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“Businesses start to invest in automation due to labor shortage problems”

As more and more regions are relaxing covid-19 measures, international exhibitions are beginning to organize again with crowds of exhibitors and visitors. People from the fruit sector are excited to meet their industrial colleagues in person once more.

The Japanese peeling machine innovator Astra Inc was presented in the IFPA exhibition in October. It was the first international show Astra attended after covid. The company received around 200 potential buyers at the booth, demonstrated around 20 boxes of fruits, and have sold 10+ peelers in 3 days exhibition time. Ryo Takeshita, the sales manager at Astra shared his recent experiences and insights.

“Businesses start using peelers because of labor cost concerns”
What impresses Ryo, is that many visitors are demanding an automatic peeler due to the high labour cost issues. “I was surprised by the labor costs that the headquarters are paying. Inflation is definitely one of the problems, but many businesses need to increase wages to attract people working for them, due to the labour shortage problem at the moment. Business were struggling to find solutions.”

“Take Japan as an example, since covid started till now (Japan still has stricter measures compared with many other regions), most people can only go to work on certain days, many stores and restaurants are closed because of the staff shortage. This is particularly a problem for backyard of grocery stores, where many housewives work. With many kids getting infected in Japan at the moment, these ladies are busying taking care their kids and are not able to work sufficient hours as they should.” Ryo said, “Besides staff shortages, labor costs are also a problem. The Japanese labor cost is actually not increasing, but since the Japanese economy is going downward, relative labor costs are becoming heavier. So businesses are more willing to invest in automatic solutions, in order to reduce the costs.”

“I am not bragging, but I am very proud, that our machines saved one mango factory in Orlando. The factory used to peel and process mangoes with fourteen people. At a certain point, the factory could not bear the increasing cost anymore, and purchased a KA-750PM peeler from us. Now their workers have decreased to eight. With a decreased cost and nicer appealing products on the market, the company's financial status is getting to normal again.”

Automatic solutions for reducing cost
The Orlando mango factory was not the only story, Ryo then tells a few more cases that business are benefited by Astra automatic peeler.

We have another client from California, it is a supermarket that newly used our KA-750 series for peeling mangoes. Previously this supermarket had 4 people working 5 days/ week for 8 hours/day, which means 160 labor hours. After buying the KA-750PM, it was possible for them to peel the same number of mangoes with a 3-man team, working 5 days/week for 5.5 hours/day, which is only 82.5 labor hours. This is nearly 50% of the work week given back to redistribute labor or reduce labor costs. The cost of the machines was earned back in only 2 months.” Ryo said. “Automatic peeling is more hygienic compared with manual peeling, which is especially important since the covid-19 pandemic made consumers more conscious of their health. The Astra peeling method gives more safety to the supermarkets.”

Besides factories and supermarkets, small scale firms also benefited from Astra’s automatic peelers. Koichiro Kato is a Japanese entrepreneur who recently established his fruit Daifuku brand. With the increase in sales, Kato recently purchased a few automatic fruit peeling machines to ease the production process. “We choose the Astra peeler, as it is a very well-known peeling brand in the local fruit processing sector. The model we use is KA-700H, we use it for peeling all small types of fruits, from kiwi, citrus, to pear and apples,” Kato said, “The machines did a great job, we are really happy with them. Take kiwi as an example, it takes 30 seconds for well-trained staff to peel a kiwi. But with the machine, a kiwi can be easily peeled in 3 seconds. Our work efficiency increased by almost 10 times!”

“Besides reducing costs, there are more ways we can support businesses”
“One client has mentioned to us that, before using the peeler, workers had to be trained for a long time before they are able to peel the skin to the thinnest and leave the maximum amount of fruit flesh. But now, the client can just set the program on the peeler, which results in better appearance, less water and thus longer shelf life products. Their product waste was also minimized by 10%!”

Astra has been granted several awards related to automatic peeling technologies, including the ‘Kitchen Innovations Award’ in 2018, ‘Touhoku New Business Award’ in 2019, and the ‘14th Nippon New Business Creation Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence’ in December 2019. “All the patents and awards are in recognition of our sincere efforts in innovation. We are proud to say that all of these technologies were born out of countless failures and ideas that were put into storage.” Ryo said.

For more information, please click here

Mr. Ryo Takeshita
Tel.: +81 0245412444
E-mail: [email protected]