Basel, CH – October 2014

Micarna: Disassembly Reconsidered


Micarna SA has head offices in Courtepin and Bazenheid, and is part of Swiss retail group Migros. With more than 2,300 employees at eight locations around Switzerland and revenue of more than 1.2 billion Swiss francs (2012), Micarna is one of the leading companies in the Swiss meat market. It supplies parent company Migros, the biggest retail chain in Switzerland, as well as its own specialist butcher Mérat and third-party customers. Micarna has been using SAP software in combination with Meat Management by Softproviding to control its processes for many years.



The way things were

The meat-cutting process at the Bazenheid site (canton of St. Gallen) had become outdated and no longer met the requirements. As renovation would have meant disproportionately high investment costs, the decision was made to build a new plant with an increased capacity of 200 pigs per hour. Today, Micarna boasts one of the most advanced cutting plants in Europe.


The objective

The new plant had to be highly automated and meet the very highest hygiene standards while also ensuring an optimized flow of goods. Balancing the stringent requirements for ergonomics, hygiene and economy was crucial.


All relevant data on the production process had to be immediately available in the central SAP system, while the complete process control and production planning procedures had to be effected from the ERP system. Micarna’s objectives also included reducing the amount of data entry to a minimum while ensuring complete traceability of the daily batch right back to an animal’s holding of birth, and producing a variety of labels (e.g. “From the region. For the region.”).


The solution: SAP ERP & Meat Management by Softproviding



After planning is completed (or amended), a Softproviding planning cockpit is used to create the disassembly orders with the respective planning figures.


Removing the halves from storage


The cutting process in Bazenheid begins with removing the halves or primal cuts from storage. A Meat Management callout cockpit and the callout orders it generates guarantee an optimum disassembly sequence (e.g. organic animals first). The halves arrive in the order in which they are required for primal cutting. The strip storage system is connected to SAP using interfaces and contains the information on removal from storage as soon as the callout order is released. As soon as the hooks carrying the halves arrive at the DGA (Device Gateway Applet), the actual weight of the disassembly input is automatically posted to the disassembly orders. DGA applications make it possible to record plant data for disassembly using a touch screen. The DGAs used by Micarna reduce data entry to a minimum, keeping processing time low and minimizing potential sources of error.


Primal cutting and deboning

Grob- und Feinzerlegung

After the pig halves have been deposited in an unmanned process, they are cut in the primal cutting process. Primal cutting of the pig halves takes place on the primal cutting belt. The initial cuts are then directed to the correct deboning belts, where they are cut again. After deboning, the pieces are transported to the output of either the lying disassembly or the hanging disassembly. The actual weights of all disassembly orders (if necessary, a separate order can be created for each belt) are recorded upon input and output. This allows detailed yield and cost monitoring for each area. At the output data recording terminal, the user must confirm the tare weight and article number for hanging goods, while for lying goods only the tare weight generally needs to be confirmed as the corresponding material number is automatically superimposed.
After disassembly, the crates are transported to a high-bay warehouse and the hanging goods to a strip storage warehouse, where they undergo further processing. Products are stored using the (Softproviding) storage group determination. If a callout order already exists for the crates then they are not stored; instead, the goods are brought directly to where they are needed.

Grob- und Feinzerlegung

In addition, the cutting plant has a purchased-meat belt where goods that have been purchased separately are disassembled. Goods for this belt are requested from the strip storage warehouse or high-bay warehouse via the callout cockpit. Two different disassembly orders can be dealt with at the same time on this belt (left/right side).


The whole disassembly plant operates using RFID crates. For every data recording process, the crate number is stored during PDA (Process Data Acquisition) along with other data relevant to the procedure (e.g. disassembly order number, material number, batch). Therefore, it is possible to determine at any time, where each crate is and which goods are in the crate.


Traceability 2.0


Meat Management by Softproviding enhances SAP ERP traceability with its “change control” feature. By assigning change reasons (or change characteristics), changes in the values of the characteristics assigned to the different products can be controlled individually to determine if and when they lead to a change. Thanks to the flexibility this offers, change control can be easily adjusted to Micarna’s requirements (local products, labelling, country, rearing method, etc.). Depending on their type, changes are identified in the production process by being kept separate and with different optical markers (for example a traffic light system).


The difficulties

The main difficulties arising from the system and the new plant tended to manifest themselves as a reluctance to accept the dominance of the machine. There was also the issue of just how strict the workflow was (a part for processing would arrive every 10 seconds). However, the initial skepticism faded relatively quickly and there were no significant problems with the system itself, meaning that after just two or so months, the Bazenheid cutting plant was operating at full capacity.


The customer benefits

  • Reduction in error rate
  • Increase in productivity to 200 carcasses (previously 130)
  • Time savings and associated cost reductions
  • Full transparency throughout the process chain
  • Complete traceability at the touch of a button
  • Pooled industry expertise and extensive ERP knowledge from Softproviding

When asked to describe the new disassembly process in one sentence, Oliver Wirtz, master butcher for Micarna SA in Bazenheid, answered “in a word: effective!”