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Putting Brains on Automation: a Solution for Meat Processing

Nebraska beef is a driver for the state’s economy, but it’s more than just cattle ranchers that contribute to that impact. Beef processing is an essential part of getting beef products from the feedlot to consumers plates. Marble Technologies pulled together expertise in the meat processing space and developed intelligent automation to support a labor-intensive industry.

“The first solution in our platform is an automated pack-off system. Following the vacuum sealer, the Automated Packoff System identifies, weighs, sorts and boxes each product. Our system reduces labor, provides insights into production data and advances worker safety,” said Chafik Barbar, CEO and co-founder of Marble Technologies.

As a problem-solving company, Marble Technologies saw that pack-off on the processing line required lots of labor and added no value to the end product, yet was essential for getting products from point A to point B. Marble saw an opportunity to add technology into food production by developing an automated pack-off system.

“Now as unlabeled cuts come off the vacuum sealer, they are scanned by a camera. Computer Vision AI identifies the cut of meat, and it is then sorted by product type into chutes attached to boxing stations. In addition to identifying the product, the system also takes measurements
for weight, length and depth, creating new opportunities to meet customer demand for custom-sorted products and adding value to each piece,” Barbar said.

Marble was founded three years ago. Disruptions in the supply chain were only magnified by the pandemic, and many livestock producers were faced with the difficulty of getting their livestock slaughtered in a timely fashion because of labor issues in packing plants. With more automation, meat processors will be more resilient when facing disruptions.

The team at Marble Technologies wanted to provide a solution that was practical, accurate and did not slow down production. A recurring issue it found was the pack-off area, which entails a lot of strenuous, repetitive motions and required high volumes of labor.

There were many constraints Marble had to work within during the designing process. An Automated Pack-Off System must be accurate in correctly identifying cuts and be designed to fit in the space already allotted for pack-off in the plant. Additionally, the system must be able to
be installed when the plant is not in production, typically over a weekend. Finally, the equipment must be food grade and able to withstand heavy sanitation.

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