Meat processor uses technology to weigh and trace products

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Meat

A weighing and traceability system installed at British Premium
Meats (BPM), demonstrates how EU legislation is pushing industry to
adopt new technology.

BPM installed eleven such systems at its new purpose built factory in Welwyn Garden City. Privately-owned BPM The company has a range of 600 products, meaning that keeping track of the products from start to finish is a complex task, especially given the stringent labelling and traceability requirements now in place across Europe.

The privately-owned company supplies finished cooked and fresh meats to the catering trade. Customers include leading Michelin Star restaurants, contract caterers, private schools and colleges. The company's new processing plant at Welwyn, covering over 21000 sq ft, is believed to be one of the most up to date in Europe.

The company's customer base means that they have to handle a large number of relatively small consignments. BPM produces about 600 product ranges including red meats, poultry and their own range of fresh burgers.

Stevens Weighing Group says it won the contract to supply the weighing and traceability machines against stiff competition.

Stevens Weighing' UK sales manger Stuart Hunt said BPM set a number of key goals they wanted to achieve for controlling the process at their new plant.

"These included improved meat traceability with a paperless audit trail, increased stock control and efficiency, improved labelling, reduction in administration time and of course minimisation of waste and giveaway,"​ he stated. "In parallel the system needed to be user friendly so that operators would readily adapt to the system without it being too onerous."

BPM also required that the weighing system should operate in harmony with its Sage Line 500 software package in order to provide a fully integrated system incorporating the factory floor and back-office.

To comply with meat production and storage regulations, the factory is essentially divided into three, ensuring that red meats, poultry and cooked meats are processed and stored separately.

As a result the Stevens Weighing provide separate Vantage weighing and tracing systems, each split into three main sections covering goods-in and stock release, production and finally goods-out.

At each station, the Vantage terminals work with a variety of stainless steel weighing equipment. Drive-through stainless steel floor scales weigh incoming meat consignments while the Vantage production stations incorporate integral scales. The scales height can can be adjusted for optimum efficiency.

The Vantage units can be used as standalone self-contained modules or networked as part of an integrated system allowing the best use of the weight data. The fully sealed and waterproof operator console can withstand regular wash-down routines.

The traceability function starts as soon as each consignment of meat is booked in and checked against the relevant order on the system.

At this stage, consignments are issued with a lot number and bar coded label which contains data including information on the 'use by date', store location and product-specific quality information, as well as delivery vehicle and supplier details. The system still classes the material raw stock that cannot be used by production until a releasing procedure is followed.

When management detail the product requirements for the daily production schedules, a report is sent electronically to stores, listing which stock needs to be released and where it should be taken to.

The required raw stock is scanned and released to the work in process production area with the required labels. Meanwhile the raw stock levels are automatically downgraded and the released stock levels upgraded.

At the same time scheduled orders are downloaded to the specific processing work station. The computer-based Vantage touch screen then gives instructions to operators guiding them through the order process.

Most of BPM's orders are made up by weight. However the system can handle non-weighed, manually handled items.

After the fresh meats have been prepared, the wrapped trays are weighed and the work station's printer produces a dedicated barcode label containing all the relevant customer and traceability information on the product. The label design software allows BPM to create different labels for individual products and customers. Finished product is now booked into finished goods ready for despatch.

When product is booked out from stores via the goods-out Vantage stations, the labels are scanned and the information used to complete the record of product movement. Product can be despatched individually or in trolleys, and the system is configured to recognise labelled trolleys and their contents as units of stock movement.

Despatched product is sent to BPM's distribution cold store warehouse in Wembley, Stevens Weighing stated in a press release.

The release quotes BPM partner Rob Hutchinson as being "delighted" with the overall system.

"The Stevens system draws real time data from the Sage System giving us a clear picture of what is going on in our plant,"​ he is quoted as stating. "We know we are in control of our process and can measure our efficiency, allowing us to implement corrective measures very quickly. We have a virtually paperless environment and can recall electronically stored traceability data on demand. This, together with minimum waste and accurate stock control, brings benefits directly to the bottom line."

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