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Changes You Can Make Right Now to Improve Industrial Meat Production

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By Emilie A Lachance - January 15, 2020

According to a 2002 report by the Lean Enterprise Research Center at the University of Cardiff in Wales, a sampling of surveyed red meat producers documented OEE values of 26-40 percent. An OEE performance level of 85 percent is considered world-class. Though the OEE levels from the study appear low, they are, in fact, typical of industrial meat production operations without effective performance improvement programs in place. 

The authors also speculated that there were many short-term improvement opportunities available to these producers that would help them drive their OEE values to the 60 percent range. A 60 percent OEE represents good but not best-in-class operations. Nevertheless, for companies beginning a journey of lowering costs and increasing productivity and throughput, a near-term improvement of 20-40 percent for OEE represents a very significant step in the right direction. 

If your company is beginning a program of performance improvement or if you are looking for ways to increase productivity in the short term, the below list of four areas can make good starting points.     

Employee Training or Retraining

Short-term gains can be achieved through practical employee training or retraining. Refresher courses focused on the fundamental processes for industrial meat production can have immediate benefits. Also, expanding the training to include lean cost reduction principles such as workstation cleanliness and organization provides both short- and long-term improvements.

  Appropriate training for all employees can result in:

  1. Improved understanding of operating processes and production cycles
  2. Better execution of each employee’s responsibilities plus overall increased motivation
  3. Improved monitoring of line processes by employees, resulting in the identification of cost savings opportunities

Build the Factory of the Future

Real-time machine and production monitoring systems are available that are both easy to install and reasonably priced. High-tech industrial meat production is the new normal, and factory managers must stay abreast of current technologies to remain competitive. Worximity’s best-in-class Smart Factory analytics software provides machine monitoring sensors that deliver real-time productivity and performance data. Using Worximity’s OEE monitoring tool, employees can see how specific metrics are moving, and if values are “out of line,” they can initiate actions to correct immediate problems. 

Successful implementation of Worximity’s Smart Factory analytics software into a food processor’s operation serves as a catalyst for both near-term improvements and ongoing control of factory operations. Recently, at poultry processor Voltigeurs Farm, Worximity’s real-time data monitoring system delivered a 64 percent reduction in downtime, a 61 percent increase in factory availability, and other valuable performance improvements. Details are discussed in Voltigeurs’ case study

Implement Maintenance Improvements

Equipment stoppages and breakdowns generally require maintenance to be called to the line for repairs and adjustments. Some problems can be minor. In many plants, however, a significant amount of lost production is caused by waiting for maintenance personnel to arrive. Much of this downtime can be saved by assigning dedicated maintenance workers to specific lines or processing areas. As an alternative, creating a rapid response maintenance team able to make repairs quickly may also reduce production wait times.

Producers can also begin a program of scheduled preventative maintenance. Though not considered a short-term improvement opportunity specifically, analyzing maintenance procedures and operations often uncovers many short-term opportunities.  

Some essential actions to consider include:

  1. Scheduling maintenance during line shut-downs
  2. Identifying high-frequency maintenance or breakdown issues from Worximity’s real-time reporting data to find high-priority, near-term repairs
  3. Identifying low-cost, easy-to-complete equipment performance issues such as worn or out-of-spec parts and controllers and replacing them with reliable equipment

Review Packaging and Package Components 

Packaging represents a significant portion of overall product costs. In addition, package design and specifications both protect product in storage and transit and reflect your company’s customer-facing brand. In industrial meat production operations, packaging wastes are often overlooked as a source of performance improvement. Nevertheless, waste materials caused by poor material handling, equipment malfunction, improper storage, and incorrect inventory management procedures can all contribute to excess packaging material costs and reduce overall margins.   

Areas that should be analyzed for cost improvements include:

  1. Supplier pricing and supply chain management techniques.
  2. Maintenance and operation of automatic packaging equipment. Low-temperature, high-humidity environments make automatic running of cardboard and paper materials more difficult. In some cases, it may be possible to isolate packaging operations in environmentally controlled areas.
  3. Inventory stock levels and handling methods and procedures. Eliminate excessive moves and ensure proper stock rotation to reduce damage.

Most food processors today can find ample opportunities to reduce costs and improve overall efficiencies. Many of these changes can be implemented in the short term—in 1-6 months—and can result in rapid improvement in OEE and bottom-line returns. A robust program of lean concepts coupled with Worximity’s process equipment monitoring can facilitate impressive short-term productivity improvements.

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The Worximity Smart Food Factory solution is a low-cost hardware system that can be up and running in a few hours combined with an easy and intuitive yet powerful analytics dashboard that provides fast ROI to start and a roadmap to full-on IIoT success.

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