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Beef scribing program - optimising each carcase

24 October 2021
1 minute read

AMPC started a significant program of work earlier this year aimed at providing cost efficient beef scribing automation options for processors of all sizes. 

Beef scribing is the first step in the deboning process. It is the most critical step in operations to ensure processors get the most out of each carcase. This step is currently undertaken by employees using manually operated electrical saws. They use their own vision to ensure the accurate placement of these vital cutting lines. Using a scribing circular saw is considered one of the most dangerous tasks within a meat processing operation. 

For the past 15 years the industry has supported AMPC, MLA and solution providers to develop solutions for improving beef scribing. The first attempt was a semi-automated solution where employees marked the carcase cutting lines on a touchscreen and a robot would then perform the cuts. Back then, this approach pushed the technical capability of touchscreens and other vision enablers well beyond what was possible, and the approach was ultimately abandoned. This approach, with the advances of current technology, is now being re-considered by AMPC under this program of work. 

A solution developed 10 years ago leveraged the latest DEXA sensing technology to develop an x-ray enabled two-cut fully automated solution at a meat processing plant, which is still operational today. This solution at the time, resulted in a demonstration of what was possible. However, DEXA is not a suitable solution for many of Australian processing plants. 

Taking learnings from the past, and fuelled by the advancement of vision, x-ray, artificial intelligence and automation progression, and requests from Australian meat processors to develop automated and semi-automated beef scribing solutions with faster throughput, AMPC has established a strategic program of works to ensure the benefits of scribing, with less human interaction, is made available for Aussie processors. 

To minimise R&D investment risk, AMPC’s scribing program is developing and trialling new ideas and components as standalone investigations, that will ultimately combine to make up the modules of a final solution or solutions.

AMPC’s Program Manager Stuart Shaw said, “It’s all about optimising each carcase so that meat processing plants get the most out of each carcase by ensuring accurate cuts of meat for sale. 

“Our program of work is looking at a range of different approaches to the automation of beef scribing. We want to ensure a solution that is applicable to small, medium, and large meat processing plants. It’s about accuracy and speed. Whatever solution is landed on, it must enhance a processors ability to do their job.”

The automated solutions are looking at a combination of four key elements:

1.    Sensing and scanning technology

2.    Fixturing (how to hold the carcase in place while cutting which includes anti-sway and carcase orientation solutions)

3.    Ensuring solutions meet the speed of processors throughput 

4.    Solutions that provide a return on investment to all processors

Stuart said, “At the completion of this program of work we expect to have a range of automated and semi-automated beef scribing solutions. The solutions will have a small footprint, that increase accuracy and throughput to make them applicable to many processors in Australia. 

“There are development trials of some components already happening at meat processing sites. This is to ensure each part of the solution works, before the entire program of work is realised.”

The next steps are to continue with similar trials, and progress to design phases. One of AMPC’s providers is talking to processing plants about funding the next phase of their technology through AMPC’s Plant-Initiated Project model.

Previous in this focus area 23 October 2021 Update on shadow robots