Background update:Mar 9, 2016

Intelligence shift from human to machine

Marel Stork Poultry Processing shifts intelligence from human to machine. Further upgrading their existing breast cap filleting system AMF-BX with four updates, being the 
semi-automated loader, rest meat harvester, FlexControl and new product holders.

Poultry processors around the world rely heavily on the skill of their human capital. Exact placement of product on automated lines is essential for efficiency reasons. Human errors due to fatigue or shortfalls in training cost processors many percentages of yield and thus making product lines less efficient.

Many processors are already familiar with the Amf-Bx breast cap filleting system from Marel Stork Poultry Processing. The system was first launched 25 years ago, and modernised and updated since then. What started with manual cone lines and later on a pneumatic controlled machine, evolved into a system which is steered from the input optical sensors. All systems since 1995 were built in a modular concept and can be updated to the latest standards. However, the largest part of the 500 systems installed did not have all the improvements which were designed into the original machine in its 25 year lifespan. The bottom line of all changes made to the system is to get as close to the theoretical yield as possible. The latest developments and a change in philosophy bring processors very close to that goal.

Highly skilled
The efficiency of the Amf-Bx line used to be highly dependent on the workers placing the incoming breast cap on the product holders. Each breast cap had to be placed manually on a holder with the use of some force. Besides that, the worker had to be very skilled. Only perfect placement of the breast cap ensured the best end result after running the product through the line. Any error from the worker, due to fatigue or inadequacies in training could result in a potential loss of many percentages of yield. That is why most processors position their best personnel at the loading end of the system. Extensive training and a certain talent is necessary to carry out the job correctly. One can imagine that these kind of workers are not only essential but also in short supply.

By developing a new auto loader module the designers of Stork shift ability and intelligence from human to the machine. Adding pre-shaped loading units to the machine the operator just has to slide the breast caps into them, without any exact placement. In the new configuration a single operator remains, halving the labour needed to load the system at full capacity. The auto loader will adjust the breast cap automatically and place it with great precision on the product holder, guaranteeing the most efficient cut of the breast cap along the line. Workers can be trained on the job and have sufficient knowledge within a few hours.

Fixing ball
The latest novelty (launched at the 2012 Eurotier show) works in conjunction with the auto loader module. New product holders take the efficiency gain to the next step. Due to the new holder the system is able to handle a wider range of breast cap weights, deliver better end products and run up to 20% faster. Thus increasing the total lines capacity from 3.000 to 3.600 breast caps per hour, within Storks warranty. The most noticeable innovation of the new holder concerns the replacement of the fixing pin by a fixing ball. The ball makes sure–more than the pin- that the breast caps are dead centre on the holder, making it possible to set the halving blades further up the line closer together.  The precise placement of the breast cap results in smaller cut margins alongside the keel-bone, resulting in a higher fillet yield.

Money yield
Getting the highest meat yield is of the utmost importance when cutting the breast caps for fillet, but the optimal use of the processed broiler is also about money yield. At the end of any process, not much of the carcass is thrown away. Via mechanical deboning rest meat is often turned into relatively low value MDM. Getting more meat of higher value from the carcass is key. That is why Marel Stork added the Rest Meat Harvester module to the breast cap filleting line. The rest meat harvester module removes the breast tendon from the top of the keel-bone and scrapes off any meat remaining on the sides of the keel-bone. This is then collected for further use and can be processed or sold as whole muscle meat. Bringing in more revenue than mechanical deboned meat. The difference in market value is substantial, making the extra investment in the new module worthwhile. Earn back time is estimated around three months only.

Machine intelligence
Setting the filleting line to accept a certain size of breast cap wasn't difficult with the 'non-upgrade' Amf-Bx systems, but was time consuming. Handling multiple breast cap sizes a day mostly resulted in running the line with one average setting for all. The introduction of menu control via touchscreen with replacing of the majority of the pneumatic components by optical sensors a computer control has made the system even more flexible. Up to six receipts can be preprogrammed into the system. A few touches on the screen results in re-calibrating all the modules along the line. Not only is change-over instantaneous, users are also relieved of any worry that changing example given cap weights will adversely affect quality and yield. Running light caps in the morning, heavy breasts in the afternoon and medium weight caps in the evening, per batch change overs for optimum adjustment to the input product, whether it is purely based on weight or on the breed (and build) of the chicken, is really simple.

The touch screen on each separate system gives valuable information about the condition the machine is in. Tapping into the system via remote access gives the helpdesk the possibility to see how fit the processing line is. The layout of the system is designed in such a way that the machine issues timely warnings for technical service. To stay as close as possible to the theoretical maximum yield, all modules have to be in optimum shape. The built-in intelligence ensures that efficiency is guarded. More constant quality and less downtime due to maintenance leads to an earn back time of around four months.

The latest upgrades of the Amf-Bx increased capacity by 20%, with greater efficiency than before, and introduced the adjustment of the system to breast cap weight per batch. Next generation updates will go even further and focus even more on the input versus the output of the system with more pre-
programmed settings and perhaps even adjustment per breast cap.

Article featured in World Poultry issue 29.2 2013, Photo credits: Marel Stork


  • Intelligence shift from human to machine

    A touch screen makes changing breast cap weights easy.

  • Intelligence shift from human to machine

    The autoloader prevents mistakes while loading the breast caps.

  • Intelligence shift from human to machine

    Machine intelligence makes on the job training possible.

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