An expected increase in automation

Adaptations to labor issues come with challenges

Automated Digitalized Factory

Automation is often seen as a way to address one of the biggest challenges in poultry processing: labor. It is also believed to have the potential to improve efficiency, reliability, and predictability in operations. At the 2022 Poultry Tech Summit, a panel including Jay Russell, Marel Key Account Manager, discussed the development of technology to meet the challenges of poultry processing, with a focus on North America.

According to Jay Russell, the North American poultry market is currently in the process of evolving toward greater use of automation in food processing, which has been a viable option for some time.

Automation still needs workers

However, the North American poultry market is still dependent on having human workers present in processing plants. This need for human labor has delayed the expansion of automation which might have been more important otherwise. Even a fully automated processing plant still needs people to implement, supervise, operate and maintain the systems.

Jay Russell talks about labor availability, “The workforce has changed in recent years. To stay competitive in the labor market, the poultry industry adapted to these changes by creating more attractive floor plans. Increasing the use of automation is expected to make the industry more appealing to younger professionals.”

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Supply chain challenges

In addition, supply chain issues have made it more difficult and costly to obtain the necessary equipment and materials to implement automated systems. Poultry processors also faced lasting post-pandemic effects. Continuing challenges and uncertainties made it more difficult to justify the investment in automation.


Along with automation comes digitalization. Software plays a crucial role in modern poultry processing plants because it helps to automate and optimize various processes and tasks. This can include everything from controlling and monitoring production equipment and machinery, to managing inventory and supply chain logistics, to analyzing data and making informed decisions.

Correct data use

A challenge, however, in a digital poultry environment is the correct use of data. Once automated, the processing plant contains many individual pieces of equipment that generate a great deal of useful information. Isolated equipment, however, that isn’t connected to a broader system, can only create an isolated data set. This makes it impossible to combine and analyze the information from different sources for a comprehensive view of production and identify opportunities such as inefficiencies or areas for improvement.

“By connecting all of our equipment and using the data it generates, we increase the level of consciousness in the industry. An integrated process flow enables real-time adjustments to the production process to improve profitability,” continues Jay Russell, who refers to Marel’s various ways of addressing the challenges of isolated equipment and limited data availability.


Impact Of IMPAQT

Marel’s software solutions

First of all, Marel’s overarching Innova platform offers many modules that can manage inventory and supply chain logistics, helping to optimize the flow of materials and finished products through the plant. This can include tracking inventory levels, coordinating transportation and logistics and ensuring end-to-end traceability.

Internal machine software called SmartBase, available for SensorX and Nuova-i, ensures real-time machine health analysis. Once hooked up via an internet connection, it can also communicate with other equipment in the line and the control room to provide (remote) monitoring, analysis and even service.

IMPAQT is a software solution for the primary process that uses sensors along the line to collect and analyze valuable data about availability, performance and quality. Using IMPAQT, processors can pinpoint in real-time the exact reason for downtime and reveal trends in the process to make more informed decisions about how to optimize production and efficiency.

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