Increasing Resilience In Asia Pacific Meat & Poultry Operations Through Automation

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

Automating end-of-line production and order assembly for meat and poultry products with Multishuttle Meat Buffers and automated palletising, storage and transport, eliminates physical contact by operators. 

The meat and poultry sector is rapidly evolving in Asia Pacific, with demand constantly expanding to meet the changing dietary requirements of an increasingly wealthier population. According to Rabobank, meat and poultry consumption has increased 66 percent in the last 20 years across Asia.

This poses challenges for meat and poultry operations, which are grappling with the need to manage growing volumes and an increasing range of products to meet constantly growing consumer demands. At the same time, all cold chain operations face challenges including rising energy and labour costs and a lack of labour availability—an issue compounded by the fact that many workers don’t want to work in sub-zero environments. 

Meat and poultry operations are particularly labour-intensive, not just within the meat processing lines, but also in post-production, where large numbers of workers handle the cartons and totes coming out of production. These are usually in random product order and have to be sorted and palletised manually prior to shipping. 

These crowded environments pose significant safety risks, in particular during pandemics like COVID-19 where the close proximity of workers and the cold freezer environments facilitate the spread of viruses. 

In these fast-paced, congested environments where speed of order fulfillment is critical, the potential for errors or lost products is high, negatively impacting customer satisfaction and revenues. This poses further challenges with the need to adhere to increasingly stricter food safety and product traceability requirements and the need to guarantee continuity of the cold chain from production to the retail shelf.

The Multishuttle Automated Meat Buffers and ancillary systems including Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS), Robotic Palletising and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) address these specific challenges facing meat and poultry operations, significantly reducing the labour requirements while increasing speed of order fulfillment and providing improved operational and inventory management.


Multishuttle Meat Buffers: Optimising Product Consolidation, Storage & Sorting To Shipping

Meat and poultry production operations across Asia Pacific are being optimised by implementing Multishuttle buffers between the production lines and customer shipping. These all-in-one systems utilise multiple shuttles moving up and down aisles within a storage rack, with one shuttle per storage level, to store, retrieve and sort cartons and totes, in temperatures down to -28 degrees Celsius.

Product coming off the production line, typically in random order, is consolidated in the Multishuttle Buffer, stored, and sequenced out in the specific sequence required for customer orders to be palletised accordingly. 

The fully automated solution minimises the number of workers required—typically reducing labour required by over 75 percent, as well as reducing forklift truck movements, providing for significantly safer and more reliable operations. 

The solution can be deployed to fit within virtually any space, utilising the available cube space more efficiently with higher storage density, reducing the size of temperature-controlled zones and lowering associated cooling costs. If required, active-freezing can be performed in the Multishuttle system which eliminates the need for separate and expensive case freezer mediums such as plate freezers prior to storage and shipping.

The multiple shuttles within a single aisle can deliver very high throughput, resulting in fast order responsiveness and speed. One-hundred percent stock control and inventory visibility reduces product loss and provides improved product shelf life.

Multishuttle systems ensure very high system reliability. If one unit fails, the remainder of the shuttles continue to operate independently, providing unrestricted access to stored products. In the unlikely event there is a complete system failure as a result of a power outage, the system design still enables quick and manual access to every single storage location.

Multishuttle systems are modular and can be easily scaled up with the addition of extra aisles or by increasing the height or length of the system, reducing initial investment, building/leasing costs and providing future flexibility. 

Productivity savings, minimum labour requirements, reduced errors and lost products, lower building/leasing and operating costs, and improved safety and reliability all contribute to a rapid ROI while delivering improved customer service levels.


Ancillary Sub-Systems: ASRS, Palletising & AGVs

Depending on operational and supply chain requirements, other automated sub-systems can be integrated into a Multishuttle Meat Buffer system. These include robotic palletising at the outfeed from the Multishuttle Buffer to automatically build pallets, ASRS for storing pallets, and AGVs for automated flexible transport of pallets between subsystems.

ASRS optimise pallet storage capacity, reliability and throughput. By increasing storage density and enabling greater storage heights, ASRS provide significantly increased storage capacity, requiring up to 60 percent less space compared to conventional pallet storage systems. Reducing the building dimensions lowers construction costs. Reducing the storage cube volume required and minimising the primary sources of temperature loss including floors, ceilings and walls, reduces energy costs by up to 40 percent. 

Having a smaller footprint, ASRS also enable storage to be built next to production facilities, eliminating the need for refrigerated transport between production and the warehouse. Saving space with an ASRS and a Multishuttle Buffer may also free up land for expanding production lines.

AGVs, by fully automating pallet transport, provide highly reliable and safe automated pallet handling between palletising, automated storage, despatch and other subsystems while maximising operational visibility and management and minimising labour requirements. With multiple safety sensors, they can safely work concurrently with operators as well as other equipment such as forklift trucks. Unlike pallet conveyor or monorails, the flexibility of AGVs means that as pickup and delivery destinations change and throughput requirements increase, pathways can be easily adjusted and additional AGVs added to the fleet.


ROI, Operational Reliability, Customer Service & Competitive Advantage

Automating meat and poultry’s end-of-line production and order assembly with Multishuttle Meat Buffers and automated palletising, storage and transport, eliminates physical contact by operators. This reduces labour and operating costs and greatly improves system flexibility, reliability and safety. Customer service levels are improved by ensuring optimal process flow, maximum inventory management and order accuracy and faster order responsiveness. 

There are now over fifteen Multishuttle Buffer systems already running or being implemented by Dematic across the Asia Pacific region for meat and poultry producers and distributors, testament to the strong return on investment, the increased operational reliability, customer service benefits, and the significant competitive advantages they provide.


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