Volatile market conditions, supply chain challenges and increased demand call for smart automated systems. David Rubie from Dematic looks at how meat and poultry producers can improve productivity and workplace operations. This article first appeared in the October 2021 issue of Food and Drink Business.

The current unpredictable and volatile business climate has caused significant supply chain challenges for the food and beverage industry and put businesses to the test. To adapt to the current market an increasing number of companies are turning towards technology to innovate and future-proof their operations.

One example is meat and poultry companies. With meat production and demand soaring, producers and distributors across the country are looking for ways to innovate their operations to stay ahead of the game and equip themselves for future uncertainty and growth. Meat processors are doing this through smart automation, and more specifically, automated solutions that allow businesses to maintain control over every corner of their operations.

One of the latest innovations catering to the Australian meat industry is the Dematic Multishuttle Meat Buffer System – an all-encompassing automated storage and retrieval warehouse solution.

Order and despatch

Based on the highly successful Multishuttle high-throughput Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS), the Multishuttle Meat Buffer System has already been deployed by more than 10 meat processing companies across 15 sites in Australia and New Zealand, with additional systems implemented globally.

Designed to work in chilled and frozen operations, the system allows meat processors to improve efficiencies in product chilling, buffering, and order fulfilment, increasing throughput and capacity in a compact building footprint that optimises inventory management. It also significantly reduces the need for manually handling product, improving worker health and safety conditions, and operational productivity.

Designed to streamline end-of-line processing, the system automatically consolidates cartons coming off production lines, stores them, and when requested for an order, delivers them for palletising in the specific sequence required.

With the flexibility to meet the needs of individual customers, the system can cater to varying product volumes with the configurability to operate as either a single or multi-aisle meat buffer solution. In terms of productivity, a single aisle of the system can process 900+ outbound or inbound cartons of product per hour for both storage and retrieval operations, which significantly boosts productivity rates and helps manage periods of peak storage demand.

One of the most important benefits of the system is the reduction in order fulfillment times, which allows meat exporters to deliver chilled and frozen meat faster to premium export markets in Asia and extend their reach into other markets around the world. This can provide local meat producers a step change in global competitiveness against exporters from the US, Brazil, Argentina, and other meat-exporting countries.

‘Active Chill’ carton

Dematic has further optimised the system with the introduction of the Active Chill function.

In a typical meat processing system, a blast chiller is used post-processing and prior to despatch to chill meat cartons to the required temperature.

Once chilled, the cartons are conveyed to palletising. But a blast chiller doesn’t provide precise sequencing of cartons to palletising, so it can’t control which cartons are sent to which order pallet.

With the system and its Active Chill function, the multishuttle replaces a blast chiller to chill cartons while they are stored within the system and precisely sequenced.

The amount of time individual cartons are retained in the system can be adjusted per carton.

The Active Chill function streamlines post-processing operations and reduces the total investment required for chilling, buffering, and order fulfilment.

The system provides 100 per cent tracking and traceability and complete batch management of inventory, controlled and managed by Dematic Warehouse Management System software.

As the Australian meat industry continues to experience domestic growth, with 2021 production volumes expected to reach 6.3 million head, meat distributors will need to look for new ways to optimise operations in a manner that meets the needs of today, whilst scaling to respond to future demand.

Deploying an automated solution such as the Multishuttle Meat Buffer System improves worker and product safety, actively streamlines storage and retrieval, optimises fulfilment speeds, and increases productivity.

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