Southland meatworks plant turns to automation to improve safety

The company says no jobs will be lost as a result.
The company says no jobs will be lost as a result. Photo credit: File / Getty

A meatworks plant in Southland will soon have a million-dollar automation system in place aiming to make work safer for employees. 

Alliance Group on Monday announced it would be investing $16 million in a fully automated storage and warehouse management system for frozen products at its Lorneville plant near Invercargill.

David Surveyor, chief executive of the agricultural co-operative, said the system will improve health and safety at the plant and no jobs will be lost as a result.

He said the plant's current frozen warehouse operation is over 30 years and in need of an upgrade.

"The Warehouse Management System will improve the health and safety of our people, enable the co-operative to further unlock advantages of scale and lift the efficiency and competitiveness of the plan."

He said during peak processing times around 66 people are required in the operation, manually handling the fresh product.

"With each box weighing around 22kgs, this poses a risk of musculoskeletal injury to employees.

"There will be reduced use of forklifts and fewer cases of conveyors jamming, which result in downtime in the further processing rooms. Frozen product boxes also do not stack well in the current system, leading to product damage and potential safety risks."

Surveyor said the project will be carried out in two phases over an 18-month period, with employees working in the processing rooms to be re-deployed to other areas of the plant.