For those responsible for the nation’s abattoirs, Brexit had already brought a major focus on automation as a way to address the issue of labour shortages. With the new realities of the working environment as we continue to navigate our way through the effects of Covid-19, automation has taken on an even greater significance as plant operators find ways to achieve safe working practices.
Commercial pressures have already seen a number of smaller abattoirs close, leading to an enquiry by the All-Party Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) which recognises the important role played by small abattoirs. Finding ways in which abattoirs, both large and small, can develop is therefore fundamental in ensuring they remain a crucial part of the farm-to-fork supply chain.
As machines do not need to socially distance, identifying methods through which labour-intensive processes can be automated is very much a focus in this development. In abattoirs, this is leading to the increasing use of machines in areas such as meat cutting and deboning, with automated bandsaws becoming an increasingly popular option.
The Astech PW (precision weight) bandsaw is available in the UK and Eire from Interfood. As a continuous automatic bandsaw with integrated weight control, it requires fewer operatives than some other bandsaw methods and certainly considerably fewer than required in manual cutting and deboning. Its scanning system generates precision weight slices to pre-determined weight/thickness parameters. The Astech PW can accommodate frozen meat and fish or fresh bone-in products. Its continuous operation means there is no need to stop the saw to load the product, providing efficiencies in operation, while its hygienic design ensures easy cleaning.
High quality cuts are generated through precise speed adjustments and, as a fully enclosed machine with a user-friendly interface with versatile programming, safe and ease of operation are ensured.
Richard Nethercot is Group Divisional Manager, Low Risk, Butchery Division, at Interfood. He comments – “abattoirs have faced a difficult time with staff shortages due to Brexit and new legislation requiring what are sometimes significant changes to the way in which they operate. Covid-19 brought yet another challenge with the need to operate efficiently while still maintaining social distancing to avoid potential spread of the virus across the workforce. Automated bandsaws are admittedly only one contributor to safer working practices but an important one nonetheless.”