By ROBYN BRISTOW
Harris Meats at Domett is expanding to increase production capacity and streamline its processes.
It will double its size and introduce new technology in the largest expansion ever undertaken at the family business which was established back in 1956.
The expansion includes more conveyers to make product handling easier throughout the production areas of the new factory while more sophisticated software will be introduced to further enhance the traceability of product and the management of invoicing and inventory levels through the abattoir and meat processing business.
A high speed vacuum packing line and machines will also be a key feature of the new development, meaning that there will be less manual handling and faster movement of product, increasing throughput considerably.
While the flow of products through the factory will improve, one of the most dramatic improvements will be the work environment in general as there will be more room and less manual handling.
Contractors from throughout Canterbury, the majority being North Canterbury-based, are working on the project which should be finished in about six months.
Director Bryan Harris is relieved the work has finally begun.
“We seem to have been planning this for years, and have put hours and hours into the design so I’m really excited about what this development will enable us to do,” he says.
“We have been limited to what we could do by the size and design of our current factory. We’ve taken the plunge and designed the space to suit our needs, and are incorporating the latest technology and systems,” says Bryan.
“We will be increasing production of our North Canterbury free farmed bacon to keep up with demand but do not have many new products planned at this stage,” says Bryan.
“However, we have recently introduced a new machine which means we can increase production of fresh and frozen patties.
“Currently we are producing beef patties, but we will soon look at introducing free farmed pork patties as well. The new patty machine is currently being used in the old factory, and will stay in the same area, but will have considerably more room around it which will mean Harris Meats can really optimise its capability.
“By enhancing the refrigeration systems and introducing an intensive chilling line, ageing and conditioning of product will be further improved, and the high speed chilling of products results in an increased shelf life,” he says.
Although more automation will be introduced, there will definitely be no reduction in staff numbers – in fact there are currently job vacancies at the plant as the demand for the company’s fresh meat products continues to grow.
Employing 45 staff, Harris Meats is actively looking for more butchers, including apprentices.
“While the development will mostly happen alongside the existing operation, there has been some impact on current factory space so we have had to pull back on what we can offer with private processing of pigs,” says Bryan.
“This means that due to these logistical constraints we can’t offer cooked hams to those clients processing their pigs through Harris Meats in the short term.”
All other usual private processing services continue however, including the provision of the saveloys and pre-cooked sausages and there will be no changes to the fresh beef, lamb, pork and bacon production.
Harris Meats recently won a silver and bronze medal for their loin and middle eye bacon in the 2017 100% New Zealand Bacon and Ham Competition.
There are also no issues for those wanting to order their free farmed Christmas hams from Harris Meats and the popular dog rolls continue to be made at the Domett factory.