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Semi-automated lamb rack fat cap and flap Removal (WAMMCO)

​The process of converting rack barrels to a finished retail-ready frenched product is one of the most labour intensive and time consuming activities undertaken at Australian sheep and lamb processing facilities. Boning room staff generally remove rack caps by hand, immediately after chine and feather bone removal. An automated Fat Cap Removal Machine (FCRM), currently being developed in New Zealand by Southern Engineering Solutions (SES), was trialled in this project. The aim of the trial was to assess the potential of the automated FCRM to reduce labour costs and improve Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) and product quality / consistency.

The automated FCRM was installed in January 2016 and operated for 25,852 cycles during the trial. The average load and cycle times were estimated at 5.55 and 5.45 seconds on average, respectively. Compared with the manual fat cap removal, which takes approximately 30 seconds for a pair of racks, it was estimated that a cost saving of up to $133,000 are achievable.

While no WHS incidents associated with the FCRM, nor manual fat cap removal, occurred during the trial, the reduction in bandsaw use and of repetitive, manual, high risk tasks was considered a considerable benefit.

The FCRM does not appear to increase microbial levels on end product, although only limited microbiological test results were obtained. However, more consistent rib length has resulted in a more consistent and hence higher quality end product.

While the FCRM machine worked well for carcases with <25kg Hot Standard Carcase Weight (HSCW), it performed inadequately for carcases with ≥25kg HSCW. Furthermore, this trial has identified a range of potential design improvements that should be considered by the manufacturer.

The FCRM, even in its current form, represents a significant development toward providing an automated solution to this particular common lamb processing activity.


Title Size Date published
862.2KB 13/09/2016


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Semi-automated lamb rack fat cap and flap Removal (WAMMCO)
01/03/2015 26/09/2016

This page was last updated on 31/07/2018