How to boost production while slicing costs
In the ultra-competitive meat sector, Greenlea Premier Meats was looking to enhance productivity at its Morrinsville Beef Plant. The plant had been set up to handle adult beef cattle, but if it could be adapted to also process bobby calves, the company would be able to boost turnover.
It wasn’t just about asking farmers to put their calves on a truck to Greenlea. The Morrinsville processing plant would need some modifications, as calves require a very different set up from adult beef cattle. Instead of processing 300 cattle per shift, the plant would need to cater to 2,400 four-day old calves per shift. A new slaughter floor and chain would need to be built, with more sterilising stations.
Greenlea’s management wanted to utilise their existing equipment as much as possible. Could it be adapted to handle bobby calves as well as adult cattle?
Hot water was the key
Government regulations specify that workers’ knives and other equipment must be regularly sterilised. As a result, the killing chain needs a series of sterilising stations delivering water heated to at least 82 degrees celsius. If the workers are processing a much larger number of smaller animals, then there’s a need for three times as many sterilising stations.
To tackle the issue, the company called in Tubman Heating. Greenlea’s Engineering Manager, Neville Thompson, was clear on what he wanted.
“We needed some new ideas on how to deliver a much greater volume of hot water without rebuilding the whole plant.”
The Tubman Heating specialist investigated the plant, asked some searching questions and analysed the technical requirements. Using his knowledge of heating systems, he was able to design a hot water system that would work with the current set-up, yet deliver the much higher volumes of hot water required for calf processing.
The solution included new pumps, control valves and pipework between the boiler outlet and the existing heat exchanger. There was also a need to install an additional plate heat exchanger and pumps to the hot water storage tank from the boiler flow and return. The overall aim was to retrofit improvements onto existing systems in order to provide better flows and capacity.
Greenlea signed off on the proposal and the Tubman Heating team went to work. It was a complex task, and Neville Thompson was impressed by the outcome. “The project took not a day more than planned, and it worked from day one,” he said.
“The new hot water system installed by Tubman Heating has exceeded our expectations. We’ve been able to deal with much greater volumes and create a new income stream from bobby calves, without altering our basic set-up.”
More capacity – but a lower gas bill
As if it wasn’t enough just to upgrade the plant’s capability, the Tubman-designed system has also proved a money-saver. Greenlea has seen a big reduction in gas supplied to the boiler, even as the heating system delivers much greater volumes of hot water. This is also down to some clever engineering, such as improving heat recovery from refrigeration systems and heating hot water off the boiler flue.
Greenlea was so impressed by the performance of its new chain at Morrinsville that it commissioned Tubman Heating to deliver similar enhancements to its Hamilton works. Neville says that Greenlea is focused on being one of the most efficient meat processing companies in New Zealand. With upgraded water heating systems from Tubman Heating, it’s well on its way to achieving this.