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Fit to be 'thighed': thanks to Gainco's debone management system, Sylvest Farms incorporates incentive pay into its thigh debone line operation, resulting in better yields, improved productivity and motivated employees.

Sylvest Farms supplies chicken products to a wide range of customers throughout the Southern U.S. and nationally. Its customers include fast food companies, restaurants, and retail grocery chain operators.

A growing customer base has required Sylvest to expand and upgrade its main production facility in Montgomery, Alabama, which processes 1.5-million chickens weekly. In a recent plant review, it was determined that the thigh debone line was in need of an upgrade. "We weren't completely satisfied with the line's productivity," says Dean Falk, Sylvest's president. "We found that our mandrel line was relatively slow-running, and we weren't getting a smooth, consistent flow of product." Too much meat was being left on the bones, and an unacceptable level of bone contamination was being experienced.

The goal was to get the best productivity and yields possible from the debone operation. A solution was offered by Gainco, Inc. (Gainesville, GA). "Their yield specialists suggested installing a YieldPlus[TM] system, which was a completely different approach compared to the mandrel line that we had been operating up to that point," Falk notes.

With YieldPlus[TM], instead of performing a single procedure on a moving line, each operator is responsible for processing the entire thigh. The thigh is delivered to each operator's station in a skinned, bone-in form, whereupon the operator performs all of the cuts. This includes removing the thigh bone, ensuring there are no bone fragments or knuckles remaining, plus trimming any fat.

The individual operator is fully responsible for this process from start to finish, and thus can be personally accountable for quality and yield. Accountability is possible because the Gainco system automatically weighs all product arriving to and leaving from the operator's station. With more than a dozen operator stations on its thigh debone line, Sylvest is able to monitor the productivity of the individual operator at each station. Those whose productivity and yields are lower than company targets can be given special attention and training.

An important part of the system is the incorporation of Whizard[R] Series II Trimmers manufactured by Gainco's parent company, Bettcher Industries (Birmingham, OH). Prior to this, Sylvest's operators had used conventional straight knives to perform the cuts.

Making it pay

Because the Gainco system automatically records all relevant information in real time, Sylvest has been able to introduce a compensation bonus plan wherein operators who exceed target yields are able to earn extra compensation. The YieldPlus[TM] system makes it easy, with all bonuses for each individual operator automatically calculated. The system includes readout monitors at each station that allow operators to see how they are performing at all times--so there's no mystery about who is eligible for a bonus.

Explaining how Sylvest formulated its productivity and yield guidelines for awarding operator bonuses, Falk notes that the standards have been established via off-line tests. "We've tested the average difference in infeed and outflow weights when the thighs are processed at our target level of quality. From there, we set guidelines as to what level of performance qualifies for bonus pay. Operators need to meet a certain quality standard or they won't qualify. Then, they're given a bonus for the yields they achieve above our set yield targets."

The YieldPlus[TM] debone management system has been in place at Sylvest Farms since September 2003. Measured purely on the basis of volume, the system's automated features have dramatically improved Sylvest's throughput. Pounds of production on a man-hour basis are up approximately 50%, with the overall pounds processed per work shift up by almost 19%.

Moreover, comparing the productivity of workers before and after installation of the system provides ample evidence of the power of production incentives. In the past, workers were not held accountable for their individual yield performance. Yields began to improve immediately after installing the new system, with even more dramatic gains experienced when Sylvest introduced its yield incentive plan.

Equally impressive has been the decline experienced in product defects. Immediately following the adoption of the worker incentive plan, defects declined. Today, with continuing practice and the passage of time, the "pass rate" has now reached 95%. "Our end-product quality is better today--it's cleaner and betterlooking--in addition to getting the higher yields," Falk says. "Feedback from our customers has been extremely positive, and they really like the consistency of the product."

Future prospects for Sylvest's thigh debone line are bright. "The Gainco system is turning this operation into one that's more desirable, because it's an opportunity where you can earn bonus pay above and beyond a flat work rate," Falk says. "It attracts people who are a bit more aggressive and willing to be accountable for the results they can attain. And we certainly need more of those kinds of workers in our industry."

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Title Annotation:Special Report
Publication:Food Manufacturing
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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