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Sociotechnical design of meat packing room at Harvey Beef
In 2003/04, Harvey Beef, then owned by E.G. Green reviewed the design of their packoff room with a view to improving the layout due to excessive double handling, high levels of dropped meat and unacceptable medical treatment injuries. A project application was drawn up with MLA covering the "sociotechnical" redesign of the packing room and in November 2006, MLA signed an agreement to part fund the installation.
Equipment was designed, fabricated and installed by Machinery Developments Ltd to handle the cuts of meat which are cryovaced, now comprising 80% of production. Some of the equipment had not been operated in a fully commercial role in Australia before. This installed equipment comprised of two touch screens where an operator identifies the cut, two units which laser size and weigh cuts, two Multiloaders where the cuts are bagged, a six and a four Multibagger which produces a correct length bag of one of three widths printed with cut identification and weight, and a Carousel packoff belt.
CutLink technology is conceptually a good idea. However, it is complicated, complex, highly technical and appears not to be robust. It needs regular skilled maintenance in order to fully function. If this high level of maintenance is not given then it does not give a return on its investment. It is capable of weighing all cuts, and printing cut identity and weight on a correctly sized bag. When labelling and weighing functions are disabled it is an expensive way of bagging cuts. There would need to be significant ongoing training for staff in order that the technology is all kept fully functional due to the large turnover of maintenance staff. All the manuals are available on line for maintenance staff to access. These two CutLink units were the most improved first generation design and a new second generation design is now being developed which has eliminated all faults that have been relayed to Machinery Developments Ltd. The second generation design is so different to the first generation that the new design cannot be retrofitted into the old.
The CutLink unit when originally supplied had problems of compatibility with the cleaning agents used on the plant, necessitating a replacement of all hydraulic hoses with alternate material and replacement of aluminium parts with stainless steel. Both gearboxes needed replacing soon after installation. The CutLink units as supplied were not easy to keep clean.
The CutLink system saves operators from lifting cuts into bags. It is an expensive piece of equipment if this is all it is used for although it's major success has been in the reduction of lifting cuts into bags.
The project has suffered greatly from not having a "champion". Machinery Developments Ltd speak highly of Peter Midgley and his commitment to making it all work. Unfortunately, with the company changing hands, the change of management, engineering, and most operators, there is no longer a champion, and the MLA person had little contact during the critical period before and after installation and is no longer available.
There is virtually no recorded information detailing the before and after situation and no evidence that formal systems were set up between HIG and MLA to collect this data.
The Carousel is a success. It operates trouble free. It removes the need for double handling and allows easy cut identification and packoff with minimal manual handling of bagged cuts with the opportunity to verify correct cut identification in an unhurried atmosphere.
There has been no reduction in labour but a reduction is possible if all meat cuts go to fully functional CutLinks equipment.
This page was last updated on 19/05/2017
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