ONE of Australia's major sheep and lamb processors, JBS Australia, is leading the Australian meat processing industry by investing in automated processing technology at its Bordertown facility.
In a project co-funded by Meat & Livestock Australia and New Zealand company Scott Automation, JBS has spent $6.5 million installing an x-ray primal saw machine in its boning room.
Each carcase is now x-rayed to determine the dimensions of the major bones before moving along the chain past two rotating blades which cut the carcase into the forequarter, middle, and loin and leg sections.
The machine - manufactured in Dunedin in New Zealand - is capable of processing up to 10 lambs a minute and has a cutting tolerance of 5 millimetres from the ideal site. The x-ray primal machine is one of just two in Australian processing plants, but the middles machine to be installed next month will be the first of its kind in the country.
Bordertown plant manager Trevor Schiller said the increased automation was an exciting development, improving the safety of employees, maximising yield of high value cuts and improving overall efficiencies.
"Working with bandsaws has OH&S risks associated, and the consistency of the primal and middle technology gives our employees and customers tighter control and consistency in our product," he said.
"It is great for our employees to see the investment in the plant, which gives them confidence in their and their families' futures at Bordertown.
"We have embarked on a major program to train staff in how to operate these machines. They are really engaged with the process.
"It will also give us more value-adding opportunities in the high-value export markets where we have positioned our product."
The move to a permanent second shift at JBS Bordertown will result in an additional 180 permanent workers and will increase throughput to almost to 8000 sheep and lambs per day.
"We are more than halfway through our recruitment process and are appreciative of the strong support we have received from the mayor and local Tatiara community around accommodation, and we are seeing potential investors considering building new homes to meet the increased housing demand."
Mr Schiller said JBS Australia was committed to making the Bordertown facility - which the company purchased in 2010 - its "flagship" small stock plant.
The multi-million dollar investment by JBS in Bordertown will have considerable commercial spin-offs for local sheep and lamb producers and provide significant direct economic benefits to the local community as well as the SA economy.
"Our current livestock purchases are about $140 million per year and our wages budget is based on $25.2m and our utilities, including power and water, are $3.1m, but with the second shift we are looking at about double the sheep numbers and a 40 per cent higher wage bill," he said.
* Full report in Stock Journal, October 17 issue, 2013.