There are no similar plants of this type in Russia and only two to three facilities in Europe with a similar automation rate, Belyaev suggested. A couple of similar plants are currently operating in the US, he added.
According to Belyaev, the new plant should be ready by late 2017 and will produce sausages. The facility will employ nearly eight times fewer workers than other, similar plants, as staff will be used only at the beginning and end of the production process to unload raw materials from transporters and load finished products to trucks for distribution, Belyaev indicated.
Warehouses, thermal cameras and packaging lines should be fully automated, Belyaev said, adding that this posed the company numerous challenges; it was not easy, he said, to integrate various manufacturing execution systems (MES) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions into a single system.
For instance, at a similar plant in Spain, where automation was at 70-80%, a single computer failure resulted in the truck not lining up to the robot that was transferring finished products, so they simply started falling on the floor, Belyaev said.
Full automation key
Meanwhile, the construction of the new plant in Moscow Oblast was only the first step by Cherkizovo towards automation, claimed Belyaev, as this would form a key part of the company’s strategy going forwards, with all production facilities eventually rebuilt based on the principle of full automation of the production process.
This initiative, said Belyaev, would not only mean a breakthrough for the meat industry, but would also be of interest for the whole market, since automation would increase labour efficiency and improve product quality. As a result, consumer interest in the company’s products would increase, he suggested.
Referring to previous statements from the company, Elena Trifonova, Cherkizovo communications manager, told GlobalMeatNews that the capacity of the plant was expected to be 80 metric tonnes of raw smoked sausages per day, while the investment into the project should amount to RUB6 billion (US$97m). This would make it the largest plant for raw smoked sausages in Europe, she added.
Meanwhile, any further information, including the projected payback period of the facility and suppliers of IT solutions for the plant, were not available as yet, said Trifonova.
On 15 November, acting Agriculture and Food Minister for Moscow Oblast, Andrey Razin, suggested that the introduction of the new plant would allow Cherkizovo to capture nearly 20% of the sausage market in Russia. He added that the introduction of robotic technologies into the production process would significantly increase both the efficiency of the production process and the quality of finished products.