ProcessExpo recently sat down with and interviewed John Tertin, ESE’s Director of Sales and Marketing. Below is a sample of the article:
As food manufacturers struggle with the loss of seasoned workers and the lack of young people entering the industry, they’re looking to automation technology to fill in the gaps.
To learn how automation can not only make production lines more efficient, and also help food companies preserve the institutional knowledge of retiring employees, we interviewed John Tertin, Director of Sales and Marketing at ESE Automation.
Wisconsin-based ESE opened for business over 30 years ago. “Our founder was a master electrician,” Tertin says, “and he did a lot of work for local dairies. As technology advanced, he advanced along with it and provided more value to our customers.” Since those early years, ESE has continued to focus exclusively on the food and beverage industry and has gained extensive expertise in a variety of processes, such as pasteurization, batching systems, continuous blending, fermentation, evaporation, and clean-in-place. While still recognized as experts in dairy processing, ESE has diversified into other food markets and today, dairy represents just 40% of ESE’s customer base.
Applying workforce knowledge to automation systems
Although technology continues to make processes faster and more efficient, it’s still no match for human sensitivity.
Tertin uses cheesemakers as an example. “Natural cheese is a very time sensitive process,” he says. “Things have to be done plus or minus 2° or 30 seconds, or you’ve made 40,000 lbs of something you really don’t care to sell.” Over time, masters of this delicate craft have developed intuitions that make all the difference in the finished product. As Tertin explains, these operators “see something happen within the process, or within the product, that they inherently know is indicative of other issues, which may be overlooked by people who haven’t had the same longevity in that environment.”
The problem for many processors is that these experts are beginning to exit the workforce, often taking their critical knowledge acquired from decades of experience with them.