Family owned meat processor, Pickstock, has recently completed a major software integration project at its Grade A Hortonwood facility in Telford and invested in SI’s new livestock management system.
The new solution is part of a major transformation and ongoing investment programme by Pickstock, that has seen the business develop into a fully integrated site. In response to market demand for its products, Pickstock developed and moved into a new state-of-the-art meat processing plant in Telford in June 2014.
100% farm procured cattle
Currently processing up to 2,500 cattle over a five-day week, the new system has been designed to support a major shift in animal procurement, with the business now purchasing cattle directly from over 5,000 farmers in the UK. The shift to 100% farmer procured cattle has dramatically changed the business, as livestock manager, Hayley Draper explained:
“Because we supply our products to customers with very high standards and differing specifications, we need to secure the best quality and a consistent supply of animals. Having moved to a more integrated business model, that now includes livestock procurement, meat processing, on-site cold stores and despatch, managing all these processes become far more complex.”
After a trial, we worked with the SI team to specify a solution that would meet our key objectives, which included:
Enhancing our audit ready capabilities to maintain Grade A status, with data led traceability, passport scanning and veterinary health information.
Speeding up the identification, weighing and grading process.
Documenting all data in real-time for faster stock allocation.
Integrating a faster farmer payment system, complete with individual animal data.
“When we looked at the complexity of what was required, SI’s specialist abattoir management solution was the obvious choice for Pickstock. And, due to its modular build up and the potential to integrate with our existing ERP system, we could install, check and run each module one step at a time, ensuring production continuity.”
Committed to delivering faster payments to farmers
“Modularity was particularly important when it came to the implementation phase, as it was here that certain changes were needed to accommodate our supplier base. Managing this setup was critical to delivering fast payments to our farmers, which is a fundamental principle of the sustainable business model we work to. To support this the SI team developed specific solutions within the software, to enable advanced reporting and integration with our accounts team.”
“As a results of implementing SI’s new livestock management system, Pickstock now pays more than 500 farmers within two days of processing.”
Helping farmers to improve profitability
Hayley: “Part of our promise to farmers is how we support them beyond prompt payment, by sharing all of the relevant information we collect, to help them improve the health and grade of animals they sell. This is why we worked with SI to develop an inclusive animal by animal report, that is sent to farmers. This includes details of grade and veterinary information, that can in some cases be used to improve overall herd health and the grade achieved by different animals. The feedback we’ve received from farmers since implementing these reports has been brilliant and many have commented about how much the information has helped them.”
A surprise for the auditors with full traceability
Hayley: “One of the most interesting parts of the completion of the integration project has been the reaction of auditors. For example, before the system was implemented, whenever an auditor came into the business and asked for traceability information, this would traditionally take several hours to produce. Now, when the auditors visit, we can produce traceability information in less than the time it takes to make a cup of tea! In fact, the first auditor was so shocked, that they didn’t quite believe it, so we had to take them through how the system works to retrieve the information, before they would sign it off. “
“This is a hugely significant step forward for us as a business, as we are regularly audited by our customers, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and are also certified by Assured British Meat, which enables us to display the Red Tractor logo on all our beef products.”
Speed increases throughput potential
Processing up to 2,500 animals over a five-day week, the speed at which the SI system can identify, grade, label and allocate each animal, has meant the Pickstock team can ramp up production, as and when customer demand increases. As Hayley explained: “Having the capability to vary how many animals we process in a week, means our team can meet all our orders, which is the golden rule in meat processing. And, as we become more familiar with the solution, we can see how this figure has the potential to significantly increase.
“When it comes to new customer acquisitions, this provides great confidence to the customer, especially as we can demonstrate the granular levels of detail we can achieve, to meet their specific specifications. “What is equally important, is that this growth can be achieved without significant additional investment in the physical plant and equipment. Labour would have to be increased, but all the same controls and data will be fed into the system, with touchscreens combining information with data feeds off equipment, including weigh scales.”
Combining human expertise with digital grading technology
With grading being so important to the process, Pickstock has invested in a dual grading approach, with digital camera-based grading technology integrated with a grading specialist and touch screen console.
Hayley: “This combination helps to deliver the best possible combined grading data. Not only do we benefit from the experience of our graders and the electronic data captured from the camera system, but it also enables us to provide data-rich reports to the farmers.”
Taking the tour helps to build lasting relationships
In addition to increasing its efficiencies across processes, Pickstock is using its Telford site to grow both its customer and farmer numbers, by inviting them to visit the facility. Hayley: “It’s proved to be a great way for us to build relationships and trust, particularly with farmers. They can see our processes in action and understand how we work with them to deliver fair returns in a sustainable way.”
The future – greater data integration
The abattoir system was phase one of SI’s wider systems solution within the vertically-integrated meat processing company. The Pickstock team integrated further software modules into its boning, packing and stock control processes to create a full SI ERP Plus solution, with an MES system added to collect and process data in real-time. Now, Pickstock is preparing to further enhance its system by developing a passport scanning integration, incorporating internet data checks, to automate another manual process.
With integration now firmly part of its future development, Pickstock’s investment in technology means that it has built in operational agility which allows it to react quickly to any change in regulation, market, farmer and customer demand.