Automating Inspection of Butterfly Chicken Breasts

KPM Analytics had the privilege to work with one of the US’ leading producers of poultry products. Distributed through leading retailers and used by restaurants throughout the country, this company strives to deliver the highest quality goods, incorporating the most advanced technologies across its vertically integrated operations. 

Some of the most popular products produced by this company are derived from boneless, skinless, butterfly chicken breasts which are processed in lots of 40,000 lb. As part of its established incoming acceptance procedures, approximately 200 lb (0.5%) from each lot is sampled to validate the size and other observable characteristics by caliper measurement and visual inspection. The results are recorded by hand and made available for downstream groups to manually enter into the company’s existing quality assurance systems. 

Customer Challenge

Once the incoming butterfly breasts are inspected and graded, they proceed to the cutting area to be portioned into fillets, strips, and chunks, based on the measurement data obtained by the incoming QA team. 

Reliable measurements are paramount in order to optimize the downstream processes and achieve high-quality end products that comply with the specifications set out by their own customers and regulatory bodies, with as little waste as possible. 

The company recognized that the existing process of manual inspection is prone to subjective observation and variability by individual inspectors. By example, because poultry is quite malleable, one operator can apply more pressure to a caliper than another, resulting in different measurements for the same piece.

Objectives

Wanting to increase the scope and efficiency of this incoming inspection process, the company’s operations and quality assurance groups set the following goals: 

  1. Sample more of the incoming product in the same time frame. 
  2. Improve the reliability and accuracy of quality inspections. 
  3. Expand the measurement and characteristic data captured during the inspection process. 
  4. Automate the capture of inspection data in digital format that can be shared with existing systems. 

To achieve these goals, KPM Analytics was engaged to evaluate the solutions available for this purpose. 

The system selected to achieve the customer’s goals was the TheiaVu™ Washdown Benchtop 3D Visual Inspection System. 

Solution

The TheiaVu™ Washdown Benchtop Measurement System was selected on account of its 2D/3D vision capabilities, along with its portability and environmental suitability for a washdown environment. 

A KPM Analytics technician was able to calibrate and configure the TheiaVu™ and train the staff to operate the unit, within one day at the customer’s facility. 

Data collected by the TheiaVu™ is displayed to the operators at the time of inspection and is also stored in an SQL database for easy extraction at any time. 

The customer’s existing software integrated easily to the TheiaVu™ system allowing data to be transferred automatically. 

The Sightline Measura™ Inspection and Analytics software modules were successfully deployed to provide comprehensive reporting and metrics tailored to the customer’s specific operations. 

Results 

Following installation of the TheiaVu™, the operations personnel quickly embraced the new system and within the first quarter were inspecting 1,700 butterfly breasts in a month, an average increase of 380% relative to the manual processes before introducing the TheiaVu™ solution. 

The increased accuracy and reliability of the automated measurements, as well as the vastly improved number of data points that are now captured by the TheiaVu™ system has allowed for increased quality, reduced waste, and enhanced productivity of downstream processing activities. 

Company management is now able to view inspection results in real-time via both Sightline’s Measura™ Analytics as well as the company’s existing software allowing for data-driven decisions to be made. All four of the stated inspection objectives were achieved and the customer has incorporated additional TheiaVu™ systems in its other manufacturing facilities across the country. The company is exploring the opportunity to leverage KPM Analytics for the inspection of finished product as well.

TheiaVu™ Series Compact Vision Inspection Systems provide a wide variety of measurements of unique features that quantify product quality. Available in a washdown configuration, TheiaVu allows quality teams to save a significant amount of time while getting more precise and repeatable measurement data to improve their process. 

Read more about Vision Inspection of Raw Poultry here.

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