Most processing plants have similar goals, such as cutting costs, reducing waste, improving efficiency, and increasing profits while also boosting quality. It’s not always easy to achieve these goals at the same time. For example, there are typically trade-offs between cutting costs and boosting quality.
But some tools, if they’re designed well, can help processors accomplish all their cost-cutting and efficiency goals as well as their quality goals. A prime example of these tools is industrial blades.
To learn how machine knives have evolved, and are still evolving, to increase food processors’ outputs and profits, we spoke with Eric Pfeiffer, the director of marketing and business development at Hyde Industrial Blade Solutions.
Hyde was founded in 1875 as a manufacturer of hand knives for the leather and textile industry. In 1906, they were asked by a company in Buffalo to develop knives for a new piece of machinery. “Here we are, 113 years later, and we are still their primary blade supplier,” Pfeiffer says.
Over the last century, Hyde’s industrial blade business has grown to support many industries, including food processing and manufacturing, which they’ve been serving for more than 50 years. The company’s main emphasis is the protein market, but they also provide solutions for applications in other industry verticals, including fruits and vegetables, snacks, and confections.
Bringing down the total cost of ownership by improving quality
As with any purchase, it’s easy to focus on the upfront cost when selecting machine knives. But it’s also true that you get what you pay for.
Pfeiffer says that food processors are often attracted to the low purchase price of cheap, imported products. Initially, this looks great for the bottom line, but then the operational costs start adding up. The blade stops performing well and its cut isn’t as clean. It also needs to be replaced frequently. “A lot of people have been fooled by a low upfront cost. But once you factor in the changeover costs, including the labor and downtime, as well as the production loss, you realize it’s not such an economical alternative after all.”
That’s why Hyde focuses on providing high-quality blades that make high-quality cuts and have a longer lifespan. Their blades may have a price tag twice as high as an imported (or 10-15% higher than competing American-made blades), but the total cost of ownership is considerably lower.
Pfeiffer provides a simple way to calculate exactly how much you can save by making purchasing decisions based on total cost of ownership rather than upfront price.
First, track the number of cuts you're getting from a cheaper blade before it needs to be replaced. Then, count the number of cuts you get from a Hyde blade, and compare the numbers. “Maybe you're getting 100 cuts with the other supplier's blade and 225 cuts with ours,” Pfeiffer says. “All of a sudden, you've got more than twice the number of cuts, and you’ve eliminated one blade change-over. That's a real savings in both production time and blade cost.”
Don’t forget to add up the cost of product loss to see the total value of a higher-quality blade. Pfeiffer explains: “When cutting chicken, for example, if the blade makes a ragged cut, you might have to toss that piece to the side. At the end of the day, you've got pounds of material that goes into a lesser product, such as chicken nuggets. Or, worse, you might not be able to use those cuts for anything. A blade that consistently makes clean, reliable cuts provides more saleable products and more profit.”
“These days, food processors are being squeezed,” Pfeiffer adds. “So they're looking for improved profit or reduced costs opportunities anywhere they can find them. Scrap and yield are a big, big red flag in all these plants.”
Achieving aggressive, clean cuts with innovative design
The Holy Grail when it comes to industrial blades is the ability to make cuts that are both aggressive and clean.
For a long time, this was a fantasy — food processors had to choose between the two. Hyde changed the game with its Meat Miser blade, originally developed for poultry processing, but now used for other, predominantly protein, applications.
The Meat Miser accomplishes aggressive and clean cuts thanks to a series of arcuates, or reverse teeth, on the outer edge of the blade. “This blade gives customers the best of both worlds,” Pfeiffer says. “By breaking up the cutting edge, you get the aggressiveness, but because they're knife edge arcuates rather than teeth or scallops or points, you get a nice clean cut as well.”
This type of innovation illustrates why Hyde is more than a blade manufacturer. They’re a solutions provider. “Whether it's the arcuate, a tooth design, some scalloping, or some notching — anytime we can do something special on the edge that's going to improve the performance of the blade, that gives our customers a leg up.”
Automation is driving industry evolution
The growth of automation creates even more opportunities to refine blade designs. Pfeiffer believes it’s a move in the right direction for the food industry, since automation improves throughput while decreasing product handling. It also challenges industrial blade manufacturers to take their blades to a higher level of consistency and repeatability.
Machines knives that were acceptable 20 years ago need an upgrade if they are to meet the requirements of today’s lines. “As automation takes over, things have to be more consistent,” Pfeiffer says. “Cuts have to be exactly the same time in and time out. Tolerances have to be tighter, and people have to be able to produce at a higher level.”
As the industry moves in new directions, Pfeiffer says Hyde will be able to meet their customers’ changing needs by doubling down on the three core principles that have been key to their success since 1875:
- Consistently high quality: “We want all our products to go out with a one-way ticket.”
- On-time delivery: “When we say we're going to deliver on X date, we want it delivered on X date 100% of the time.”
- Industry-leading lead times: “A lot of industrial blades are made to order. Our goal is to have the shortest lead times in the industry.”
Pfeiffer and his colleagues have attended PROCESS EXPO in the past, but this will be their first year as an exhibitor. “Having walked the show before, we’ve seen that it definitely gets the right crowd for the types of products we're making,” Pfeiffer says.
To find out more about how the right blades can help you save money while boosting productivity and profits, look for Hyde Industrial Blade Solutions at Booth #756.