Advanced automation is helping Tyson Foods improve worker safety and efficiency in poultry processing.
The company recently completed a $90 million expansion to its poultry processing plant in Forest, Mississippi. One of the biggest changes is the addition of automation technology to parts of its chicken processing line.
“Automation hits a lot of very key points,” said Charlie Solomon, Head of Poultry Operations, Tyson Foods. “Historically, automation had a really big performance gap to what a manual process was able to produce. Automation has come a really long way recently to where the performance is much better and some types of automation are very simple to upkeep.”
These benefits include:
Automation can simplify hard jobs
Already a struggle, poultry processing facilities faced increased workforce challenges during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Automation could help solve labor shortages.
“It’s a great solution to simplify hard jobs and jobs that are physically taxing,” Solomon said, noting that Tyson Foods focuses its attention on automating jobs with high turnover rates.
The goal of automation is to augment, not replace, workers at poultry processing facilities. As a part of the expansion in Forest, Tyson Foods plans to add 320 new jobs to the existing 1,250 team members already employed.
Automation can make the work environment safer
Improving worker safety is another benefit of automation. Automated deboning machines use sensors to determine the size and dimensions of a carcass. Robots and other automated technologies remove or minimize the risk of human error and there’s also less worry about fatigue-related injuries.
“If you think about the manual deboning process – regardless of whether it’s the first half or the back half – anytime we use knives, we have risks and exposures. A lot of the automation that we put into Forest helps us eliminate some of the difficult jobs with knives to create a safer work environment,” he explained.