Addressing mistakes in processing plants
Poor management -- be it in plant design, equipment selection or staff relations -- can result in less than optimal performance.
A number of situations can occur in the management of poultry-processing plants that can drag down productivity. Management mistakes, both in terms of how the plant is run and in how staff are managed, are worth examining to ensure that any return on investment is maximised.
In the design of any processing facility, one eye needs to be kept on the future. When planning a new building, space needs to be incorporated that can be brought into use as the number of birds processed each day increases.
However, this additional capacity, be it space or equipment for future use, should be physically separated from those parts of the facility that are currently being used for production. If not, then those areas that are kept idle will, nevertheless, incur additional hygiene and cleaning costs.
When installing processing equipment, consideration needs to be taken of possible production peaks and only machines with adequate capacity should be selected. But the key is to invest in sufficient, not excess capacity.
If we take feather pickers, for example, projected throughput may suggest investing in a 32-disk picker, in which case it may be wise to invest in a machine with 40 or 48 disks. Opting for a 64-disk feather picker in this case, would serve only to increase operational and maintenance costs and this would feed through into the value of each kilo processed.
When investing in equipment, a thorough investigation of the market is essential and this could be done by consulting industry colleagues. It is important to ascertain the quality of equipment and how economically it can be operated and maintained. Additionally, how quickly can spare parts be delivered? Short delivery times mean that money does not have to be tied up in storing spares and that down time can be kept to a minimum.
Another important consideration when purchasing equipment is ergonomics. Machinery should be adjustable to the worker and not the other way around. Failing to consider this design aspect can be an expensive oversight, especially in those cases where the speed of a process progressively increases.
When purchasing equipment, there are various options that can be considered. For example, with feather pickers, there are both cylinder and line options. In the case of small plants, it is important to know at which point the move from one type to another should be made. Failure to make this change would simply result in inefficiency costs.
All processing plants need a source of power - but this does not have to always come from conventional electricity or gas. Alternatives will depend upon location but wave, wind or solar power may be worth considering for pumping water, lighting, heating the water of scalding tanks or the daily cleaning routine.
A well-managed plant, however, is not simply a facility that has been properly designed and correctly equipped. How staff are managed also has a major impact on how profitable a processor will be.
When recruiting is difficult it is far too easy to overlook minimum requirements and hire staff simply to cover daily needs. But this approach can have serious implications. One approach may be to rotate staff, so that all functions within a site are covered during shortages.
In the 21st century, the ongoing training of human resources is increasingly important. Companies need to budget for the development of a systematic training programme, preferably carried out in-house. Alongside this, there should be regular and reviewed communication with the workforce via notices and posters. Frequently, however, these are used simply to communicate at a social or management level.
All too often plant managers are less than forthcoming with the social aspects of their roles, arguing that the pressures of their everyday responsibilities prevent them from properly getting to know the workforce. Managers can fail to get know their staff as people, they fail to discover their dreams — we all have them — and fail to uncover what it is that they want to achieve.
In life, everything is reciprocal. If staff are to fully commit, we must work with them, and concern ourselves, above all else, with their personal and work needs. Fostering a feeling of loyalty and gratitude is a key element in achieving total commitment to assigned work.
Favouritism in the workplace should be avoided, as it only leads to resentment. It is an undeniable fact that among the workforce there will always be those that stand out. These individuals should be held up as an example for others to follow, but they should not be given preferential treatment that may damage the overall morale of the group.
At production facilities, as in any other company, there are some tasks that are specialised. Even at those plants where staff have to be able to carry out various functions, it is still advisable that the most appropriate person be assigned to specialised tasks. In this way, the job will be done with the greatest possible efficiency and hence profit.
There are various ways in which poor management can affect the bottom line but addressing some of these points can make the difference between an investment making a profit or making a loss.