As their sales continued to grow, Case Farms had more and more fronts to debone. Running two cone lines, they had a hard time consistently providing quality product for their evolving customer base. “We were running at 70 birds a minute and needed to run at 90,” states Chester Hawk, Maintenance Manager. Case Farms considered adding another cone line; however they were already experiencing a gap in the labor market. They were driving up overtime and turnover, getting inferior product and increasing inventory.
Management decided they needed to evaluate automatic deboning options. Complex Manager Sammy Caudle said he was 98% positive an automatic deboning line would fail. “Nothing yields like a cone line,” was his motto. Then Chester Hawk saw the Marel AMF run in other facilities and the results yielded were jaw-dropping. A test machine was set-up in Canton, OH to see how the AMF worked with their product, their flow and their people. Testing was positive, however Charles Rigdon, Senior Vice President of Operations, was skeptical. “We would run 5 birds down the line and they would look amazing! But what happens when you have 120 birds a minute coming at you?”
Two AMF lines were installed to replace the two cone lines and the product quality coming off the line was “amazing”, states Rigdon. Previously with two cone lines Case Farms was running 70 birds a minute total. They now can run 120 birds a minute per line. That would have been impossible to accomplish with two additional cone lines. They very rarely see a bone on a product coming through the AMF and have not received a single quality complaint on boneless since installing the AMF. From a maintenance standpoint, Hawk says downtime is equal to or better than a cone line and he’s very satisfied with the system. He’s also pleased that the layout is almost identical to a cone line. Besides that, the AMF adds additional cutting capabilities Case Farms did not have prior. This is more room for them to expand their customer base.
“Employees are our number one asset” says Rigdon. A safe work environment is of the upmost importance. Case Farms wants to be known in the poultry industry for setting the safety standard. The AMF is ergonomically friendly; this was a huge plus for the management team. The company believes in taking care of their employees and supporting the communities they live in. Case Farms participates in multiple community events at all of their locations.
In Canton, Case Farms currently processes 1 million birds per month, aiming to do more next year. “We want to concentrate on running at 280 birds per minute, making sure employees are safe, quality is highest possible and we are competitive” says Caudle. Water usage is tracked to ensure an environmentally friendly approach and the Canton facility is above industry average. The company received awards from industry associations for following energy savings programs and it has a strict animal welfare program.
This project was the first true white meat side automatic deboner for Case Farms and the first AMF installed in the US for Marel Poultry. “The bar is set high not only for other Case Farms locations but throughout the entire poultry industry,” says Rigdon. “Marel does an excellent job bringing new modules to the table. The service provided through the sales team is reliable and consistent. The AMF is simple; it came in and performed as expected,” says Caudle. Rigdon adds, “There were no headaches with the AMF, the equipment did and continues to do what it’s supposed to do.”