SunPork scales new heights

How Emydex helped SunPork expand their Swickers Kingaroy operation to become the biggest, fastest, highest quality pork processing operation in Australia.

Meet the client

Through Swickers Kingaroy, SunPork is the largest pig processor in all of Australia, handling 900,000 pigs every year to produce 18% (42 million kilos) of the nation’s pork. The group is proud to be Australian farmer-owned and a direct employer of 1,400 people across the country.

In addition to the domestic market, SunPork exports 7 million kilos of pork to seven other countries and creates 140 million meals worldwide annually. They do this through 37 Australian farms in three states and six New Zealand farms on the two islands. They also have three feed-mills, a directly owned abattoir, major interest in a second facility, as well as two value-add facilities.

The opportunity

Following the rebuild of the Export Boning Room after a fire at SunPorks’s Swickers abattoir in Queensland, the group began an additional AUD$ 64m (Euro €40m) investment in a new state-of-the-art facility in 2016. It set out to become the most efficient pork processing line in Australia with a capacity to process up to 750 pigs per hour, whilst maintaining a relentless focus on quality.

In December 2019, the SunPork Group completed the Swickers abattoir expansion in Kingaroy, located three hours outside Brisbane, Queensland, creating more than 200 jobs in the process.

“Over the past 18 months Swickers has constructed the most advanced pork abattoir in Australia, and certainly one of the best in the world. Many producers and wholesalers will rely on the efficiency and quality standards in our plant to maintain and develop their business well into the future. This facility is a cornerstone of the SunPork business and we now have foundations that will underpin our long-term growth strategies.”

Dr Robert van Barneveld, SunPork Group CEO and Managing Director

So how do you become the fastest and most efficient pork processing facility in the country? You bring in one of the world’s leading providers of factory floor software for food processors. You bring in Emydex.

What we did

The Sunpork project began with the design and development of a new state-of-the-art, fully automated kill line system for the Swickers processing plant, in line with Smart Manufacturing (Industry 4.0) best practice. 

The main goal of this project was to interface the Emydex MES to an automated factory floor system consisting of a network of RFID readers and sensors, as well as multiple (20) in-line automated machines, connected to Emydex via the PLC layer. This meant integrating with equipment supplied by Frontmatec, Denmark, that included a carcass opener, automated splitting, AutoFom grader and a carcass stamp printer. 

Other equipment included a PorkScan grader, automatic track scales as well as LED/Light and gate control systems, in addition to other devices to manage routing. The use of multiple real-time vet inspection and grading stations also controlled the flow and routing of carcasses.

RFID integration required the design and build of standard integrations (APIs) to interact with RFID tracking systems on the kill floor. The RFID system provides real-time carcass identification and tracking, enabling full traceability of the carcass throughout processing.

As part of the project, the Emydex engineering team also designed and built a new centralised communication service, called the Data Communication Interface (DCI). DCI eliminates the need for individual terminals to have direct communication with the various integrated hardware and allows terminals to receive the data input in a unified format via this single central communication point. 

The project also delivered additional new innovative systems for stock delivery and pen management, automated carcass routing and an automated chiller sortation system based on configurable business rules.

Going Live

The system began commissioning at the SunPork Swickers plant in July 2019.

The results

The effects were immediate, and the system keeps improving day by day.

“The new kill line is significantly more efficient than the previous line, and it will continue to improve as we move forward. Manpower has reduced in terms of two shifts to one, while the new floor will allow us double output. There are two real and obvious benefits that Emydex has brought to SunPork. One, we have more data points where we can collect manufacturing information from around the floor and two; we have replaced many manual tasks such as populating spreadsheets.

Geoff Miller, Group CFO and Company Secretary

“What makes the Swickers plant unique is that it not only processes product on behalf of SunPork, but also provides a service kill for other companies in the pork industry and so had to have a lot of flexibility not usually found in normal processing facilities. The need to meet the requirements of each customer utilising the service provided by the plant meant Emydex had to deliver a system that could not only operate at very high speed, but also deliver the ability to change the way each customer’s pigs were prepared and to signal this in real-time to the operators on the production floor”

Ian Carson, Technical Sales Director, Emydex Australia

What’s next?

The next phase is to refine and perfect Emydex’s ‘Factory of The Future system’ on the ground at Swickers and then roll Emydex systems out to further processing functions at Kingaroy and SunPork’s other facility in Queensland.

In other’s words

“We gave Emydex a very tough ask to design and build a system for a kill floor that itself had not even been physically designed yet. Many other system developers would have walked away at various points in the project when things got tough but Emydex regularly went above and beyond the call of duty and I have huge respect for them for that. Their guys were out here working seven days a week and were as invested, committed as we were. It was a new world for both of us and I can’t fault them at all.”

Geoff Miller, Group CFO and Company Secretary

“The Emydex team has been superb… from the beginning showing a willingness to understand the requirements and design a custom solution for us… (there are) different demands here in Australia to those plants in Europe. The difference it has made has been terrific: for example, we used to have two data collection points on the kill floor and now we have 20. The throughput was 300 pigs per hour and now we’re processing between 700 -750 per hour. The value the Emydex team is adding is fantastic. Support is brilliant, with clear concise and well-presented analysis of issues reported, coupled with mitigation, solutions and actions to monitor and implement fixes. Live dashboards will broadcast information to the right people throughout the group worldwide in real-time. We’re very happy to be working with them and would recommend Emydex to any manufacturer anywhere.

Iestyn Thomas, Group IT Manager, Sunpork Group

I would absolutely recommend Emydex because they have invested their time and resources in our business… it means as much to them as it does to us. Some of their guys came out and spent a month working at the coal face and we couldn’t ask for more commitment than that.

Geoff Miller, Group CFO and Company Secretary


For more on Emydex’s Products, or contact Sales in any of our Dublin, Brisbane, South Africa or Toronto offices

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