Tech for Australasian Meats
Business View Oceania interviews David Wright, Director of SCL Products, for our Food and Beverage View.
Introduced to the New Zealand market nearly two decades ago, SCL Products was formed to provide the local meat industry with radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking and yield management equipment. RFID tracking systems are specifically designed for meat processing facilities, allowing for efficient asset tracing and identification. This is an important step for meat processors to ensure their products match regulations, are time and cost efficient, and remain disease-free. SCL Products are experts in yield management- their systems help clients quantify data that works to produce high-quality outcomes following the animals’ end of life.
SCL Products was born out of parent company System Controls Limited, and benefits from a working relationship with directorate Calibre Limited. SCL Products states: “SCL understands that meat processing facilities vary considerably from plant to plant. SCL has the expertise to integrate systems regardless of their IT platform- RFID products allow for seamless integration with new or existing plants. As leaders in automation, SCL can take advantage of the traceability that RFID offers. Traceability is no longer a ‘buzz word’. It is being driven by today’s modern consumer and their demands to ensure the consumption of a quality product. It will become a regulatory requirement for meat exporting countries, especially those with recorded disease outbreaks in the past.”
SCL Products have two main applications to support their RFID tracking systems. Firstly, RIVET-ID (for sheep meat skids) and SCREW-BUNG-ID (for beef meat trolleys) protect RFID tags from the harsh environments found in processing environments and can easily be attached to existing equipment. Secondly, SCL Products provides a Plastic Meat Skid & Gambrel for use in chillers, which allows for increased air flow, better use of space, reduced noise pollution and rail wear, decreased contamination risk, and ease of access, transport, and cleaning. SCL’s RFID systems eliminate the need for barcodes and label equipment, reduce labour, increase accuracy, and support the development of highly automated chiller environments.
David Wright is Director of SCL Products. He begins, “SCL’s main value offering is in our ability to support RFID and yield management through our system and tools. Our process starts when the animal is linked to the unique number on meat skids and trolleys. Readers are fixed at different points throughout the processing facility, including weigh stations, quality control, sorting, marshalling, chillers, etc. We also have handheld readers. So as the carcass passes by a reader, the RFID tag is read, and its information is automatically added to the clients’ database. You can’t improve things unless you can quantify them, and to quantify them you need to be able to track trace and line up all your data. RFID is incredibly important for meat processors; it allows complete traceability and data management from end of life through to boning room entry. We are also working with our industry leaders to continue developing a completely closed loop system designed to support a farm to plate tracking experience.”
Technology is the game for SCL Products, Mr. Wright explains. “We’ve sunk a lot of time, money, and effort into this product offering over the years, a lot of time, and we’ve had some really integral help along the way in the form of collaborative industry partnerships, supportive client relationships, and government grants. Our first major client was Silverfern farms, and they were outstanding as we first developed our system. As with any new project, we had our setbacks, and they were always there to work with us towards a better result.”
He continues, “We’ve also had help from our Australian friends in the software and technology side of things, through the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. I learned a lot from them about technical side of the whole meat industry, rather than just the processing sector. I didn’t realise how much research and technology was dedicated to increasing and maintaining the eating quality of an animal. That surprised me and I was keen to learn as much as I could. With their advice, we started developing software and database systems, and now we offer a turnkey solution which is not only tracking animals- it’s interacting with different platforms and software providers within an organisation and gathering all the data to send out to stakeholders. It’s quite a complex system with a lot of integration with third party suppliers through the industry, so in a way we’re almost like a communications conduit. We can talk to just about anyone, we can receive data and compile it into a manageable string, and then send that data back out.”
SCL Products offers a unique system that is tailored specifically to the New Zealand market. But it’s not all smooth sailing, Mr. Wright says. “We work in extremely harsh environments that can easily destroy technology hardware; chemicals, water, mechanics… Trying to make something survive from one end of an abattoir to another has been extremely difficult, and we have certainly had to work hard and experiment as we go. When you experiment, you’re bound to have failures. We’ve lost thousands of RFID tags over the years, but we now have a very tough system that can take just about anything our clients’ facilities can throw at us.” Company values centred around resilience, flexibility, and skill have driven the team of 26 to succeed time and time again.
Looking ahead, Mr. Wright says New Zealand’s meat industry processors are set to take advantage of technology as holistically as possible. “Our sector is becoming more and more automated every day. Being an automation company, I have no doubt that our futures will be very closely intertwined with meat processors around the country, and internationally as well- we are in the process right now of branching out into different markets. We are confident in our ability to replicate our value offering for processors overseas and have already seen some great uptake in Australia.” RFID tracking technology is, in its essence, an enabling technology. SCL Products are keen to continue enabling their clients to improve operational efficiencies, ensuring only the best quality meats end up on Australasian shelves for many years to come.
AT A GLANCE
What: Yield management and traceability systems supplier for the Australasian meat industry
Where: SCL Products is headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand
Beckhoff Automation Limited – www.beckhoff.com/en-nz
Beckhoff implements open automation systems using proven PC-based control technology. The main areas that the product range covers are industrial PCs, I/O and fieldbus components, drive technology, automation software as well as control cabinet-free automation. Our New Automation Technology stands for universal and industry-independent control and automation solutions that are used worldwide in a variety of applications, ranging from CNC-controlled machine tools to intelligent building control. www.beckhoff.com
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