SIGNIFICANT GAINS FROM MEASURING KNIFE SHARPNESS
New Zealand food processor, Finegand, has seen how objectively measuring knife sharpness has identified that many experienced knifehands actually work with dull knives, resulting in increased physical strain and fatigue, reduced output and costly OOS injuries.
“Well, once I started using it, I saw the advantages immediately.” “I recommend that every plant gets one” Pat Fitzgerald, Chief Knife Tutor, SFF, New Zealand
Silver Fern Farms is the largest meat processing company in New Zealand and specialises in beef, lamb and venison. Balclutha based Finegand is one of more than 20 processing facilities dotted throughout the North and South Islands. At Finegand the knifehands generate around 4000 cuts daily in their slaughter rooms and around 6400 in their boning rooms. Optimal performance by their knifehands is a critical component in achieving operational success.
For Pat Fitzgerald, Chief Knife Tutor, his role is to ensure that the knifehands perform to the highest level possible. Pat has always appreciated that workers using the sharpest knives can maximise yield, maintain optimum throughput, minimise physical strain and reduce overuse injuries.
Pat says incorporating the KST200e Sharpness Tester into his training regimen has revealed some truths to knifehands, as well as plant managers.
“Prior to using the KST200e in our training programme, we didn’t have a good way to measure knife sharpness. Now that we have an accurate measure, we’ve found many workers operate with knives they think are sharp, which are actually rather dull. This means workers have to use extra force to operate the knife, which leads to unnecessary strain on their bodies,” says Pat.
Using the KST200e, Pat is able to demonstrate to knifehands the huge force required to operate a dull knife. He remembers one knifehand who realised the benefits of measuring knife sharpness and adjusting his technique.
“There was this 60-year-old fellow who had worked in one of our plants for many years. He was reluctant, at first, to come to one of my knife sharpening courses, but I eventually convinced him to come along. It turned out the knives he was using were quite dull. By using the sharpness tester, I was able to show him the extra force he was generating for each cut.
“After measuring his knife, he went back and sharpened it properly and was immediately able to reduce the loading on his body by 60 tonnes. I saw him a few days later and he told me about how when he got off work he normally went home and plopped into a chair to rest because he was so exhausted and achy. Now, because we were able to reduce the load on his body, he actually has the energy to do more when he gets home at the end of the day,” says Pat.
THE SOLUTION & PAT’S CHANGE OF MIND
Pat says when he first heard about the KST200e he did not see the need for it. But, now, he says, he is convinced of the benefits.
“When I first read about the KST200e, I didn’t want it. I figured why do I need to measure sharpness – if we think our knives are dull, we’ll just sharpen them more! I thought the best investment in new equipment would be a better sharpener, not a measurement tool.
“Several months after hearing about the tester for the first time, I won a health and safety award and part of that award was being able to use the KST200e for one month. Well, once I started using it, I saw the advantages immediately,” says Pat.
Pat says by using the KST200e, the most significant reduction in cutting force an employee has achieved is a decrease from 116 tonnes to eight tonnes over a day’s processing.
Pat explains that incorporating the KST200e Sharpness Tester into his training programme is not only an eye-opener for knifehands. It also provides great proof to management.
“By using the KST200e, I’ve been able to convince plant managers of the need for knife training in their plants. Many managers think their knifehands are doing a pretty good job. They also believe they can pick out the best knifehands in the plant.
“Using the Sharpness Tester, however, I’ve been able to prove to management that many of the knives used at their plants are not as sharp as they think.
“But, probably the most significant discovery we’ve made by using the KST200e is that many workers who managers think are ”˜the best’ knifehands on the floor are actually working with dull knives. They have just adjusted their technique to get great results out of a blunt knife. However, the consequence for them has been an unnecessary strain on their bodies.
“By using the Sharpness Tester, my job is to help our workers measure their knives and adjust their sharpening methods to reduce this strain,” explains Pat. “I recommend that every plant gets one,” states Pat
Pat explains the main benefits Finegand has realised by incorporating the KST200e into its training programme have been:
Better Sharpening Techniques – The KST200e revealed that around 95% of knifehands were not steeling the first 50mm of the knife properly, one of the most important parts of the knife. With improved technique, sharpeners now concentrate on the tip as well as the flat and curved parts of the knife, greatly improving their cutting performance.
Decreased Training Time – Incorporating measurement into knife sharpening training has allowed Finegand to increase the number of participants per training session and reduce the training time from four hours to two-and-a-half per person. This is particularly important to Finegand as they contract around 100 new workers each year and need them to be productive as quickly as possible.
Reduction in OOS Related Injuries ”“ With less effort required to execute each cut, physical stress on knifehands has been reduced, leading to a drop in OOS related injuries. This has had a direct positive impact on productivity and on the bottom line.
Higher Yields – Better knife sharpening techniques have resulted in higher yields, with workers able to cut much closer to the bone.
Better Quality Cuts – Boning managers have seen a significant and sustained improvement in knifehand techniques after sharpening training, which has in turn led to better quality cuts.
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SIGNIFICANT GAINS FROM MEASURING KNIFE SHARPNESS