Turning over a new leaf in New Zealand
How Emydex helped the largest livestock processing company in New Zealand to replace a 25-year-old Abattoir system with a new state-of-the-art solution that worked so well, it’s planned to go into 13 other facilities. The pilot operation in Christchurch was originally scheduled for a three-week installation but was up and running in just four days. However, the conversation with Silver Fern Farms started over a decade ago, the tendering process was exhaustive, and preparation and simulation reached a whole new level of precision.
Meet the client
Silver Fern Farms is the largest livestock processor in New Zealand with a 30% market share, 7,000 employees working across 14 plants and a turnover of NZ$ 2.7b. They represent 16,000 sheep, cattle, and deer farmers, exporting to 60 countries worldwide. The Silver Fern Farms headquarters is in the centre of Dunedin on the South Island.
Emydex has been working on a deal with Silver Fern Farms since 2010 which makes this the longest sales cycle in the company’s history. Over the course of the 10-year discussions, the Emydex team paid several visits to Silver Fern Farm’s head-office in Dunedin, as well as processing plants across New Zealand, and various delegations from Silver Fern Farms travelled to Ireland to visit Emydex at their head-office in Dublin, as well as Emydex customer plants in Ireland and the UK.
In 2019, Silver Fern Farms informed Emdyex that they were ready to start a formal project to replace their ageing factory floor traceability and production control system systems. The pilot plant was to be their primal beef processing facility in Belfast, Christchurch which had been using the same system for 25 years.
As part of the formal tender process Emydex pitched against two other international specialist firms, as well as a local supplier of MES software systems. The pitch process comprised a comprehensive selection process that included two days of presentations and meetings, involving demonstrations of nine scripted scenarios (traceability, packing, etc) over seven hours before thirty people from the Silver Fern Farm’s group, followed by a second day of meetings with their internal IT team as well as their engineering department. In the end Emydex emerged as the preferred supplier and were awarded the contract for a beef primal processing pilot project in their Belfast plant in Christchurch.
What we did
The project was originally planned to go live in July 2020 when the Belfast plant traditionally closed for a 3-week period, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a halt. Due to the pandemic, the project was moved back by a year. In that time, the project scope expanded to include other technical aspects for delivery for example, a whole new system for animal assembly.
The new Emydex system configured for Silver Fern Farm’s handles everything from the booking and intake of the animals and follows the flow through the factory floor including the stun station, live weight, head inspections, carcass inspections, reinspection, and grading. Everything meets the strictest New Zealand government veterinarian standards and procedures, and it all integrates with the existing CRS system for streamlined payment processing.
Automation was a big part of the project, replacing the factory floor terminals with integration to their programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Each hook has an identification on the hook and the system collects information at every station along the line.
“Automation like this is the main difference we see between the European and the Australian and New Zealand markets. The level of investment in automation is higher but it pays back in labour efficiencies – machines don’t catch COVID.”
James Grennan, Technical Director, Emydex
The project finally went live in November 2021 following a comprehensive testing and training schedule for all operatives that included simulations, dry runs, full monitoring of everything at all stages and then an Emydex team onsite. The client anticipated a three-week switch-over, but the joint teams managed to complete switch-over in just four days.
The Belfast plant operates two shifts, producing 20-hours a day which makes it a very busy plant. Emydex supports the plant at all times, 24x7, with a team of Emydex engineers spread across New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, and Canada, following the sun.
“From our support offices in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Canada we can follow the sun so that should anyone in Silver Fern Farms have an issue, they can call Emydex on just one number and there will be someone at their desk to take their call and, if it’s a critical issue, it’s a sequential line, downtime can cost thousands of dollars a minute. We can analyse and resolve immediately 24 hours a day with our four teams around the world.”
Lorna Daly, Head of PMO, Emydex
Emydex today have a team of five people employed in New Zealand and ten in the Emdyex Australia office in Brisbane, supporting Silver Fern Farms as well as two other New Zealand food processing companies. This makes Emdyex the largest Irish employer of permanent staff in New Zealand, according to Enterprise Ireland, for whom Emdyex are a client company. In fact, the introduction of Emydex to Silver Ferns Farms originally came via Enterprise Ireland’s Australia office, through one of their market-office staff based in New Zealand.
“Enterprise Ireland have been a huge help to Emdyex in Australia and New Zealand. The EI Australasia team are so supportive of Emydex and other Irish companies, it’s reassuring to know we have these local supports in place for whenever we need them”
David McMahon, CEO, Emydex
As you would expect, the new Emydex system has brought new levels of efficiency and productivity to the Silver Fern Farms facility in Belfast, Christchurch. What is so impressive is that this was a very efficient and well-run operation even before we went near it but soon after go-live, Silver Fern Farms confirmed that they had processed more cattle in one shift than they had ever done before and finished earlier too.
“The project went well. Emydex is a great system and the staff love using it. The system gives good information and reports, it is easy to use and works well. There are efficiencies in that all the data is in the one area, and we no longer have to review or get reports in more than one system to get the information we want. Staff on the floor, as well as leaders and management have benefitted the most when it comes to information and reports that the Emydex system can supply. Their engineers and technical people are very good; their project managers are very knowledgeable and able to keep us informed”
Phillip William Kilgour, Plant Manager, Silver Fern Farms
“Bringing all different systems into one system will have benefits. This means one system for our end-to-end site process - from livestock booking through to container load-out to the customer. Talking to some of the workers they like the new Emydex system and it has helped them”
Shaun O’Neill, Regional Operations Manager, Silver Fern Farms
“Feedback from Belfast has been very positive, and it’s great to have all site functions in one system as well as having timely access to important information for decision making.”
Simon Limmer, CEO, Silver Fern Farms
Based on the success of the pilot project, Silver Fern Farms have accelerated their plan to roll out Emydex to their 13 other processing plants spread across New Zealand. In 2022, the plan in Phase 2 is to tackle Production Scheduling, Packing, Automatic Labelling along with implementation of Emydex’s Enterprise Management System (EMS) for Master Data. The EMS system will be used to centrally manage data from the head office to individual plants. In conjunction with Phase 2, additional teams will make any adaptions needed the existing Livestock processing system required to roll out to other bovine sites and then move onto implementation of the ovine and venison systems.
In other’s words
“In terms of their professionalism… as a meat processing company Silver Ferns employ project managers, process managers, business analysts as well as internal QA testers. They installed their own Emydex training lab and ran the kill line with dry runs using big blue plastic barrels (blue cows) hanging from the hooks to simulate carcasses. This level of attention to detail was impressive to see. Emydex are a better company for the experience we had working with Silver Fern Farms.”
David McMahon, CEO Emydex
“One of the biggest and hopefully unique issues with this project was that our team members on the ground had to travel from outside NZ and so quarantine for two weeks in advance of the go live. There was a lottery for the MIQ quarantine places, and it was tough waiting for when the places opened. Even close to the go live flight cancellations caused some issues with our team having to travel long hours by car. Due to COVID, Emydex has adapted to not having the full team onsite for the launch with team members working remotely. The team worked via video calls and cameras were installed to give a view of the factory floor. We had easy access to remotely control each terminal.”
Shane Hayes, Product Manager, Emydex
If you want to learn more – contact Ireland, Australia, South Africa or North America offices