With higher labor costs and increased difficulty finding the right people to hire, being able to save on labor with the right food prep equipment is crucial, says Dan Assell, market manager — food machines for Troy, Ohio-based Hobart.

But it’s also vital to be as efficient as possible with the labor you have, Assell says. And when companies invest in equipment, they must redistribute the labor elsewhere to positively impact your bottom line.

“Hobart is always looking at innovations to provide labor savings to the business of food preparation,” Assell says. “Our latest portion scale slicers offer excellent features and benefits, but we still will look to improve on those so they can provide greater labor savings than they already do.”

Those new slicers include the HS6-1PS manual and the HS7-1PS automatic. Both have an integrated scale that offers precise slicing and instant weighing, eliminating the need for two pieces of equipment and saving time since associates no longer need to walk between a slicer and a separate scale after slicing. They also take the guesswork out of weighing product, saving time to correct wrong estimates.

The HS7-1PS, Assell says, is ideal for efficiently preparing grab-and-go meats and cheeses. It includes a SmartSlice function that allows the slicer to operate until it reaches an operator-selected product weight.

A Stack function also stops when the slicer reaches the desired product weight and will resume slicing to the same weight when the operator places dividing paper and selects the start button.

In addition to the two new portion scale slicers, Hobart makes other equipment that delivers labor savings to retailers, including its 6801 meat saw, its 403 meat tenderizer and a variety of food processors.

The 6801 meat saw eliminates the need to cut meat by hand, while Hobart meat tenderizers strip-cut meat for the pre-packaged meals more and more grocers are now offering, Assell says. That speeds up the process compared to manual cutting. The same is true of Hobart food processors, which can be used to quickly chop or cut vegetables, he adds. 


A commitment to lower labor costs

Grocers expect their suppliers’ commitment to develop and maintain their employees’ skills to be the same as their own, says Robert Rogers, senior food and safety advisor for Columbus, Ohio-based scale and labeling specialist Mettler Toledo.

And that commitment to training can result in lower labor costs and, just as importantly, lower costs to mitigate the effects of improper training.

“Appropriate skills create greater efficiency and fewer mistakes, resulting in higher product quality,” Rogers says. “For suppliers, this means providing adequate training on aspects of their operations ranging from the essential knowledge of how to use equipment correctly to ensuring a hygienic production environment to the importance of maintaining accurate production records.”

The intuitive software incorporated in today’s product inspection systems such as those produced by Mettler Toledo can offer semi- or fully-automated product set-up routines that reduce the possibility of human programming errors, Rogers says.

In addition, the systems’ software can optimize sensitivity levels to reduce false reject rates and the costs of wasted product. Leading suppliers of inspection systems also offer their customers’ workers training on the correct application and maintenance of product inspection systems to optimize machine uptime and maximize productivity.

Aurora, Illinois-based Mettler Toledo CI-Vision, a division of Mettler Toledo, also is committed to helping customers lower labor costs. The main way it does that, says Joanna Mooberry, market segment manager, is by verifying labels and packaging before they’re sent through distribution channels.

“We can help ensure that retailers only receive top-quality products, reducing any labor needed to recall products off a shelf,” she says. “It's an indirect way we can impact labor savings.”

Mettler Toledo CI-Vision’s vision inspection systems examine labels for errors and help ensure that labels match the contents of their products. Their computerized systems are always on, contrasted with companies that rely on occasional checks by human beings. Such manual inspections, Mooberry says, can’t keep up with  super-fast production line speeds. But many still rely on manual inspection to protect themselves from product defects.