Computer software that runs the meat industry

Those in charge of the mammoth administrative task of buying, paying for, and tracing 7.5m head of livestock per year in Ireland have emerged intact from the horse burger controversy.

Much of the credit must go to companies like Emydex in Dublin.

Emydex software is designed to manage food production processes from door to door, from arrival of animals to the abattoir, through kill line, boning hall, warehousing and dispatch.

The system includes real-time links to both the government-run animal movement and tracking systems as well as quality assurance schemes, and provides for full meat traceability.

It manages the complex system of payments to farmers, but also enables customers to run their food production lines more efficiently; manage, control and report on stock; analyse their yields and costs; and report on food chain traceability and factory and operator performance.

Today, Emydex is running in four out of the top five meat producing companies on the island of Ireland, and in more than 40 plants spread all over Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and France.

The company is celebrating its rollout in the Dawn Meats Group, one of the largest suppliers of Irish and British beef, pork and lamb in Europe, and an Emydex customer since 2007. It is planned to complete the Emydex roll-out across the group in 2013, including the lamb processing in Ballyhaunis.

Emydex also supplies software to Kepak, and the Dunbia Group and Moy Park in the UK. The software runs on any compatible hardware system.

Just how complex the challenge is can be seen in the very first step of the meat chain, procuring livestock and paying for them.

Each year, Irish export plants buy almost 1.4 million cattle, 2.5m sheep, and 3.5 million pigs.

The method of calculating the amount to be paid for each carcass is called a ‘settlement schedule’. While it would be simple to administer if there was a single settlement schedule for all producers, this is often not possible. The system therefore allows any number of settlement schemes to be created and allocated against producers/agents.

Each settlement scheme can be made up of any number of elements. All schemes will start with a default base price/kg for each category of livestock being killed. In its simplest form, this price is used to calculate the initial value of the carcass. Base prices can be over-written with prices agreed at time of booking, and/or at time of payment.

A set of adjustments is applied sequentially to the carcass to arrive at the final purchase price.

Typical adjustments handled by the Emydex software are:

*Weight range table — with flat rate value paid above specific weights.

* Eurograde table — with adjustments based upon a grid of confirmation and fat class.

*Fault table — with adjustments based upon specific fault conditions.

*Quality table — with adjustments based upon the producers quality status.

When the system has calculated the individual value of each animal and the gross value of the lot, there are a set of deductions to be applied to the gross value.

These deductions (which can be specified as per kg or per head) are created by the user. Typically, deductions include haulage, industry levies, veterinary levies and clipping charges.

As for the all-important cheque the farmer is waiting for, the Emydex payment system can simply print remittance advice notes and a list of all individual lot payments as a file for export into the user’s financial system for invoicing (the Emydex deductions reports can be used to cross check); or the cheque is printed by the Emydex system, either attached to the remittance advice note or on separate stationary). The Emydex system will also then print invoice lists with cheque numbers, for export into the user’s financial system.

Historical data analysis is also available, offering processors detailed views of producers’ deliveries to their plants, information which can be shared with producers to the benefit of both parties.

Farmers insist on prompt payment. But it takes a lot of technology — mostly computers and well-designed software — to get this right.

By integrating the payment calculation system with the livestock classification system, the Emydex livestock payments system eliminates calculation errors and enables the payment calculation to be made as soon as a lot has been processed through the meat factory, significantly improving the efficiency of the payments office.

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