DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - NEWS -

Lead­ing meat pro­ces­sor and ex­porter Al­liance Group has in­stalled two ro­bots at its Smith­field plant near Ti­maru as part of its strat­egy to im­prove the co-op­er­a­tive’s op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency.

The fully-au­to­mated brisket cut­ting and evis­cer­a­tion ro­bots au­to­mate the dif­fi­cult and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous part of live­stock pro­cess­ing, re­sult­ing in im­proved prod­uct qual­ity, hygiene and safety.

The ro­bots were de­signed, man­u­fac­tured and in­stalled by New Zealand en­gi­neer­ing com­pany Milmeq in con­junc­tion with Ovine Au­to­ma­tion Lim­ited (OAL). The in­stal­la­tion of the ro­bots at Smith­field is the first com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tion of the tech­nol­ogy and fol­lows sev­eral years of test­ing as part of OAL’s re­search and de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme.

Kerry Stevens, Al­liance Group Gen­eral Man­ager Pro­cess­ing, said the in­stal­la­tion of the tech­nol­ogy at Smith­field is the first step of a larger pro­ject Al­liance Group is un­der­tak­ing at the plant.

“We’re in­stalling the lat­est robotic tech­nolo­gies to im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity and plant ef­fi­ciency as part of a wider strat­egy to lift re­turns for our farmer-share­hold­ers.

“This in­vest­ment demon­strates our com­mit­ment to in­no­va­tion and will sup­port our ef­forts to op­ti­mise re­turns for New Zealand farm­ers and en­sure that we re­main com­pet­i­tive on a global scale.”

Test­ing of the tech­nol­ogy showed im­prove­ments in pro­duc­tiv­ity and a re­duc­tion in food safety risks, he said.

Mike Light­foot, Milmeq CEO, said, “It is fan­tas­tic to see the de­vel­op­ment that has gone into th­ese ro­bots now com­ing to fruition at a com­mer­cial level. We are de­lighted to be in­stalling them for Al­liance Group who share our vi­sion for in­no­va­tion.

“We see this as be­ing the way of the fu­ture for lamb pro­cess­ing through­out New Zealand and glob­ally. I would an­tic­i­pate that, in time, the au­to­mated brisket cut­ter and evis­cer­a­tion ro­bots will be recog­nised as set­ting the in­dus­try stan­dard.”

“See­ing the ro­bots suc­cess­fully op­er­at­ing at Smith­field is a tremen­dous achieve­ment for all con­cerned. It’s great to see a tan­gi­ble suc­cess of the re­search con­ducted,” added OAL Gen­eral Man­ager Richard McColl.

The Smith­field plant, which serves the com­pany’s up­per South Is­land sup­pli­ers, pro­cesses sheep, lamb and veni­son through most of the year and em­ploys ap­prox­i­mately 500 staff.

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