A subsidiary of the Kobe Bussan Group, Hata Foods manufactures frozen food, chilled side dishes, and PET-bottle products such as salad dressings and sauces.
It has a popular product line highlighting the flavor of Japanese domestic potatoes known as Potato Salad Bases. To help with production of this line, Hata installed a TOMRA Orbit 150 steam peeler, brusher, and washer, as well as a TOMRA Genius B1200 sorting machine.
Hata’s CEO Toshiyuki Hata discusses what kind of impact these changes have had: "Before installing the Orbit 150, we were using a peeling machine manufactured by a different company, but this machine was becoming outdated and often stopped working. This meant that we had to deal with decreasing work efficiency and the related increased labor costs, not to mention ever diminishing yields. Also, because we were unable to sufficiently obtain replacement parts, we were faced with the risk of long periods of non-production in the unfortunate case that the machine broke down.
"We came to know of TOMRA at the FOOMA Japan International Food Machinery and Technology Exhibition. This is where we met its sales team, who explained to us that TOMRA produced a unique steam peeler that was able to produce the world’s thinnest potato peel and which would naturally lead to improved yield rates.
"Following the installation of the steam peeler, our production yield increased by approximately 5% and improved product quality. We are very satisfied with this result. Because high-pressure steam creates an approximate 0.5mm-1.0mm thick heat ring around the surface of the potato, there is less hardening of the potato’s raw material. Also, improved food texture has led to an increase in sales.
"An additional bonus is that the machinery has excellent operability. When using the equipment, the operator only has to deal with two main display panels. This now means that anyone can operate the peeler with confidence. On top of that, even though the machinery is manufactured overseas, all operation options are displayed in Japanese, which makes it very easy for us to use.
"When we were considering installing TOMRA’s steam peeler, we compared it with the products of other companies. We found TOMRA’s features to be very attractive, including throughput, proven results, and maintainability.
"In terms of throughput, the equipment is more compact than any other machine on the market. The design places a greater emphasis on efficiency, ensuring that less time is required to peel one item. This feature leads to a conservation of energy and a more effective utilisation of space within the factory.
"With regards to maintainability, there is an alarm indicator on the touch panel, which is excellent for the purpose of easy detection of trouble in the early stages. In addition, TOMRA maintains a register of four maintenance engineers and holds an inventory of principal spare parts. This gave us a great sense of peace of mind.
"The whiteness of our Potato Salad Bases product is critical to its success. As our products are stocked in a way that the color of the food is visible through the packaging, even a small brown discoloration can dampen a consumer’s desire to purchase the product.
"The sorting of potato sprouts, skin, decay, greening or blackening is an important process that links directly to sales. However, prior to installing the machine, this sorting activity was heavily reliant on manual labor, and we needed an average over 16 staff to complete it. Thus, production stoppages could easily arise if we were unable to secure sufficient staff, and this in turn destabilised the supply of raw materials to the post-sorting processes such as loading of materials and packaging. This negatively affected our production efficiency.
"We saw a massive reduction in labour costs thanks to the installation of TOMRA’s steam peeler. When we introduced the first machine, we were able to reduce the number of staff required from 16 people down to four people. After this, we brought in another machine, and currently we are able to maintain the same quality with only one employee.
"Furthermore, this additional machine provides the same excellent operability as the steam peeler. One of the attractive features is that we can make detailed configurations in adjustment to the type of potato we are using because the sorter allows us to simply set the range of colors we want to separate. Moreover, when using manual labor for this job, variation arises in the sorting standards of each individual staff member, but with the machine, the quality is consistent. I am very confident that this operability and stable quality will help increase our credibility and lead to higher earnings.
"We chose TOMRA Sorting Food based on the fact that it has a track record of selling 10,000 machines worldwide and that the sorter provides a total engineering package which includes a pump conveyor that precedes the loading operation, a dicer and a means of processing the waste water. Also, the TOMRA sales team speedily responds to enquiries, even if those enquiries are made early in the morning or late at night. The sales team provides a powerful support system for our business."