To be successful in the food and beverage processing world, processors must keep up with the ever-increasing pace of innovation in operations. Plant and equipment design standards are always on the move, and we spoke with Paul Krechel, vice president of Sales, Service and Parts for Deville Technologies to get his take on how collaboration between processors and vendors can help the industry keep up.
Food Processing: Discuss how Deville Technologies’ approach to innovation differs from other equipment manufacturers out there who serve the food industry.
Paul Krechel: It’s an exciting topic for us. We based our whole business on innovation and R&D behind the scenes. We have a fairly large-sized sales team, but we don’t approach it just as sales; we approach it as R&D. Clients come to our innovation center to start testing their product — especially when it’s new products. We can either do [the testing] on our equipment and create new products for the industry, or we develop new pieces of equipment and innovation of our systems with them so that it supplies both them and the rest of the industry down the road. We’ve tried to become more collaborative over just a decade, and everything has shifted more toward that behind-the-scenes testing.
FP: How did the client centered R&D partnership drive Deville Technologies toward innovative hygienic designs for its cutting equipment?
PK: We started with our standard cheese shredding equipment and found that, indeed we have a typical shred that’s maybe used on pizzas and available on retail shelves, but customers wanted the flexibility of having one machine for different applications. For instance, they wanted us to do grating, flaking and different types of shreds, as opposed to just the v-cut shred. This led us to manufacture, innovate and create new shred discs and add new equipment that would accommodate the different applications in one machine. We’ve been able to, with the partnership of our clients, create new equipment — and without them we wouldn’t have innovated in that way.
FP: What other equipment design changes were implemented over the years using feedback from clients?
PK: We really took to heart what our customers were saying about sanitary design. Our brand has been promoted because of the high sanitary design and hygienic equipment that we offer, and we’re constantly improving. For example, a lot of equipment that you see in the food processing industry has horizontal surfaces that can attract and keep water, which then may attract bacteria. Our new designs make sure that water doesn’t stand on the equipment and moves away from the equipment as soon as possible. When we’re talking about sanitary design, it’s something that we’ve applied to one piece of equipment and then throughout our full systems … from product handling all the way to the packaging scale.
FP: What other at-large industry trends have influenced the work Deville Technologies has been doing with its clients. Are there any other macro trends that have really influenced that collaboration?
PK: From the inception, we’ve tried to make our equipment easy to use. Now we’re seeing even fewer mechanics, fewer operators that are involved with the equipment. For this reason, taking the equipment apart and manipulating it for it to function cannot be a long, tedious process. For example, only four pieces of tooling are required to take part and assemble one of our complete line solutions, which takes up an entire plant.
That tool is mainly used just to put a shredding disc on one component of the machine. The rest of it is a streamlined, toolless design that makes it easy for operators to be trained and subsequently teach other operators down the road. Alongside that, it’s hard to find and retain good employees, so most of our equipment has become very automated and we’re moving into that direction with new technology in the next couple of years as well.
FP: Can you detail the benefits that clients receive from working with Deville’s R&D specialists in this client-centered environment that Deville has?
PK: Absolutely … if for example, a customer has a jerky-type product that comes in a long strip or in a long piece, we’ll provide the customer with the option of sourcing the product from them and invite them on-site; in this manner we can create different type of SKUs of the product with our equipment which they can eventually bring to market. In that way, we’re able to give their R&D professionals who are on site and busy with the existing equipment, new innovations to choose from. Whether they’re going to use that SKU immediately or in 10 years from now, they have it in their product portfolio.
We see this a lot in the R&D section of alternative proteins as well. In this segment, for example, we’re taking items that are not a whole-muscle meat, it may be just a slab of proteins all mixed together, and creating a “pulled” look, or a shredded chicken or shredded meat look. To achieve that “look” we ask clients to send us a bulk amount of products and proceed to use all of the equipment in our facility to manipulate the product to look like what you would see as a normal or existing type of whole-muscle protein available on the market.
FP: Where do you see the biggest innovation happening in terms of products that Deville’s approach can help with?
PK: There’s quite a few that come to mind because we work in several different segments within the food industry, but the pet food industry has been something that has really been a target for us since there is a lot of innovation taking place within this segment, specifically the freeze-dried industry. They’re taking whole-muscle meat, usually organ items like liver, and processing it down. They’re giving the pet a whole-muscle or a whole product, as opposed to a mixed product that’s blended together.
We really invested heavily in creating an automated system because currently there’s quite a few industry leaders that are still using bandsaws and very dangerous pieces of equipment. We were able to manufacture large cubing equipment that would cube up the product as opposed to somebody using their hands to move a piece of meat across a rotating knife. We saw that was a major concern and went on site to almost all of the pet food manufacturers, went back to the drawing board and said, “OK, now we’re going to design a system that works best for them and for us.” We’ve had great partners that were able to test with our products prior to going to market wholeheartedly with the full line.