The Importance of an Inline Fat Analysis Machine in the Continuous Improvement Process ‘Plan Do Check Act’

Red Meat
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For those unfamiliar with Plan Do Check Act (PDCA), it’s four-step model used for the control and continual improvement of processes and products.

Sometimes called the Deming Wheel, Deming Cycle, or PDSA (plan do study act), PDCA was developed in the 1950s by Dr. William Edwards Deming, who’s considered by many to be the father of modern quality control.

Deming was keen to create a way of identifying what caused products to fail to meet customers’ expectations. His solution, the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) helps businesses to develop hypotheses about what needs to change, and then test these in a continuous feedback loop. Just as a circle has no end, the PDCA cycle should be repeated again and again for continuous improvement to ensure total food quality control.

The core concept of PDCA is the introduction of a control loop. The key principles are that you know what you want to produce and how to produce it, but you need to have the ability to check what’s happening and compare the actual results to what was originally planned, before acting on those results to modify the situation; building a proper system for your product and facility.

When introducing a control loop to your production process, a measurement device is critical to build your system so that you understand what you want to make, how it’s going to be made, measure where you are in the production process and then react to the results produced.

A Fat Analysis Machine is a Measurement Device! 

Fat analysis (FA) machines are measurement devices which allow meat manufacturers (both slaughterhouses and processors) to optimize production. They do so by measuring the actual fat content and weight of the meat going through the machine and therefore capturing variation in raw materials and these results are then used to determine appropriate corrective actions providing feedback to ensure final products are consistently produced to the target specification.

Let’s now look at the role fat analysis machines fulfill in the Plan Do Check Act cycle in more detail…

  1. Plan – in the planning stage, meat manufacturers know what their intended final product is, what their customers are asking them to supply, they know which raw materials they’d like to use to satisfy this demand, the cost of these raw materials and their availability. In addition, they also understand what the demand is, and how this demand can vary to satisfy the production of these final products. All these pieces of information are available and can be used to plan production.
  2. Do – additionally, manufacturers know how to produce their final products and the processes and equipment they use.
  3. Check – understanding the variation in the raw materials is where the measuring device or fat analysis machine comes in. Manufacturers want to understand how what’s actually going through their production line differs from what was originally intended. A fat analysis system can measure what’s actually happening in production, the key measurements here are fat percentage, weight and contaminants.
  4. Act – to deliver value to a business, it’s important manufacturers react to the results the fat analysis system generates. It’s only by going through this process that FA machines, acting as a system, can help to reduce lean meat giveaway and fat claims.

Building a Complete System Around an Inline Fat Analysis Machine Will Maximize the Benefits 

An inline fat analysis machine will be at the heart of any system to create reliable and repeatable measurements, but various other pieces of equipment are necessary to enable a complete system to be built to suit a manufacturer’s individual production line. These building blocks include infeed solutions for various types of meat formats, such as frozen blocks, fresh or in cartooned meat to be fed into the system. Another would be a range of different reject devices available to suit the material handling challenges of the specific line. If the inline fat analysis machine detects a contaminant, it’s crucial that contaminated meat be removed from the production line.

Likewise, a variety of different outfeed solutions are obtainable, depending on whether meat needs to be taken to a grinder or is in a carton that needs to be sent to a different location to produce a pallet.

It would also include various software solutions available to tie these pieces of equipment together and provide key reporting functions that businesses require to operate. Such solutions are capable of linking in with a manufacturer’s business management system, and provide valuable tracking and traceability.

For a more detailed explanation of how an inline fat analysis machine becomes a complete system, view our short on-demand webinar, ‘Let’s Get to the Meat of the Matter: Building a System Around an FA Machine.’

Two Examples of Inline Fat Analysis Systems in Action

  1. Imagine a manufacturer producing batches of meat of approximately 500kg. The raw material would arrive and be placed onto the conveyor where it would subsequently pass through the FA machine. A large screen over the top of the machine and conveyor displays three lines of information: The first line shows the target to be produced in the crate or dolav; the second line displays the running average fat content of all the meat that’s passed; and the third line shows the total weight of meat that’s passed through the system. This information allows the operators to determine whether or not they should add or remove lean or fat meat so that the final targets match what’s designed to be in the crate. The FA machine in this example is classed as semi-autonomous as the decision on how to react to the results is made by the operators.
  2. More sophisticated solutions are also possible. Take for example, a sausage processing system. Raw materials arrive, this can be fresh meat or frozen blocks. This meat will pass through the fat analysis machine and the actual fat content measured. These results are fed back into software which then determines what additional corrective material needs to be added so the recipe target can be produced. If any product is found to contain a contaminant, the meat can be sent to various different locations. All good meat will pass through and be passed onto the inflight conveyor so the actual batch can be produced directly into the grinder, thus optimizing overall production.

Michael Stuart, Fat Analysis and Red Meat Business Lead – EMEA, Eagle Product Inspection

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