South East Asia's demand for meat

Author: Soeren Schauki, Business Development Manager, Integrated Systems at Dematic

A recent Regional Economic Outlook conducted by IMF highlighted that economic growth in the SEA region is expected to be 5.3 per cent in 2016 and 2017, accounting for almost two-thirds of global growth. This economic expansion will be driven largely by local demand, particularly consumption, low unemployment, lower commodity prices and growth in disposable income.*

Demand for Australian meat products is high in SEA, with MLA (Meat & Livestock Australia) reporting that in 2015 Australia sent 57,136 tonnes swt of beef to the region, totalling an export value of AUD$379 million. Roughly 73 per cent of Australian beef shipments to the region have been frozen product, meeting the versatile needs of these markets, however there is also an emerging demand for chilled products. The addition of chilled products is underpinned by improving chilled supply chains, increases in upmarket retail stores, and restaurants/hotels catering for tourists and expatriates. **

While MLA acknowledges that SEA is a fast growing destination for Australian beef, they also point out that Australia will continue to face competition in the region from other big beef suppliers, such as India and Brazil. Faced with a highly competitive growing market, Australian meat processors need to set themselves apart, not only with price but other areas such as quality, safety, product traceability and supply chain advancements.

In order to remain competitive, Australian meat processors need to look at what they can do to advance their handling systems to ensure the highest quality product is provided to the SEA market.

Moving from manual to automation

Some Australian businesses are still reliant on traditional meat shipping processes that involve manual handling, which is highly labour-intensive and inefficient, and increases the potential for error and product damage, as well as occupational health and safety hazards. However, many Australian meat producers are today looking to invest in automating the processing of meat, for distribution and dispatch.

Dematic’s Meat Buffer solution enables meat processors to have their products ready for the export market, ensuring on time delivery and quality. It is a high performance, accurate, safe and cost-effective automated order fulfilment and dispatch processing solution. The Meat Buffer solution limits labour intensive manual handling, as well as offering unlimited order assembly flexibility. The solution can pick multiple SKUs concurrently within a single aisle, while achieving unmatched system throughput, order flexibility and accessibility to stock.

Dematic’s Meat Buffer solution eliminates a large number of potential occupational health and safety hazards associated with the manual handling of heavy cartons, and errors associated with incorrect picking. Utilising Dematic’s iQ performance optimising software, the Meat Buffer solution provides full track and trace capabilities for every single carton of every individual SKU.

The solution can be designed to fit within virtually any space and can be easily scaled up with the addition of extra aisles or by increasing the height of the system. This provides future flexibility and reduces initial investment, and building/leasing costs. Another key advantage of the Meat Buffer solution is that it is pre-configured and requires little customisation, reducing costs and meaning installation, start-up and return on investment (ROI) is rapid.

Full automation of cold chain storage

An Australian meat producer recently worked with Dematic to fully automate their cold chain storage and dispatch service.

The upgraded facility, which features the Dematic Meat Buffer solution, is capable of handling more than 10,000 cartons per day and can store several thousand cartons. Stored cartons are retrieved from a single aisle of racks via a Dematic Multishuttle system, largely eliminating the need for forklifts or manual handling.

The Multishuttle system is capable of handling frozen meat cartons up to 27 kilograms. The system ensures frozen boxes of product maintain their integrity, and that cold chain compliance is maintained.

Improvements in product shelf life have also been achieved due to the movement away from manual operations. Previously a whole pallet would need to be retrieved with a forklift, dismantled to retrieve a carton, and then re-packed and returned to storage. This was a labour intensive exercise and a burden on worker time, which also potentially reduced the quality of the cartons returned to storage. With an automated system, the software instructs the solution to retrieve the correct order and it arrives at the loading dock within minutes.

As each carton arrives into the storage area, it is given a barcode. The barcode contains vital information such as day of processing, time in storage, orders associated with it, which greatly improves traceability.

The solution has increased efficiencies in chilling and storage, significantly reduced manual handling to improve worker safety, and extended the shelf life of products.

Automated meat processing is a must

Dematic’s automated Meat Buffer storage and sortation solution delivers greater stock control and shelf life and reduced manual handling and product damage. It is clear that for processors in Australia looking to take advantage of the increasing demand for Australian meat products throughout SEA, automation of their cold storage facilities is a must. It will ensure that Australian meat processors stay ahead of the competition from other countries who are active in the very competitive SEA region.