Products are the biggest focus for a processor. However, you can’t make quality products without paying attention to the whole process.

According to John E. Johnson in his book “Stainless Performance Program,” the definition of “process” is any set of conditions of causes which work tighter to produce a given result.

Johnson explains that manufacturing processes are normally easy to identify, no matter what the product. Each area is focused on receiving raw materials and using supplies to turn those raw materials into products.

Meat processing is actually more challenging than other manufacturing processes, according to Johnson. First of all, a large part of the process is disassembly, or taking something apart instead of putting it together. The process involves — from start to finish — dealing with injury or illness with the livestock, size variability in both livestock and variety of products, commodity markets, competition, regulations, a changing work force and the end consumer. All of these could, or are, changing constantly. Any place where efficiency can be maintained will help the process as a whole. And to find that efficiency takes a strong control of the process.

Process control (PC) is a vital part of the overall picture. While many processors only look at the food-safety aspects of process control, its true definition is actually wider. In this case, the subject is controlling the output and efficiency of the process as a whole. Being able to monitor the process can lead to better use of labor, time and materials.

Just the start

That is not to say that food safety isn’t a major component of process control. Stan Hayman, director of marketing and business development for Wayne Farms in Oakwood, Ga., says that food safety is a main focus in PC. Additional issues in the program are worker safety, security, product quality and efficiency. Since instituting stricter process controls, the company has seen the biggest improvements in food safety and quality.

“Some control systems are specific to certain processes and processing lines and some have companywide application,” he continues. “A number of them have been implemented companywide, but more importantly the mindset and the culture is the bases for everything we do companywide.”

Much of the monitoring is automated, especially with equipment controls, line controls, access control and camera systems. Who is doing the monitoring of the system can vary depending on the position.

“Direct production line control and monitoring is part of ‘regular’ training requirements for the respective operator’s positions as well as line supervision,” Hayman says. “Access control and camera-monitoring systems are specialized. In addition, various line control adjustments are specialized at the line supervisor level. Other levels of management are trained on each of these control systems both as ‘regular’ training and specialized depending on the responsibility level.”

The end result

The inclusion of process controls have definitely added benefits to Wayne Farms, if not always directly to the bottom line.

“It’s helped us create better consistency,” Hayman says. “It has also helped make more efficient use of labor. Instead of workers spending much of their time having to manually check the process and monitor it, they can actually work on the process itself. This is especially important since the company has centered much of its control on the value-added equipment that creates many of its cooked products.”

The controls that have been in place for Wayne Farms include link-system equipment/line controls, matrix systems for attribute control, SPC utilizing rainbow and run charts, access control systems, camera systems and D7i maintenance control.

The inclusion of controls didn’t necessarily mean major savings in money, but Hayman says that wasn’t really the goal to begin with.

“We probably spent more money than we really had too,” he says. “But it was, in the long term, going to be to the benefit of the customer.”

Hayman says that any company looking to introduce controls need to design its system from the outside in. Wayne Farms looked at its own based on what the market and its customers needed and fulfilling those needs for both retail and foodservice customers.

“It’s about having a better process handle on what you’re doing,” Hayman says. “It gives us a better over all view of the process at critical control points.”