KANSAS CITY — Too much demand always sounds like a good problem to have in the short run, but ramping up production with widespread staffing shortages makes that difficult for many snack makers — and those workforce issues aren’t going away anytime soon.

As a result, snack processors are looking for ways to boost capacity through automation. Specifically, they’re exploring new technology that’s bigger, faster and better, such as a 3,000-lb-per hour production line that requires roughly the same amount of labor to run as a 2,000-lb-per hour line.

For raw materials, automated storage-and-retrieval systems as well as automatic sizing and grading reduce workloads. Some other popular quick fixes include automated case packing or user-friendly PLC control systems that are easier to learn for newer hires. Moreover, cutting-edge technology for on-machine seasoning (OMS) of snacks has surged over the last several years. OMS can bring higher productivity, reduce changeover time and minimize waste of base product, finished product, film waste and even warehouse stales, noted Baking & Snack in its December snack processing feature.

By relying on mass-based gravimetric spraying and dry seasoning controls, OMS systems precisely weigh the amount of seasoning or oil required by the pre-programmed recipe. To top it off, digital control systems — when integrated with seasoning and flavoring systems — streamline changeovers and enhance a production line’s efficiency.

With careful analysis of existing operations and by planning ahead, snack producers will find ways to improve their operations and meet consumer demand in the New Year.