Case 20: Tyson Foods, Robards, Kentucky
Richard Dutton presentation:
Richard Dutton, Plant Manager led the tour and was assisted by Wesley Simpson, Ben Grant, Chuck Lamb, David Richerts, and Eddie Ponder for the discussion portion of the tour. Tyson was selected as a tour host because it is the largest U.S. supplier of poultry, and they export much of the dark meat to former Soviet Union countries including Ukraine. It was to have been a lesson in large scale production. It turned out to be a gala event in which the entire plant celebrated the visit with the Ukrainians.
The Robards plant processes 1.3 million chickens per week. The tour of the facilities gave the Ukrainians a picture of how fast American plants can process large volumes of poultry. At the receiving dock chickens arrive in large cages usually 100 birds per cage. They are dumped into a chute that funnels them to a conveyor belt transporting them to the kill room (note, no one entered the kill room but were able to observe the carcass as they exited, hung by their feet and moving along overhead conveyors). From the receiving docks the group moved to the cut and processing areas where they observed the cut, bone where necessary, sort, and package operations. It was pointed out that the processing areas were kept at 55 degrees to slow the growth of any bacteria. Finished goods in the coolers were maintained at 40 degrees before shipping.
The Robards plant used every bit of the chickens they received. The beaks and feet were ground and sold to China. The bones were ground, processed into a puree and sold to Science Diet pet food.
During the tour the group had a chance to talk to the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors. It was explained that there are two of them permanently assigned to the plant and that the plant has to pay USDA to have the inspector on site.
As stated earlier, this was more than a visit, it was an event. Finished goods that were boxed and palletized for shipment were earmarked for Moscow and all the labels were in Russian. Employees throughout the plant were allowed to take time to explain their job and to greet the Ukrainians. The Tyson Public Relations department took pictures and forwarded them to the Ukrainians since photos were not allowed in the production area. In all, it was a great visit as show by the comments:
Ø This company averages 280 chickens per minute – who can consume all that
Ø Two working shifts and one clean up shift is great for maintenance – we saw no breakdowns at all nor did the employees report any
Ø This was the best equipment and technology I’ve ever seen
Ø This was all new to me, I’ve never seen anything like this in Ukraine
Ø The U.S. can purchase product and feed people from great distances – Ukraine does not have the distribution system to do this
Ø Vast marketing power- I was really impressed
Ø Levels of automation were beyond belief
Ø Cleanliness and high production – we could not get both in Ukraine
Ø No wonder they can dominate the market – now I understand why Park Farms has trouble competing with them – full cycle kill to package in large volumes
Ø There was no waste in the plant at all – they virtually use everything
Ø What do they do with the feathers?
Ø Safety practices are really advanced – they care about safety
Ø I’ve never seen anyone who could organize the production process so efficiently
Ø We should organize Ukraine farms the same way, start and end times, productivity goals, etc.