Trolley tracking systems, like our Trolley Vision®, are being used more and more often for carcass tracking and plant traceability because they are far more reliable than attaching tags to each animal. Whether it is a vision system or an RFID chip in the trolley, trolley tracking is becoming the new standard, but did you know that its benefits don’t necessarily stop at traceability?
With Trolley Vision®, we are able to link information directly to each trolley because they are each given a unique ID number. All kinds of different information can be stored in databases and linked to that trolley indefinitely. One little piece of information that could save you money over the long run is the tare weight.
The tare weight is simply the weight of the trolley itself, which is subtracted from the overall weight to give you the specific weight of the carcass. In many meat processing plants, the tare is a constant value that is assumed for every trolley. This increases the chance that your final carcass weight could be slightly off. With high volume of production, every little bit counts.
Fortunately, Trolley Vision® can easily keep track of a trolley’s tare weight throughout all of the plant’s processes. All you need to do is run the unladen trolleys over a legal for trade static scale and link that weight to the trolley by running each trolley past a Trolley Vision® camera, so it matches the data to the correct trolley.
Having unique tare weights helps you get the most accuracy out of every carcass weighment that goes through your plant. Even if the difference between the assumed tare weight and the actual tare weight is very small, the giveaway costs could stack up over time. With Trolley Vision® reading and storing tare weights, this problem ceases to exist.
If you’re interested, Trolley Vision® is capable of improving your plant in a number of different ways that you might not expect right away. Contact us or browse our other Trolley Vision® related blogs and media to find out more.
We have written quite a few blogs on the importance of carcass tracking and general traceability within your plant because it is an important thing to have in the meat industry. To go even further, we are going to talk about how tracking makes a world of difference for plants dealing with high grades and special beef commodities.
Beef commodities are beef animals categorized into special programs for a variety of reasons. Good examples of beef commodities would include: Angus beef, Kobe (wagyu) beef, or certain USDA-designated grades like prime and choice.
These types of beef are all considered desirable by the consumer for one reason or another. Kobe beef is sought after for its high marbling. Angus beef (as long as it is certified) is considered to be of higher quality than cuts of meat from other common cattle because they are held to a strict set of standards.
Even beef that was raised differently demands certain consumer attention. Labels like organic and grass-fed can demand a much higher premium than standard cattle.
Companies dealing with these niche markets know that tracking through every step, from the producer to the packaged product, is one of the most important processes in ensuring a premium. If you lose the information on a particular animal, it is fairly unlikely that you will recover it, and that means that you won’t be able to charge the premium for it.
As an example, say you are getting $2/lb for your standard beef, but $5/lb for Certified Angus. The Angus designation is tied to a carcass right away when it enters the plant, but if the data is lost, there is no proof that this carcass is anything special. With an 800 lb carcass, this would account for a $2,400 dollar difference in profit for only a single carcass.
Something we make that is very helpful in managing the data for all of these different special programs is our kill floor tracking software. This takes the data that is received or entered and organizes it into a database. Based off of the criteria of that carcass, the system can make sure that you know what program that carcass belongs in, so you can notice if there are any tracking issues where you are losing data.
Of course, a thorough tracking system is needed to make this all possible, software aside. Trolley Vision® is our take on tracking, and a powerful one at that. It has higher read rates, less manual work involvement, and more durability than current methods. If you want to know more about it check out other Trolley Vision® blogs or find it on our webpage.
There are multiple paths to a traceability solution in your plant, but we are going to look at one particular solution: Trolley Vision RF.
Radio frequency tracking has been used in certain beef and pork plants as a response to paper tags falling off of carcasses; It comes with a whole new range of problems to work through. Radio frequencies can be difficult to master and the equipment necessary can be damaged quite easily if mistreated.
One problem faced by most RF tracking systems is how to mount the radio frequency ID tag onto a trolley. It obviously needs to stay with the trolley as it moves through the plant, but it also needs to be durable enough to last through the very harsh treatment that trolleys go through.
A common way of fixing the tags to a strap is by embedding it in another material. One of the regular methods of doing this is by placing the tag inside something like a small wedge of steel and filling around it with some sort of epoxy. From there, the steel is welded to the trolley strap.
There are several problems with this. First of all, this is likely to take direct abuse. Trolleys can fall and are subject to harsh maintenance. To clean and oil them, they are often thrown into a mixer with oil, abrasives, and other trolleys. These trolleys can slam into each other and break or damage the tag or its housing. Aside from that, a steel body could work as a shield, limiting communication range.
Our solution to this is to place our RF tags into plastic moldings which fit in the open area between trolley “spokes”. They are bolted and clamp onto the flange at the center of the trolley wheel.
The benefit of doing things this way is that the tag is captivated and does not leave any edges exposed so it is less likely to impact from a fall or collision. It is less invasive and permanent than the alternative as well.
We have put a lot of work into fixing some of the industry’s big issues with RF tracking, so if you have an RF system, but are struggling with these issues, get in touch with us.
When it comes to carcass tracking, we often like to promote our Trolley Vision® system because it solves a lot of common traceability issues, but we still understand that sometimes there is a preference for other methods.
Sometimes, different methods are appropriate depending on the type of plant that you operate. Let’s look at the difference between a large cattle harvesting plant and a small plant harvesting something that is more of a specialty, like bison.
In large plants with a high production volume, a tag system might not be a very good fit. A higher throughput means more chances to lose data. In a high speed operation, tags are much more likely to fall off, and the chances for employee error can skyrocket. The demanding pace can cause them to mislabel carcasses or mix up data.
These reasons are why we always suggest Trolley Vision® for sizeable operations. Many plants still use tags to mark certain things in tandem with the vision system, but all of the most important data is handled automatically at trolley reading stations installed at various important points in the plant. This method eliminates all of the negative aspects of tagging. The data cannot fall off or be lost and it doesn’t require any user to scan or input numbers.
On the other side of the spectrum, the small specialty plant could benefit from a Trolley Vision®, but installing a system like Trolley Vision® on such a small scale doesn’t have the same impact as it does in a larger plant. A tag system often works quite well for a place like this and we do work with those as well in order to give you the best possible setup.
Compared to the big plant which might be processing thousands of cattle daily, this plant might be processing as few as a hundred or so. At this production level, there is less pressure on the employees, giving them ample time to properly tag each carcass.
Whichever way you decide to go with carcass tracking, we have enough experience to make both options work well, and we would gladly design an efficient, reliable system for you.
Traceability is an interesting concept that is being used by many companies in the meat industry as a way of staying safe from losses due to product defects and recalls. Basically, with traceability, producers are able to prove that they tracked each animal through the plant, which in turn proves that a problem did not originate in their plant, or that it was only the animals from a certain lot that had an issue.
The big question then is how one accurately traces every single animal through a facility. Many would tell you that they haven’t found a good answer for that yet.
We developed a specific tool to assist: Trolley Vision®. It is by far the sturdiest and most fool-proof way available of tracing carcass, information while the carcass travels on the trolley through a plant. Trolleys are adapted and each is given a unique pattern that is viewed by cameras at various stations around the plant. When the pattern is read at a station, data taken at that station can easily be linked to that trolley in the database.
Often, this system first starts at the hot scale, where carcasses have been cleaned, skinned, and split in preparation for future processing. Some producers even choose to start their trolley tracking at the “just-dead” area where the animal has just been knocked out and bled, often the data starts at the second leg station. Those who choose to implement tracking at their just-dead station are often weighing the animal to get its full weight to determine whether they are getting the ideal weight out of the entire animal after processing the meat, hides, and offal.
The Trolley Vision® system follows these carcasses through the rest of the facility until individual cuts of meat are taken off of the trolley. With this vision system in place, you can connect the incoming with the outgoing. On top of that, Trolley Vision® is capable of helping you with organization as well.
Using Trolley Vision®, we can set up a tracking program that allows you to designate the order that you would like carcasses to be in the cooler. This allows you the capability of automatically sorting carcasses into the cooler, adding to the efficiency of your operation.
For more information about how Trolley Vision® helps solve your traceability issues, contact us.