SATS to invest S$18m automating kitchen operations

Written by: Felicity Stredder |
SATS Inflight Catering Centre 1 mock up
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On August 1, SATS unveiled plans to invest S$18m in a food production line that will automate up to half of operations in its kitchens.

These plans come not only as part of a drive to improve the taste and quality of food, but also as part of the company’s strategy to expand its capacity in order to be able to produce 115,000 meals a day.

This increased capacity has become necessary to cope with the growing regional demand for its services that have come as a result of expansion strategies by airlines, and are also a reflection of SATS’ commitment to supporting the long-term growth of Changi airport. The company’s current capacity of handling 66m passengers a year will need to grow to accommodate increased figures of 85m passengers by 2018, when Terminal 4 is ready.

“We will be capable of processing food on a larger scale with reduced labour intensive processes, (but) there will be no reduction in our existing workforce. In fact, the investments in technology and automation are aimed at making our people twice as productive in the near future,” said SATS President and CEO Alex Hungate.

The new production line is at the company’s Inflight Catering Centre 2 that primarily caters to foreign airlines outside the Singapore Airlines group. By the second quarter of 2017, SATS’ Inflight Catering Centre 2 will have the capacity to produce 55,000 meals a day, up from the current capacity of 40,000 meals. Also undergoing automation is SATS’ four storey Inflight Catering Centre 1 at Airport Boulevard, which supplies exclusively to SIA group airlines. It has a capacity to produce 60,000 meals per day.

“The increased use of automation and robotics will allow us to produce larger quantities of food with a high level of quality and consistency,” said Jean Sin, Assistant Vice President of Innovation and Product Development, SATS, going on to explain that this consistency will not only make the process more efficient and less labour-intensive, but is expected to produce better tasting food than manual processes can achieve.

The new production line is the latest in a series of investments by SATS to improve operational efficiency. Automated stirrers and steam jets will join existing sophisticated technologies that include automated guided vehicles, a flexible assembly line, an ultrasonic cutlery washing and polishing system and an automated cutlery sorting and packing machine.

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