A Lean Slaughterhouse?
So I realize this article and post might be controversial. My point isn't to start a “meat is good” or “meat is bad” debate. I know that conditions in slaughterhouses can be horrific for animals and human workers. That said, I eat meat and normally don't worry about it. If you're a vegetarian, you might want to skip to another post.
The WSJ wrote about a mobile slaughterhouse that has been approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). There's only the one in existence and it's an interesting story with some Lean parallels.
What's the problem statement for farmers who raise cows and pigs?
Federal rules and consolidation of the nation's meatpacking industry have made it increasingly costly and cumbersome for small farmers to bring their animals to slaughter. According to the rules, animals intended to be sold as meat must be killed at a slaughterhouse with a federal inspector present. (Some states allow state inspectors to do the job.)
But the number of plants under federal inspection has dwindled to 808 nationwide, down from 1,750 three decades ago. Today, many farmers and ranchers must travel hundreds of miles or out-of-state for a legal slaughterhouse. Wyoming, for example, has no plants under federal inspection. It has 27 with state inspectors, but under federal law, the meat can't be shipped across state lines.
A bit of inventiveness is changing the game — bringing the slaughterhouse TO the farmers.
Up rolls a diesel truck pulling an 8-by-12-foot trailer fitted with a sink, a 300-gallon water tank and a cooling locker with carcass hooks. A butcher in a floor-length apron kills, skins, guts and trims the pigs into slabs of meat that are then hung in the cooler and trundled to a packaging plant. Soon the meat is stocked in the freezers of shops on the island and across Washington state and Oregon.
I know, not a pleasant topic. But, it's a great example of “right-sized” equipment, instead of large, centralized “monument” slaughterhouses. This allows farmers and ranchers to be competitive on a smaller scale, offering “local” meat to those who are interested in “eating local.”
The end result is just as bad for the cows and pigs… but leaner for the producers. Maybe this concept spurs some ideas about what you can do to “rightsize” your production and operations capabilities — small and mobile instead of huge “efficiencies of scale” based plants.
Have you used a similar concept in your business?
Final thought – I'll give the government, for once, credit for NOT squashing innovation: