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.