In 2002, Aronson as CEO of RVA company Arrowsight began to work within the meat industry. Beginning in 2004, Arrowsight launched initial pilots that would develop into the services it offers today. The first animal welfare customer Arrowsight served was FPL Foods in Augusta, Georgia. As efforts continued, “we identified food safety, animal welfare, productivity and yields as the four focal points,” Aronson says.
Arrowsight’s RVA program now includes application examples spanning operations from “farm to fork.” These applications include risk mitigation within animal welfare, food safety, quality, bio-security and worker safety as well as margin applications such as yields, throughputs and labor optimization. All of the applications are serviced by Arrowsight auditors working with proprietary Arrowsight software tools to deliver impactful feedback including near-term alert feedback, daily dashboard reports and customized performance trend reporting
The feedback tools contain links to images and video supplying managers and supervisors the visual documentation of events needed to make changes, coach employees, use for training purposes or be utilized however management sees fit. Arrowsight’s Global Manufacturing and Agribusiness segment originates in Huntsville, Alabama, where its Network Operations Center is based. It operates additional auditing services and centers in India. Mark Moshier, president, uses words like transparency, awareness and accountability to describe what makes Arrowsight the leader in RVA. These qualities also transfer to endeavors into the medical industry where the company provides RVA services to hospitals.
Dr. Temple Grandin
To help set up Arrowsight’s animal welfare and handling RVA business in the most efficient and productive way possible, Temple Grandin, Ph.D., who is a professor of animal science at Colorado State Univ., began guiding Arrowsight Inc. in 2004 on the use of RVA in conjunction with the then called AMI guidelines for animal handling. Grandin’s knowledge, experience and reputation in the animal handling industry are unmatched. Throughout her career, Dr. Grandin’s work in the industry has brought about substantial positive change.
In 2008, there was a watershed moment and significant product recall directly connected to animal welfare that had long reaching ramifications within the industry. “Dr. Grandin recommended to the USDA and the largest industry companies that they explore RVA services to optimize animal welfare issues,” Aronson says. As a result, Aronson was called to testify at a congressional hearing. The hearing and Aronson’s testimony started the discussions that led to Cargill becoming Arrowsight’s first “large-scale” customer for animal welfare RVA. In the past eight years, Arrowsight’s services have grown from just a few clients to over 100 plants and include all major proteins.
“I was a big supporter of it right from the beginning,” Grandin says. She explains her role with Arrowsight in the beginning included help with camera positioning to give auditors the right perspective as well as the criteria to base audits on. “The biggest thing I helped them with was just how to set up the auditing. Take the AMI guidelines, which are now the NAMI guidelines – the five objective criteria – and audit those on video,” she says. Dr. Grandin remains an Arrowsight consultant today.
Many plants over the years have installed video cameras monitored in house by someone at the plant, but Dr. Grandin is adamant about the necessity of third-party auditing.
“The one point I am going to make is some outside entity has to audit that,” she says. “Arrowsight happens to be the main one, but to make cameras effective, somebody outside the plant, a third party has to audit those cameras.”
While she believes strongly in RVA, Dr. Grandin doesn’t subscribe to it as an end all, be all solution to animal welfare and humane handling auditing. She says that the nature of a video camera dictates a limited window of sight into what goes on throughout the yard. They do serve well to audit what Dr. Grandin calls “hot spots,” such as unloading ramps, stunning stations, and the ramps leading up to restrainers, but activity happens throughout the entire plant. “They can’t look at the whole yard. They can’t look at everything,” Dr. Grandin says. “So you still need to have people on the ground going in and looking at plants.”
Cargill’s 29 North American harvest facilities all use Arrowsight’s services. “They send us weekly reports, they make us aware of any occurrences they may see during their audit that would be out of scope with our training procedures and they provide us trend analysis to compare specific criteria areas by shifts, by day and by plants,” says Mike Siemens, global leader of animal welfare and husbandry at Cargill. “They can basically provide any analysis of any matrix that we want.”
While Cargill’s animal welfare and audit programs always performed well, there is always room for improvement, Siemens says. He adds that Arrowsight gave facilities insight into further improvement and allowed the company to raise the bar of expectation and maintain higher levels of improvement.
JBS USA installed cameras and began using RVA services from Arrowsight in 2011. It has improved oversight of the company’s animal handling programs and food safety. JBS USA recorded measurable improvements after utilizing Arrowsight’s services.
“In our initial implementation we achieved impressive results. We experienced significant improvements in our food safety compliance requirements, achieving 99.6 percent compliance after providing RVA feedback to our team members,” says Sherri Jenkins, head of technical services for JBS regional beef. “We are able to identify ‘outliers,’ or the lowest performing jobs in relation to compliance. Our average outlier compliance rate improved to a rate of 91.1 percent after program implementation.”
A key factor to results in RVA comes in the form of communication. The communication between management and Arrowsight needs to be strong and frequent, but more importantly, the communication between management and employees on the floor makes the difference.
“Communication was one of the most important steps to success in implementing this technology at our facilities,” Siemens says. “It took a good understanding of what is trying to be accomplished, a commitment to excellence and a consistency of message at every level of management, right down to every employee at our North American facilities.”
Jenkins agrees, and furthermore adds that communication between management and employees assures employees the nature of RVA is improvement rather than a means for management to “spy” on employees. “We leverage this technology as an additional tool to continually drive improvements in our food safety and animal handling programs. Audited video footage is shared with team members so they can ‘see’ what they did or did not do. We have found this to be an extremely effective training and improvement tool.”
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Security and processes
Companies the size of the world’s leading meat processors and packers take the security of their facilities and data very seriously. The video for Arrowsight’s RVA is stored at the client’s location and access comes through proprietary and secure Arrowsight servers.
“There are numerous software, process and physical security barriers in place and Arrowsight temporarily accesses video clips for auditing and database management,” Moshier says. “As long as the video is stored by the client, the Arrowsight RVA data remains linked to the sampled video. Clients determine internal protocols for video storage, typically five to 30 days and RVA audit data remains available to the client for three plus years.”
At JBS, senior facility management, corporate technical services and operations have the ability to access videos and monitor the camera feeds, but not the cameras or servers. Engineering teams and information technology personnel are the only individuals with access to cameras and servers. “In addition, we have large monitor screens set up at our office that display video from different plants throughout the day,” Jenkins says. “Our policy is to maintain video for five days.”
Cargill’s approach is similar. Those that oversee animal welfare and the management in facilities have access, as well as corporate access for operations, food safety quality and regulatory (FSQR) and the corporate animal welfare team. Cargill stores its video on dedicated DVRs, that are protected by dedicated firewalls. “Arrowsight has the ability to control access based on security level, dedicated computer access and password approval,” Siemens says.
An effective and productive audit requires the auditor possess and maintain the requisite skills needed for client satisfaction. Arrowsight follows rigorous standards for placing the right auditor in the right position and situation. “There is an ‘art’ to selecting, training and managing an extremely effective 24/7 auditing team,” Moshier says. “Arrowsight hires, trains and assigns specific skill sets to the specific needs and requirements of clients.”
Arrowsight’s hiring process includes background and training protocols for each auditor and uses quality control processes for all auditors on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Proprietary software analytics and a volume and accuracy system managed by leadership ensures personnel proficiency. “Arrowsight maintains full time trainers and QA personnel as well, and in the case of animal welfare, maintains Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) certification of key management personnel,” Moshier adds.
Having cameras set up in a facility is nothing new to the industry, but just having cameras in the facility is not enough. It’s the additional services that make RVA useful. Grandin’s experience in the industry reinforces the need for outside auditing. She describes a situation she saw in the early 1990s in which a TV in the manager’s office monitored pig stunning.
“It worked great for around three months and then it broke and the novelty wore off,” she says. “Then I saw a number of other plants…they had cameras, but they never looked at them. I saw that pattern happen over and over again.”
Jenkins agrees and reiterates the importance of third-party auditors sending alerts on a daily basis and continual auditing during operation. To make sure the analyses and reports fit into what JBS is looking for, Arrowsight sends alerts based on parameters that JBS sets up with the company. “Importantly, Arrowsight serves as an independent third party, removing internal biases and providing enhanced confidence to customers and internal personnel charged with food safety and animal handling responsibilities,” she adds.
“It is not just about having cameras that changes culture, it’s the independent information that is generated by Arrowsight and how it is presented, utilized and continually improved upon, and making sure that improvement is maintained that makes the difference,” Siemens says. “Arrowsight gives us the ability to take independent, real time information from the video and do something with it from a communication, education, reward and improvement standpoint that cannot be done with cameras alone. They also do it from a third party presence that gives our program the extra level of credibility appreciated by our suppliers, customers, supporters and critics.”