How to combat labor shortage in the cut-up process?

Marel’s ACM-NT system saves labor and adds intelligence

ACM NT Conveyor

Wings, legs and breast are incredibly popular chicken pieces and a highly wanted sight on the world’s dinner tables. Cut-up chicken parts are often found in QSR restaurants too, such as the famous buckets. To keep up with the high demand, high-speed cut-up lines are needed to produce the required amounts of all kinds of chicken parts. At the same time, facing the labor shortage, processors need an automated process that requires the least human intervention.

Marel’s ACM-NT stands for automatic modular in-line cut-up, capable of handling up to 7,200 broilers per hour. The system will handle both air and water-chilled products. It is a solidly proven solution, as it is in successful everyday operation with processors around the world, from USA to China and from Australia to Poland.

Labor issues

Cut-up and deboning departments need a large amount of skilled staff if they are not automated. Marel offers plenty of options for turning these processes into in-line automatic operations without losing yield or compromising product quality or presentation. Marel’s ACM-NT cut-up system is an excellent solution for cutting all required products. Thanks to its modular configuration using wing, leg and breast cutting modules, the system performs skilled cuts, which could be done only manually before.
Automating the cut-up department doesn’t mean that labor will disappear from the processing plant altogether. Job functions are, however, shifting away from real physical contact with meat and from heavy labor towards supervising and checking. Furthermore, equipment will always need proper maintenance and service. Manpower will be needed on a daily basis to keep all machines running at optimum efficiency.

Easy-entry automation

Typical cuts

Marel’s ACM-NT is fully modular. If and when processing requirements change, modules can be moved or added. The system will cut carcasses into wing, front half and whole anatomic leg portions. If required, wings can be cut into separate inner and middle joint portions. In some markets wings are cut with back meat, breast meat or both attached. ACM-NT’s wing cutter can be set to give these options too.
Depending on the filleting method afterwards, processors can choose to integrate a Breast Cap Cutter or a Front Half Cutter in the system. Cut breast caps are filleted in Marel’s AMF-i intelligent breast filleting system. Front halves can supply an FHF-XB system filleting system.

ACM-NT can do automatically virtually every wing, front half and leg cut required by processors worldwide.

Butcher quality

Users are particularly impressed by the high quality of the legs cut by the system; yield and presentation are as good as when legs are butchered manually. The secret of the ACM-NT’s JL-R anatomic leg module is that it “pulls” rather than cuts legs from the back half. Legs retain their natural shape and there is no damage to the hip bone.

Virtually every wing, front half and leg cut required by processors worldwide can be done. Each part of the world has its own specialties, for which specific automated solutions have been developed. An example is the Second Joint Wing Cutter HPP, which cuts the centerpiece of the wing with as much first-joint skin attached to it as possible, following an Asian tradition.


Intelligence in cut-up 

Cut-up lines make increasing use of intelligence to remove human bias from decision-making and ensure consistent top quality and consistent top yields. Super-accurate, up-to-the-minute in-line weighing and vision systems provide the necessary input data, which is then processed by Marel Innova PDS software. Innova PDS can determine exactly how each carcass is to be cut, also which products to release for sale whole. Quite simply, Innova PDS enables processors to match incoming carcasses in the most profitable way possible to incoming orders for whole and cut product.


Further examples of cut-up intelligence are ‘Combined rate limiting’ and ‘Floating-point control’. Both concepts work with data from in-line weighing systems. Products from two or more Marel ACM cut-up systems are distributed over multiple front half or breast cap deboning systems. The Combined rate limiting software ensures that these downstream operations can choose their batch from all combined products out of multiple ACM-NT lines. Floating-point control optimally distributes heavy and light products to deboning lines for a fixed throughput. Production managers will therefore be able to set their deboning systems more precisely, while using available products. Yield, product quality and productivity will all benefit.

Overview Q Wing

Q-Wing automation

With its unique Q-Wing system, Marel brings welcome automation to wing handling. The system ensures accurate and reliable grading to a totally objective and consistent standard. It also saves skilled labor and provides an excellent logistical solution for packing and reworking wing products.
Q-Wing consists of IRIS vision systems controlled by dedicated Q-Wing software, the necessary conveyor systems for keeping automatically graded wing parts separate, bulk packing stations and a rework area for the possible upgrade of product downgraded by the system. Q-Wing requires separate cutting modules for ‘A’ and ‘B’ quality wing portions and will handle all wing products, whether whole wings or individual wing joints cut from up to 15,000 bph. Q-Wing allows processors to make the very best use of each and every wing or wing joint.

ACM NT Compact2

High and low volumes

Marel’s ACM systems are not only for sophisticated high-volume plants handling different cuts for a range of retail and fast food customers. The ACM-NT Compact system has been designed for lower-volume plants, which have limited space, want to do basic cuts and have no need for intelligence. It offers these plants exactly the same high standard of cutting as a standard ACM-NT system.

Carcass balance

When talking sustainability, carcass balance is a crucial concept. Quite simply, this means making the most profitable use of every component of the carcass. In some markets, some components are more valuable than others. The US has traditionally been a breast meat market, the Far East a leg meat market. Things are, however, changing. In the US, for example, leg meat is becoming ever more popular. At Marel, the task is to make leg meat production more attractive, helping to achieve a better carcass balance. This was the driving force behind the development of the in-line Thigh Fillet System. This system, installed as part of an ACM-NT cut-up installation, gives butcher quality thigh meat deboned automatically at ACM-NT throughput levels with hardly any human labor needed.

Thigh Fillet System 2 Carousels


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