KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The more a meat plant technology suppliers know about what’s being done daily on the floor and what’s planned for the future, the more likely they will become true partners with a packer or processor. For instance, recent partnerships at Natural Food Holdings’ 49,500-sq.-ft. pork fabrication facility in Sioux City, Iowa, have resulted in incorporating a variety of new technologies that keep the plant running ahead of its aggressive production curve.

This facility processes only fresh pork products and 142 plant workers process between 4,000-5,000 whole carcasses during each, eight-to-10-hour shift, five days per week. It operates seven lines. On the main cut floor are the main break table, ham line, picnic line, butt line, belly line and further processing line. The newer loin-boning room, which opened in 2007, contains a boneless product line and trim line.

NFH’s vendor partnerships help the facility keep successfully operating and evolving. This is the first meat plant in the US to use the Rollstock RC-300 Rotary Chamber packaging machine, which has been running since January 2012. Company executives are most happy with its dependability and flexibility in handling a wide variety of products. Oshkosh, Wis.-based Curwood Inc., NFH’s bag supplier, also partnered with Rollstock plus it assisted NFH with the R&D and the purchase of this machine.

Another technology-supplier partnership resulted in a custom-made, rebuilt, main break table. Faced with an aging break table frame work with a worn-out chain, the plant had to either replace or restore it. Working with Sioux City-based Industrial Design Fabrication & Installation, NFH replaced the stainless-steel slat table with a plastic module belt, among other things. After replacing the stainless-steel slats, the weight on the framework dropped from 37,000 lbs. to less than 7,500 lbs. What’s more, 30 percent less water and chemical use is needed now when cleaning the belt during sanitation and the new break table saves two man-hours per day during cleaning.

Another vendor partnership at this facility led to enhancing food safety. A wall-mounted ozone system from Downers Grove, Ill.-based CEC The Ozone Company sprays ozonated water onto five belts on the main cut floor. Another ozone system for belts on the loin side is currently being built and two more belts are being added to the existing system on the main floor.

Company and plant officials told me during my recent visit that the more they allowed their technology vendors to understand more of what they’re doing and planning to do — and let them truly be partners, the more collective synergies, brainstorming power and ideas they got to enhance the facility’s operations. Allowing vendors to know what the plant wants to accomplish in a particular project helps to get it done more efficiently and effectively, they agreed.

In order for packers and processors to share critical information with their vendors, they must trust them. This trust builds into strong partnerships and even into strong friendships…where everyone involved in a project ends up having one common goal in mind. The end result will be nothing less than a successful operation.

(For more information about these partnerships and this facility, read “Hog Ties” in the March issue of Meat&Poultry magazine.)