Technology served to the table in Brazil

Innova Software Processing Plant Tracking

With added innovations throughout the entire process, chicken meat production is now transforming processing facilities. Cutting-edge systems and solutions that ensure precision and efficiency in the processes open many opportunities for new end products.

Courtesy of Avicultura Industrial magazine, issue #1297

The chicken that reaches the Brazilian table is effectively a technological-based product. Even before a broiler hatches, it already carries in itself decades of research and genetic gains. The entire productive cycle is accompanied by numerous advances in nutrition, health, management and other pillars of the activity development. This productive process culminates in the processing plants, which have invested heavily in the automation of all their processes in the last ten years, adding cutting-edge innovations to each stage of processing.

Consumption habit

The investments in technology of the processing plants enabled the development of new products, aligned to the needs of modern consumers, meeting the specific demands of some of the more than 160 countries to which the Brazilian chicken reaches, to the taste and needs of the domestic consumer. Consumption habits have changed over time. It is up to the industry to respond to this, offering products better suited to new consumption profiles, with new cuts or portions, bone-free options, and other alternatives that facilitate the daily lives of people or food service chains.

Huge opportunity

During the ‘investment boom’ in recent years, especially in the period 2010-2016, the poultry processing companies have automated much of their processes, while reducing costs and losses and increasing efficiency from end to end. As a result, preparation of Brazilian cuisine and dishes has become increasingly easy, practical, and diverse.

However, there is still room for further progress. Ruud Berkers, regional director of Marel Poultry in Latin America, says that the Brazilian market mostly offers basic poultry cuts. This opens huge opportunities for the introduction of products with greater added value, such as fixed-weight portions, cubes, marinated and ready-to-cook products. “Given the high volume produced in the country, there are endless possibilities for further processed food production. There is a very strong trend towards the diversification of end products, as in the United States, where 'home-style' breading is very successful,” says Ruud Berkers.

From automation to optimization

According to Ruud Berkers, Brazil has been focusing mainly on the automation of general processes in the last decade. With this automation scenario practically consolidated, the next logical step is to move from automation to optimization. "Every empty shackle in a line is a profit loss - every product that’s not A-quality costs money. An optimization process is, however, only possible if reliable information is provided between departments. This eliminates discussions about the reasons for the underperformance of a line. In decision-making, vague assumptions and opinions must make way for concrete facts and figures.”

Pen and paper

Ruud Berkers says that a plant manager should be able to identify the greatest opportunities for improvements and the reasons why the lines are not working optimally. The current reality, however, is that managers can’t gather this data easily. Most of the information is still written down using pen and paper at the end of the day, which makes analysis difficult. "For this reason, real-time information is very important and can influence decision-making", says Berkers, emphasizing also that Marel’s current focus is to present the advantages and benefits of process optimization and intelligent data collection.

In the case of chicken cuts, one of the great challenges of the industry is to avoid overweight in packaging. In this aspect, automation of processes is fundamental. "Automating the processes of grading, portioning and batching means that human bias is excluded, and accuracy is optimized; as a result, you’ll have greater yield with less overweight," says Ruud Berkers.

Food Processing Taking Notes

Digital technologies as a trend

Berkers’ analysis strengthens the idea that the Internet of Things (IoT) can support optimization, by observing real-time processes that analyze the results and the main indicators during production ­– so not a few days later. "Processors are under constant pressure to make quick and complex decisions, and there is a lot of profitability in optimization and collecting data. For this, high-speed processors must have access to computerized systems that provide data from sensors, weighing stations and cameras installed throughout the process and in real-time. This data allows processors to make the most of their equipment.”

With Marel, all systems and equipment of the plant can be prepared for this reality and can even offer a connection with the main ERP systems used in the plant.

Production efficiency

Marel sees great business opportunities for advanced processing equipment throughout the Latin American region, with an emphasis on the Brazilian market. As Berkers explains, the company can provide an automatic replacement for almost all manual operations at a processing plant. "Higher line speeds would be the fastest step towards greater production efficiency. However, there are still many other opportunities to automate processes.”

According to Berkers, a good example to be applied in the Latin American market is Marel's ATLAS live bird management system. “It is a total concept for humane broiler transport from shed to shackle, which can mean a real revolution for the Brazilian industry”, he says.

A new trend in the United States, focused on the fresh meat retail market, is air chilling.  “Sooner or later, this should also be an interesting concept for Brazil, especially for companies with a strong focus on retail sales to large cities. In this case, it’s about producing a more tender and water-free final product with a long shelf life", says Ruud Berkers.

A data-driven approach to facilitate easier decision-making would also considerably increase productive efficiency in Brazil, according to Berkers.

The processing industry needs to quickly decide on complex issues, combining a huge number of products with the ordering requirements. In addition, he explains that the quality of the product should be optimal to avoid complaints and risk of recalls. "Quality control, food safety and traceability through highly accurate digital tools, such as Marel's Innova food processing software, reduce the pressure on processors. By implementing data-driven processes, long and short-term planning becomes more structured”, says Berkers.

Available innovations

Processing plants have at their disposal an increasing number of technologies aiming at greater efficiency to all their processes. Marel invests about 6% of revenue in innovation each year. "In Brazil, Marel is renowned for its performance-focused cutting and filleting systems and its Nuova automatic evisceration system - the heart of all processing plants.” The company continues to introduce innovations. “Driven by global animal well-being trends, we have set innovative standards for live bird handling. The ATLAS system and the CAS SmoothFlow controlled atmosphere stunning system ensure highest levels of efficiency, sustainability and animal well-being. All this can be combined with the highest processing speeds available, at 15,000 bph," concludes Ruud Berkers.


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