meat cuttingThe driving forces for automation adoption in any production/ manufacturing environment are constantly changing, but the metric is usually bottom-line cost. When it comes to deboning, the drivers have been moving steadily in favor of technology adoption. 

Here’s why: The scarcity of labor is increasing; the costs of personnel on-boarding are rising; and health-care and wellness costs continue to go up. At the same time, the accuracy and reliability of technology are steadily improving. Yield has been a significant hurdle, with manual operations historically outperforming automated systems. New intelligent systems, however, (see primary article on Intelligent Cutting 2.0) will eventually invert this trend, with automated solutions soon surpassing manual yield performance. The question will then become one of cost. Consider this scenario:

  • Assume 1 million birds processed per week
  • Assume average yield savings of 5 grams1 per bird = 5 million grams or 11,000 pounds per week
  • Assume $1.80 per pound retail cost2 of breast meat = $19,800 recovered value per week 
  • Assume 50 working weeks per year = $990,000 in additional revenue per year

Also in our October issue:

By Angela Colar, Georgia Tech Research Institute

On-boarding costs are estimated to average $3,000 per employee with turnover rates in deboning being more than 50 percent (roughly 125 employees), costing an additional $375,000 per year. Add to that the potential labor savings ($20,000 X 125 = $2,500,000) and the associated health-care and workers’ compensation savings, and it becomes clear that intelligent automation is a viable option. So, maybe it makes sense to reconsider automated deboning systems for poultry after all.

  • Labor savings: $2.5 million
  • On-boarding savings: $375,000
  • Yield savings: $990,000
  • Total savings opportunity: $3.865 million
  1. 5 grams is the approximate weight of one U.S. nickel.
  2. Wtd. Avg. cents per pound of boneless/skinless breasts. Source: USDA Broiler Market News Report, Feb. 19, 2014, Vol. 61, No. 22.