Alliance Group – Pukeuri Facility, NZ

“I wasn’t sure what it would do for us when Corporate provided it, but now I can’t speak highly enough”
Garry Drake, Production Manager, Alliance Pukeuri, New Zealand
Garry Drake is Production Manager for Alliance’s Pukeuri plant in Oamaru, New Zealand.  At peak season, 1,000 people process 12,000 sheep and lamb carcasses a day, while also slaughtering 380 beef bodies.  Garry says the sharpness of workers’ knives is integral to Alliance’s operation.
“As you can imagine, with that type of volume running through our plant, each of our workers performs thousands of knife cuts each day.  If knives are dull, the efficiency of our operation is greatly affected.  Therefore, our plant has become extremely proactive about our knife sharpness training and the KST200e Sharpness Tester has become an integral part of our regime.
“Before we began using the Sharpness Tester, we were reliant on the subjective opinions of our knife trainers to say if people were getting their knives sharp or not.  Now, we have a more accurate, objective measurement system,” says Garry.
Garry says he didn’t see the immediate value the Sharpness Tester would afford his plant, but quickly realised the potential benefits once he started using it.
“The KST200e Sharpness Tester was not something I asked for and I wasn’t sure what it would do for us when Corporate provided it.  But, now I can’t speak highly enough about the benefits that have come from using it.” says Garry.
Benefits flowing from use of the Anago KST200e Sharpness Tester include:
Improved sharpening techniques
Superior quality of life
Direct bottom line profit improvements
Fun being incorporated into process improvement
Improved Sharpening Techniques
Garry says utilising the Sharpness Tester has allowed workers to adjust their sharpening techniques for immediate, positive results.
“When we got the Tester, we took it to one of our slaughter boards and boning rooms and had each of the workers test the sharpness of their knives.  Most knives tested below average.
“The Sharpness Tester allowed us to not only test people’s knives, but also help them evaluate the results and send them away with instructions to improve their sharpening technique.  They could return in five minutes, retest their knife and see a huge improvement.  The results from this exercise were quite dramatic,” explains Garry.
Superior Quality of Life
Garry says the plant has also used the Sharpness Tester to demonstrate to workers the detrimental effects on their bodies of working with a dull knife.
“Another benefit of using the Sharpness Tester has been the ability to show people how much unnecessary pressure they exude when operating a dull knife.  To help people realise the impacts of this over time, we have several large sand bags sitting by the Tester.  Once we measure the pressure they’re expending, we show them how many sand bags of weight that equates to and ask them if they’d like to carry those bags around with them for a few hours.
“People quickly realise the long-term effects a dull knife can have on their bodies.  By incorporating the Tester into our training programme, the end result has a positive impact on people’s quality of life.  When they make changes, they are able to go home at the end of the workday refreshed rather than exhausted,” says Garry.
Increased Profitability & Reduced Operating Expenditure
Garry explains how incorporating the Sharpness Tester into the plant’s training regime has resulted in decreased annual expenditure on knives.
“A major benefit we are seeing is that people are using fewer knives each day.  For example, in one of our rooms we had 42 people using seven knives per day per year.  As a result of using the tester and improving sharpening skills, we are now down to an average of five knives per person and feel we can reduce this down to three per person per year.  That will result in a 57% reduction in knife expenditure in that room alone,” says Garry.
Not only has the Sharpness Tester helped the plant reduce expenditure, but is has also helped determine which knife brands are the best investment.
“We have used the Sharpness Tester to analyse different brands of knives and how they perform.  We’ve eliminated the knives that our people continually struggle to sharpen properly, which has increased efficiency and led to smarter investment decisions,” explains Garry.
Garry says it is too early to quantify any specific results in terms of reduction in health and safety incidents or increases in yield. But, he does expect both to improve over time.
Using Fun to Motivate Change
Garry says many workers were resistant to using to Sharpness Tester at first and he overcame this potential roadblock by creating competition.
“Some of our people, especially those who have worked for us for many years, were resistant to using the Sharpness Tester.  It’s hard for many people to admit they could sharpen their knives a bit better ”“ it can directly hit some people’s egos.
“To overcome this resistance, we’ve tried to incorporate some fun into the new measurement system.  In one of our boning rooms, for instance, we offered up a dinner for two to whomever could get their knife the sharpest.  This really got people involved and interested in the Tester and competing against their buddy working beside them.  Now, most people welcome the Tester as a helpful tool,” says Garry.
Progressing To The Next Stage
Garry says Alliance’s Pukeuri plant is using the Sharpness Tester along with a new steeling sharpening setup to implement a more rigid training and evaluation programme.
“At the start of the new season in November 2006, we’ll be implementing a new training and evaluation programme to track and measure things like knife usage and accident profiles on a monthly basis.
“We’ve hired a new Training Co-ordinator responsible for this reporting and the Sharpness Tester is one of the main tools he’ll use in our new training and evaluation programme.  For the first time our workers will be signed off as being competent sharpeners or not and the evaluation tool we’ll use to measure competency is the KST200e Sharpness Tester,” explains Garry.
Download pdf copy