Automation a boon, not a threat for crab industry

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In reading The Weekend Telegram (Aug. 23), Russell Wangersky’s column “Humans vs. the machine” caught my attention.

It may have been better suited to the Industrial Revolution, post-Second World War era and not today’s fishing industry, an industry that, while facing real labour problems, remains committed to operating in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Kudos to SeafoodNews.com for sharing in the technology development and positive fishing news originating from Newfoundland and Labrador.

BAADER Canada Ltd. has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop a new generation, semi-

automated crab processing machine.

Industry need

Its project was initiated because of a real need for crab processing automation in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I., Quebec and the U.S.A., including Alaska.

Newfoundland processors were at the forefront because of their commitment to overcome the long-term labour problem and apply automation as a possible solution.

Today’s processors are also looking outside N.L. and to foreign worker placements to fill positions, and are having to reduce process capacity, reschedule and/or eliminate shifts or stop production all together.

The real problems which necessitate process evolution and automation, include:

    ‰ changing demographics, documented older workforce (no new and few young entrants);

    ‰ less labour productivity due to older workforce;

    ‰ more job competition from other industries (offshore oil, Canada’s west, Muskrat, etc.);

    ‰ machines offer consistency in terms of quality and process yield, less variability than individual worker performance;

    ‰ international market competition, new crab species-products, low-cost producers and resulting lower market price.

Should semi- or fully automated machines be introduced for crab butchering, fish filleting etc., employees will easily find new positions within the existing operation. Butchering is just one step in a 12-15 step manual crab-processing system.

The industry demonstration has generated a lot of interest and positive discussion by all attendees.

As new process technology is successfully introduced, it will allow companies to become more efficient, more competitive and focus on other business challenges.

Maybe the article should have been entitled “crab automation saves N.L. industry”?

Bob Hardy

C.B.S.

Organizations: U.S.A.

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick Quebec Alaska Canada

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