A recent article, “ It’s About Labor ”, published in Food Engineering magazine, processors were interviewed about the ongoing difficulties finding and retaining workers, even beyond the post pandemic labor levels. Mepaco ® ’s customers, too, have been driving automation conversations, so we are developing resources to share our application expertise with solutions that are semi- or fully automated. Some applications lead food manufacturers to consider equipment that allows for versatile functions to reduce labor and manual processes that can either be locally controlled or fully automated. ThermaBlend®: Cooking/Blending/Chilling The ThermaBlend® Cooker is a highly efficient cooking/blending solution with a substantial heat transfer area featuring highly efficient agitators and a patented scraper system that proves fast processing times. The ThermaBlend® Cooker is engineered for specific customer goals and is capable of cooking, searing, caramelizing, chilling, sautéing, and blending. Mixers, cookers, and blenders are highly engineered and highly controlled systems for large-scale batch operations up to 1000-gallon capacity. In one example, Mepaco’s customer, a chicken processor, used manual processes for tenderizing, cooking, and shredding. The labor was nearly eliminated with the introduction of the ThermaBlend ® which combined five processes to temper the meat, massage, tenderize, cook, shred and blend with thickening sauce. Mixer-Blenders and Buffering Mixers : Product Temperature Control Mixing equipment can be modified for the needs of the application to include direct or in-direct steam options. Cooling jackets, insulation/cladding, or injection systems (CO 2 or N 2 ) also add versatility to mixing and blending efficiencies. Mepaco has engineered buffering mixers to streamline operations. In one application, Mepaco engineered heated buffering mixers which kept the particulates in various densities in suspension until downstream operation signaled for more product. In this example, the buffering mixers solve for automation, and maintain the integrity of the product. Screw Conveyor Systems: Versatile loading while maintaining product temperature Another application specific solution, screw Conveyors are among the most modifiable equipment solutions to suit the processing layout and versatile loading positions in an automated line. Screw conveyors can have automatic loading based on product weight or downstream signals, as well as automated pivoting between equipment. To learn more about automation, or upgrades to controls packages, discuss your application and goals with Mepaco .