In the past, all of the hand grading was done at the front of the line, so everyone received the same quality, Stonebarger said.
The new system will allow Stemilt to dial in different quality parameters and packs for individual customers.
“In general, you have tremendously more consistency and the ability to manage the consistency in the box, particularly with differentiating colors and firmness,” he said.
The goal is to provide a consistent eating experience for consumers and more repeat customers for retailers, Stonebarger said.
Beginning this season, 80% to 90% of Stemilt’s California cherry crop will be run through the new grader-sizer, Shales said.
Although the new machinery will significantly reduce the number of human sorters, it will increase the number of workers needed on the back end because of the speed with which it grades and sorts, Stonebarger said.
“So we save a chunk on people on the sorting but we’ve had to double the personnel on the back end on the filling,” he said.