Cranswick modernizes with connected automation

Cranswick Deboflex Infeed Registration

Cranswick Country Foods Preston is one of the largest pork facilities in the UK, processing more than 700 pigs an hour with an integrated supply chain delivering premium products to retail, food service and export customers.

Their focus on efficiency, capability and sustainability has led Cranswick to embrace automation as a way to meet their targets and address challenges in the marketplace, such as labor challenges.

In 2016, Operations Director Darren Andrew saw the Marel DeboFlex at IFFA and recognized its potential, "It started me thinking, why don't we have one of these at Preston?" Andrew's passion for innovation and the advanced solutions of the Marel portfolio allowed him to see a different future for the Cranswick pork processing facility. "I saw how we could transform a labor-intensive process to a food manufacturing process with all the tangible benefits that come along with that." Marel shared Andrew's vision, and a partnership was born.

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Cranswick's transformation began with the installation of Marel's DeboFlex for fore-ends. "To embark on a journey of change, you have to make sure you can still do what you've always done. The shoulder solution allowed us to dip our toes into a different way without actually changing too much," says Andrew. Introducing new technology gradually can help ensure processing lines are being transformed in a way that best supports the business. "Small steps at the very beginning to change hearts and minds from a traditional way of doing something to semi-automation has been the catalyst we've needed to push ourselves forward,” says Andrew.

The modular design of the DeboFlex ensures new additions integrate smoothly, increasing confidence when shifting processing lines to automation. "The DeboFlex system is modular and smart, meaning that we have been able to design it according to our end-product needs," Lee Raspin, Cranswick’s Preston Butchery Manager, says. It is an added security that the investments made today will be adaptable to Cranswicks' future requirements."

Cranswick Deboflex Knife In Meat

The innovative DeboFlex hanging deboning system increases "knife in meat" time.

Making space through customized design

Historically, product transportation in the butchery process at Preston involved a lot of indirect labor. Due to industry labor shortages, this method of movement is no longer viable. "In months past, we've had to have butchers do the laboring task, which is not what you want to do," says Andrew. 

Cranswick and the Marel team worked collaboratively to understand the processes and needs of the Preston facility and create a fit-for-purpose transportation solution over two floors. "We've worked with Marel's expertise to design an application that allows products to move and take away a lot of that indirect labor. As a consequence, we've realized we've got strategic space that allows us to embark on extending lines. Six years ago, we thought we had to build higher and wider to be able to do that."

Cranswick Streamline610 Lineview

Installation of the StreamLine contributed to the reduction of Cranswick's need for skilled operators and improved product accuracy, resulting in a 3% yield increase.

Orderly flow and a more inclusive work environment

"Automating our production has given us tremendous benefits," explains Andrew. "Labor shortage is by far our biggest challenge. With the DeboFlex, several deboning tasks are automatic, which decreases the need for labor." Raspin has noticed similar results with the latest DeboFlex module for de-rinding installed in 2022, "[it has] meant less need for de-rinding operators and a more accurate and consistent product."

The straightforward and consistent process flow of the DeboFlex automatically positions the leg in front of an operator who focuses on one task before the product moves on in the system. This deskilling of tasks provides more flexibility for manning the line and a more accurate end product, as there are no longer individual methods of deboning.

Where a traditional pace line butchering process requires operators to have a minimum height and skill requirement, Marel's solution is ergonomically designed with height-adjustable work platforms, opening up labor opportunities and making the meat processing industry more attractive to the workforce.

In 2021, Cranswick added the DeboFlex for leg deboning, StreamLine and SensorX Accuro, integrating Innova software throughout the deboning hall to provide complete product tracking, tracing, and exceptional processing management. Together these installations significantly reduced Cranswick's need for skilled operators and improved product accuracy, resulting in a 3% yield increase.

Cranswick Streamline610 Operator Cutting

The StreamLine provides full product control and traceability through all processes

Take the guesswork out of processing

The DeboFlex and StreamLine trimming system connect via an infeed conveyor, ensuring a consistent, orderly product flow for efficient processing. As with the DeboFlex, the StreamLine system improves ergonomics and workplace safety by reducing heavy lifting and movement of meat.

Seeing the DeboFlex system in direct combination with the StreamLine made us realize that there is a possibility for "really doing it right" – and that is what we wanted and still want. To do the production right – and with automation.

Darren Andrew Lee Raspin Cranswick (1)

Darren Andrew
Operations Director

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