Tyson Foods Temperanceville Complex, VA

“In just three months, we have seen incredible improvements”
Sonia Mavromatis, Plant Safety Manager, Tyson Foods, USA

Implementing the Anago KST200e Knife Sharpness Tester in Tyson’s Temperanceville Complex has resulted in reduced Workers Compensation claims, reduced knife usage and improved team productivity.  All this without having to replace their sharpening equipment or personnel.

Tyson Foods, Inc.  is the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, the second-largest food company in the Fortune 500, and a member of the S&P 500. The company produces a wide variety of protein-based and prepared food products and is the recognized market leader in the retail and foodservice markets it serves, providing products and services to customers throughout the United States and more than 80 countries.

Sonia Mavromatis is Plant Safety Manager for Tyson Foods’ operation in Temperanceville, Virginia, USA.  The food processing plant employs 800 staff with around 600 people trimming 200,000 chickens per day.

“Operating with a sharp knife is extremely important in our business.  Firstly, it allows us to efficiently trim meat to meet our customers’ specifications.  And, secondly, operating a sharp knife – as opposed to a dull one – helps keep pressure off a trimmer’s body.  Operating a dull knife for the majority of their day can lead to unnecessary pains and strains,” says Sonia.

In March 2006, Sonia took up the opportunity to implement Anago’s KST200e Knife Sharpness Tester and says it has already made a positive impact on employee safety.

“At the time, we had slightly higher MSD* rates than other Tyson plants, so I welcomed the opportunity to get involved.  I suspected that if we had a way of accurately measuring knife sharpness, we could possibly see some health and safety benefits result by making improvements in that area.  What I suspected has been true – in just three months, we have seen incredible improvements,” says Sonia.

Sonia says the plant has now incorporated the Sharpness Analyzer into workers’ daily routines.

Implementing the Anago KST200e Sharpness Analyzer in Tyson’s Temperanceville Complex has resulted in reduced Workers Compensation claims, reduced knife usage and improved Team productivity.  All this without having to replace their sharpening equipment or personnel.

Process Complex Cuts with Less Effort
“In some cases, our customers request zero fat, which means our trimmers must increase the number of cuts they make from approximately three to nine per piece.  Because we can now accurately measure knife sharpness, we can ensure these trimmers are always working with a good knife.  This means as their number of cuts increase the stress and strains on their bodies will not also increase exponentially.  This has made a huge, positive impact on our people’s daily routines,” explains Sonia.

Focused Injury Prevention
“With the use of the Sharpness Analyzer, we now have a continual focus on knife sharpness and we regularly check trimmers’ knives throughout the day.  In particular, the Sharpness Analyzer has allowed us to track specific staff positions that are at high risk of injuries.  We have been able to significantly reduce these people’s injury risk by ensuring they are always working with a sharp knife.

“My job is to make our staff comfortable while they perform their roles and ensure they are doing their jobs correctly and safely.  Tyson values the health and safety of our staff and the Sharpness Analyzer is helping me do my job better,” explains Sonia.

Improved Training of Knife Sharpeners
Sonia explains that the Knife Sharpness Tester has become a vital training tool and, for the first time, enables the plant to qualify Sharpeners for the job.

“The Sharpness Analyzer has become a critical tool that helps us better train new Knife Sharpeners. For the first time we have an objective measurement of sharpness and we’ve used this to quantify sharpening results and qualify people for their jobs,” says Sonia.

“Being able to put a value on the sharpness of a knife has been incredibly useful.  Using the Sharpness Analyzer, we have been able to train up our sharpeners and get our sharpening programme up to an excellent level.  Once a Sharpener qualifies and begins working in the plant, trimmers are visited throughout the day to gain feedback on how the knives are working.  This feedback loop has been important and helps the Sharpeners continually hone their technique.”

“Because knife sharpness is a major focus for our business, training is key and the Sharpness Analyzer is helping us do this better,” says Sonia.

Improved Cutting Techniques
Once the Sharpness Analyzer helped the Tyson plant improve its knife sharpening programme, Sonia says she was then able to focus attention on improving trimmers’ cutting techniques.

“With sharpness under control, we can now focus our health and safety efforts on ensuring our trimmers use proper cutting techniques.  Prior to using the Sharpness Analyzer, we weren’t able to systematically determine if a workers’ injuries were a result of a dull knife or bad technique.  Now we can pinpoint the cause of a strain and fix it more rapidly,” says Sonia.

Improved Job Satisfaction
Sonia says using the Sharpness Analyzer had an unexpected benefit of increasing job satisfaction.

“Using the Sharpness Analyzer in our plant has allowed us to give each staff member personal attention and care.  For instance, we put their names on their knives so they continually receive the same knife again it is re-sharpened. This might seem insignificant at first, but it has resulted in people taking more ownership and pride in their work,” explains Sonia.

Sonia says the product support from Anago has been excellent.
“I have received great support from Anago.  They have always taken the time to personally walk me through any task.  They have also supplied replacement parts, information about the Analyzer or anything else we’ve needed very quickly.

“We had one incident where our Sharpness Analyzer had incurred some damage and I was initially concerned that it might take some time to fix.  But, that wasn’t the case.  I simply took some digital photos of the damage and emailed them to Anago. They were then able to easily guide our maintenance crew to quickly repair the damage.

“All in all, Anago has been a delight to work with and their focus on customer support is evident in all they do,” says Sonia.

* MSD stands for Musculoskeletal Disorder
**Worker’s Compensation occurs via ACC in New Zealand.
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