Robots and electronic tags to ensure food traceability
Nedeljkovic, a slaughterhouse and meat processor was established in 1989. It has since grown into a company with over 250 employees and high-quality meat processing facilities in a Serbian village Sasinci.
While responding to the growing demand, Nedeljkovic also aims to improve the level of food safety. This includes improving the traceability of meat to the level that the final product can be traced back to one single animal. Entering data manually at each step would slow down the production, increase costs and reduce production capacity. Manual tracing is also prone to errors. Therefore, Nedeljkovic started to consider automation.
Tracing meat is not only about tagging animals and meat products, but also ensuring accurate logistics on the shopfloor. By creating a system which would do both, Nedeljkovic would also be able to support workers in a very demanding working environment.
The L4MS experiment offered Nedeljkovic an opportunity to test an automated traceability and logistic system created to its specific needs.
NFC and RFID tags and an AGV at the core of the system
The Serbian solution provider NO Solutions designed a voice-controlled logistic system that enables full traceability in meat production. Its main components are an AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) with a robot arm which replaces workers in every possible situation. Traceability was achieved by using NFC and RFID tags on every meat hook and meat box, and by distributing readers and writers all along the production process.
In the proposed solution, all AGVs and tags were integrated to the ERP system via the OPIL platform. Workers are thus able to inform the ERP on production phases that are completed and to order an AGV to take products to the next workstation or storage room.
“The voice-controlled system that we created allows meat production workers to communicate hands-free, so that they don’t have to leave their positions and wash their hands to inform a system that a specific operation is finished,” says Zdravko Ivankovic, Software Architect at NO Solutions.
Visual Components was used as a 3D factory simulation tool in order to analyze possible investment decisions.
”It provides several investment scenarios and analysis of what-if situations. In that way the process of decision-making will be faster and less costly. In the abattoir industry, the period of new investment is every 2–3 years, especially in medium-sized factories such as Meat industry Nedeljkovic.”
Logistic and traceability system to pay back in two years
Creating and testing the voice-controlled logistic system took NO Solutions 10 months which includes delays due to the pandemic.
The software and hardware require an initial funding of 188.500 EUR. The project team estimates a Return on Investment of 76%, a positive Net Present Value of 115.000 EUR and a 2-year payback period.
For a detailed view into the benefits, performance indicators were calculated. They showed savings of 440.500 EUR in four years, most of which would come from the lowered cost of nonconformance, i.e. failure to meet requirements. The estimated changes are:
- Cost of Nonconformance (CONC): -38%
- Returnable Transport Item (RTI) Shortage: -38%
- Miscellaneous Fixed Cost: -64%
- Absenteeism Rate: -19%
- Employee Retention Rate: +9%
- Stock-Taking Time: -87%
Soft benefits were deduced from the hard benefits:
- Customer satisfaction
- Brand equity
- Employee satisfaction
- Traceability, quality and safety assurance
“This experiment will help us deliver ERP and robotics technologies customized for SMEs in meat slaughtering industry in order to increase their efficiency and productivity. Our solution is scalable and can be applied to other companies and even to other industries,” Zdravko Ivankovic says.
OPIL modules and other modules used in the Nedeljkovic solution by NO Solutions:
- OPIL Sensing and Perception (SP)
- OPIL Human-Machine Interface (HMI)
- OPIL Task Planner module
- OPIL Robot Agent Node (RAN)
- OPIL Sensor Agent Node (SAN)
- 3D simulation tool Visual Components
Partners in the L4MS experiment:
- Factory: Nedeljkovic
- Solution provider: NO Solutions
- Technology providers: Faculty of Technical Sciences at University of Novi Sad and University of Heidelberg