Remote support for Hazeldene’s greenfield plant in Covid-19 times
Hazeldene’s Chicken Farm, based in Bendigo in the Australian state of Victoria, was close to commissioning a greenfield secondary poultry processing plant. Weekly meetings had been taking place over the past twelve months and commissioning of the project was scheduled for April 21st.
Brand-new secondary process
Marel’s was to supply, install and commission a brand-new automated secondary processing line, where equipment was to be monitored and controlled by Innova PDS software. Previously Hazeldene’s had been deboning manually using a mixture of StreamLine equipment and conveyor lines made by the company themselves.
Installation and commissioning of the equipment, which had been manufactured in Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands and the UK, was to involve up to thirty European engineers, some of whom were on-site when the Covid-19 lock-downs struck. They all had to return home at short notice and of course European specialists could no longer fly to Australia.
As the Covid-19 crisis had resulted in an enormous increase in retail sales caused by the panic buying of meat products, Hazeldene’s wanted to install and commission as much of the equipment as possible, with as little delay as possible. The company wanted to meet the demand of its customers and at the same time provide business continuity should the Covid-19 crisis worsen.
The time had come for a radical rethink. This would have to take into account the competence of locally based Marel and Hazeldene’s engineers and how and the extent to which they could be helped by product specialists in Europe. Risk would be the deciding factor. Marel and Hazeldene’s planners put their heads together and a “dream team” was created, headed up by two locally based Marel engineers.
Have to wait
It was quickly decided that due to risk, some equipment could only be commissioned by European specialists and that its installation would have to be delayed. Other equipment had already been installed and was ready to be commissioned. As commissioning of the complete Innova PDS software system would also have to wait for the presence of European engineers, changes had to be made to the specifications of the ACM-NT cut-up system. To begin with, the cut-up system would not be “intelligent” and some modules would not therefore be installed.
A further complication arose when the Australian government implemented its own lock-down, which forbade interstate domestic travel within Australia. For the Hazeldene’s project Marel was able to obtain an exemption from this restriction thanks also to the help of Hazeldene’s and other major Australian poultry processors, an excellent example of the industry working together to overcome a common problem.
Technology to the rescue
During the commissioning process, local Marel engineers and Hazeldene’s own engineering team have been guided and will continue to be remotely guided by European specialists, who use Skype and the Microsoft Teams communication tool. Other augmented reality equipment was proactively purchased by Hazeldene’s and will be used if necessary.
At great distance
Difficult situations often bring out the best in people. The Hazeldene’s project has been no exception. Both Hazeldene’s and locally-based Marel technical staff have worked well together. The overall team has worked as one through a number of challenges. They have demonstrated that, using the latest communications technology, they can liaise effectively with Marel’s product specialists, who are at the office in Europe, to achieve the desired result. Lessons learned from the experience will not be quickly forgotten. Covid-19 will change a lot of things, many of which will be for the better.
A win for the relationship
The honest and straightforward relationship between Marel and Hazeldene’s, already close, has gained from the project and is one of its most rewarding aspects. Both businesses have had to negotiate the best outcome for each in very difficult circumstances. This process will have brought them even closer. Marel looks forward to completing its part of Hazeldene’s exciting green-field project when conditions permit.
They can liaise effectively with European product specialists, who are at great distance, to achieve the desired result.