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Technology and Automation Study Program in the EU and for IFFA

Project start date: 02 April 2013
Project end date: 10 January 2014
Publication date: 01 August 2013
Livestock species: Sheep, Goat, Lamb, Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
Relevant regions: National
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MLA has funded a variety of activities that support the overall productivity (off farm) efficiency program.  These are summarised below.
Support activities
Study tours
Projects P.PIP.0269, P.PIP.0370, P.PSH.0244, P.PSH.0235, P.PSH.0242-0248 and A.TEC.0115 involved overseas study programs to examine technologies both under development and/or applied on plants to address processing efficeincy, yield and labour challenges. These were co-funded by processors.
P.PSH.0385 provided funding for service provider and MLA visits to Australian processing plants.
The Australian Boning Room Steering Committee visited New Zealand in 2006 to assess automation technology.  This was funded under PRTEC.044.
Communication activities
P.MDC.0022 developed and refreshed the existing MDC documentation and promotional materials including a brochure, case study summaries and a prospectus for interested partners.
A.SCA.0004, A.SCI.0002, A.SCC.0014 and A.SCT.0054 developed Supply Chain Management Case studies and publications in 2008.
A.TEC.0053 funded an animation of the history of meat processing.
Projects A.PIA.0064 to A.PIA.0164 as well as A.OHS.0048, A.OHS.0053, A.OHS.0035, A.HSE.0002, A.HSE.0004, A.ENV.0091. A.ENV.0117 funded a variety of AMPC and MINTRAC related communication, conference  and exhibition expenses, including the provision of shared AMPC/MLA exhibition booths at industry conferences such as the 2010 Occupational Health and Safety Conference, Environment and Technology Conference, iMACA (International Meat Automation Conference), MINTRAC National Conference, MINTRAC MI & QA Conference and annual AMIC conferences.
A.EVA.0001 and P.PDC.0026 funded an ex-post review of qualitative and quantitative private and public good benefits that are the outcomes of the investment by the red meat industry and the Australian Government in process automation and OHS innovation strategies from 2000-01 to 2010-11.
This evaluation project (part of MLA's overall program based evaluation series) was undertaken by ACIL between March 2012 and September 2013.  The evaluation results were presented as a combination of two methodologies.  
The first methodology used a real options analysis for an ex-ante evaluation of maintaining the program at its current level of investment and was based on data available as at June 2012. The second methodology used a traditional cost benefit analysis (CBA) approach for a spreadsheet based ex-post evaluation of the investment in the program. This incorporated additional adoption and CBA information up to mid-2013.
1. Methodology 1 – Real Options approach
The key findings from the real options approach to ex-ante evaluation suggested that if the program was maintained at its current level of expenditure, the future combination of the industry benefits from adopting the program technology, and the possibility of a modest constraint on wages growth could provide cost effective insurance against:Possibility of having to adjust to significant structural shifts in the industryUnforeseen competitive threats arising in the global market.
Net program benefits ranged from $5.3m to $101m depending on which adoption scenario was modelled. A key benefit modelled was the option value of labour cost restraint via automation (valued at $23m to $48m).
2. Methodology 2 – traditional CBA approach
The total program expenditure for the period under review was $81m over 14 years ($159m in 2013 dollars) yielding total benefits for the eleven technologies valued at $178 million by 2020-21 with a benefit–cost ratio of 1.12 to 1 and IRR of 7%.
Technical advice, project management & consulting
At various times external technical advice and project amangement services have been funded.  This includes projects A.SCT.0036, P.MDC.0015, A.TEC.0076, P.PSH.0585 (MAR and MLA Red Meat Project Manager), P.PSH.0509 (MAR Red Meat Program Relationship Manager), P.MDC.0007 (External Project Manager – Matrix Professionals – Greg Palmer), A.TEC.0050 (Obtaining automation and technology strategy information).
MLA has supported the costs of committees relating to the overall program.  This includes P.PSH.0395 (R&D Steering Committee), A.TEC.0122 (AMPC Technical Committee), A.TEC.0120 (bandsaw working group).
Facilitated adoption support
In project A.TEC.0059, Machinery Automation and Robotics (MAR) had installed in Australian meat  processing plants several automation pilot systems to prove their efficiency, robustness and reliability. AMPC and MLA decided to support those projects by allocating a portion of their 2007-2008 budget to reduce the financial risk involved in these developments. This project supported the PIP projects already set up with those companies so as to minimize risks and address technbical issues encountered.
In project P.PSH.0626, MAR built a mobile robotic training cell tailored for the red meat industry. The training cell incorporated functions used in standard MAR red meat technologies including controls, sensing and MAR remote functions.  It offered the opportunity for one-on-one training and/or training workshops at one of MAR's facilities or on-site at a processing facility. This training cell provided engineering and maintenance staff of new and prospective processing plants the opportunity to train and learn about robot technology or for plants with existing robots to maintain or upgrade their robotic knowledge.
Strategy development and adoption barriers
Project A.TEC.0105  identified the key barriers to the uptake of automation technology by processors. This was based on a survey of key processor staff relevant to the automation decision making process, with the results of this survey to be analysed and presented as a report to AMPC and MLA.
P.PIP.0213 funded an analysis of the practices in slaughter, carcass handling and break up, deboning and end of line operations.
Under project P.PIP.0231 MLA assisted JBS in reviewing current technologies and capability (specifically in Australasian where international leadership was being demonstrated) to identify compatible automated technologies for JBS’s operations across all ten plants.

More information

Project manager: Christian Ruberg
Primary researcher: Study Tour Participants, Various Organisations