hardest and most injury-prone tasks on a production line is palletizing. It is repetitive and workers are prone for injuries and muscle pains. QUPAQ have solutions for fast and agile palletizing using robots. We also have many technologies that enable plants to make better use of their space – also vertically.
QUPAQ is moving, packing and aligning the sealed trays during End-of-Line operations with proven solutions.