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Reducing Covid-19 transmission risk in meat processing

10 August 2020

As the UK starts to emerge from the recent lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been some localised, but significant, new outbreaks. Some of these have been within large meat processing facilities where groups of people have to work together in a cold and noisy environment. It would appear that the combination of having to raise your voice to be heard over the machinery, close working conditions and a chilled environment provide a catalyst for the spread of the virus. 

“The tasks being carried out on the factory floor often mean that operators must work closely, side by side, or face each other on the production line. In normal circumstances this is not a  a problem but the Covid-19 virus thrives in such environments and as we have started to see, can take its toll rapidly,” said Ian Marks, technical manager at CME. 

Marks believes that introducing automation and robotics within a food processing environment will bring a number of tangible production benefits, while maintaining high hygiene levels and alleviating the risks associated with virus transmission.” One example of this is the precision robotic meat processing cell developed by CME, which incorporates hygienic robots from Stäubli’s new HE range.

“Our HFPC 120 cell has been designed to EHEDG standards and utilises a modular approach allowing the cell to be customised in a way that matches the exact requirements of each customer’s food processing line.”

In addition to the consistent hygiene standards, manufacturers can realise other benefits from the introduction of automated product handling and packaging systems. “Automating these tasks reduces the reliance on manual labour. Also, removing operators from what can be a challenging working environment eliminates the need for large quantities of disposable personal protection equipment. If ever there was a time for the UK to embrace these technologies surely it is now,” concludes Marks.

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