Digitalization and Vision Tech Strengthens Food Producer

Hitachi Consulting teamed with Maple Leaf Foods to digitize operations, deploying sensors, barcodes, and cloud-based analytics to ensure animal health and improve operations, without adding employees or manufacturing equipment. 

  • March 21, 2023 | Author: Susan Biagi
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From barn to table, Maple Leaf Foods is one of Canada’s top protein producers. The company maintains as many as 7,000 animals and operates processing, manufacturing, and packaging facilities. Maple Leaf Foods is committed to improving product quality, streamlining operations, and improving sustainability across all 25 of its locations, and it turned to Hitachi Consulting to help meet its goals. 

Together the companies developed a digital solution that provides Maple Leaf Foods with greater insight into processes and enables managers to respond quickly to unexpected variances. The food producer has installed hundreds of Hitachi 3D LiDAR sensors, wireless sensors, and gateways from Hitachi High Tech throughout its facility in Brandon, Manitoba. 

Cameras and barcode technologies support digital barn tracking to ensure thousands of animals are healthy, well rested, and properly fed. LiDAR sensors monitor the rate at which bins fill, noting in real-time when and where production is substandard. Vision systems have made meat processing more precise and consistent, and automated cooling systems are more accurate and efficient. That adds up to less waste and, in turn, greater sustainability. 

The Data Behind Protein

The changes hinge on the data collected across the manufacturing floor. Once a largely manual facility, employees now carry tablets and use digital tools powered by Microsoft Azure. They read customized dashboards, which they helped to design. Supervisors can get near real-time information, so they can track productivity of the process, line, or employee. Automated alerts allow managers to respond proactively to prevent work stoppages. 

With additional analytics, management can correlate data across the plant to further improve processes and systems. The collective solution reduces variability throughout the manufacturing process—lines operate more predictably, workers are more efficient, quality increases—all while driving down the cost of production. 

The Brandon plant was the first, but more are in the works. Maple Leaf Foods has digitized its three Alberta facilities to include a poultry hatchery with enhanced biosecurity, remote video auditing in the hatchery and processing plant to improve animal welfare, real-time environmental monitoring in animal trailers, and climate-controlled transport trailers to protect animals during inclement weather.

Watch the video on the Hitachi Brand Channel. 

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