The removal of the pelt during lamb dressing is a repetitive and very physically arduous task, requiring several manual operations of 'thumbing', 'punching', and 'pulling'.
Some early research was done in 2006 by investigating use of the MIT AB sheepskin puller (manufactured in Sweden and had been in use, apparently successfully, in France for some time). This technology was not implemented in Australia.
More recently, the VIP (Variable Independent Path) lamb and sheep Shoulder Puller machine has been developed by Milmeq of New Zealand. It automatically grabs a prepared pelt and then pulls or separates the pelt from the carcase with minimal damage. The benefit to the supply chain is increased workplace safety and labour supply sustainability, and processing efficiency.
P.PIP.0208 was a facilitated adoption project that trialled this New Zealand system at WAMMCO in Western Australia.
Associated with this was a cost/benefit analysis carried out on the system (A.TEC.0090).
The use of compressed gas to separate the pelt from the carcase was a process pioneered in NZ. Project P.PSH.0259 evaluated an automated gas depelting system in an Australian production environment. The potential benefit to the supply chain is reduced potential for damage to the carcase with manual techniques, a contribution to labour sustainability, and processing efficiencies.
Two production trials were conducted and over 3000 animals processed.
While WAMMCO continues to use the VIP shoulder puller in production, it did require manual intervention to address the range of carcase types and sizes found in Australia. The CBA also found that the only significant benefit was labour savings, and that the payback was around 4.2 years. hence such a system is only viable for large, two shift processors.
Machine performance in terms of inserting the needle and inflating was about 98% successful on at least one leg, 68% on both legs. Though encouraging, this was not as high as the results obtained in New Zealand.
Results also showed that pelt separation was not as effective as experienced with New Zealand sheep and lambs.
Overall, the machine demonstrated the feasibility of the process with Australian lambs but not at a level that is commercially viable at this point.
The current practice is to input grading details of hides into the computers at the tannery at the front of the 'Sammayer' machine by the use of keyboards / keypads / mice. There are many problems with this practice, the main issues being that it distracts the user and reduces the amount of time available to grade each hide, and is open to incorrect data entry pertaining to hide numbers due to key stroke errors on the part of hide graders. The purpose of the 2008 project P.PSH.0339 was to investigate and trial whether it was possible to input grading details to the grading computer system by the use of voice instead. No report is available.