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Inefficiencies Hamper Potential to Improve Scottish Sheep Meat Supply Chain

05 December 2013

The Scottish sheep meat industry is being hampered by what is known as an ‘adversarial trading model’, where each part of the supply chain is interested in achieving the best outcome for itself.

sheep market reportThe result is that every link of the chain – from farmers to hauliers, processors and retailers - is now struggling to make a margin.

These are the stark findings of a new report from SAC Consulting which was established to identify opportunities for the Scottish sheep sector to add value, reduce waste and become more competitive and profitable.

Funded by Quality Meat Scotland and led by Iain Riddell and Kev Bevan, the project also involved the co-operative support body SAOS and the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service.

In order to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies they reviewed the supply chain involving the farmers’ co-op Farm Stock (Scotland) Ltd owned by five regional livestock marketing groups trading throughout Central Scotland and the Borders.

The project team was keen to see if a “lean thinking” approach, such as manufacturing and service industries use, could be applied to the, often very different, lamb supply chain.
They carried out visits and interviews with farmers, procurement, hauliers, processors and a retailer.

“One of the biggest issues facing the processing sector is the poorly planned supply of lamb, influenced by weather factors, which results from producer “push” rather than consumer “pull”,” said Iain Riddell of SAC Consulting, who led the project team.

“Solutions we considered included better communication within the chain and developing a better understanding of each other’s needs.

“For example most farmers were pretty good at hitting spec but a significant issue is wet fleeces and dirty lambs arriving in the abattoir.

“In return, Farm Stock Scotland and farmers would appreciate better feedback of weight and grading information from abattoirs, particularly linked to individual lambs.”

According to Ian Watson, Chairman of Farm Stock, there are real opportunities in better coordination between farmers and the meat supply chain.

“What quickly became clear in this study was that a lot of the individual businesses were using lean principles to drive efficiencies at their own level but they were missing the opportunities to link up with others in the chain to drive overall chain improvement.

“Our view is that on average the supply chain can save at least £10 per lamb through better marketing and the removal of waste and inefficiencies in the whole process from drafting on farm right through to the retailer.”

Hauliers were identified in the report as being in an ideal position to identify issues from both ends of the chain. Haulage is an expensive business and short notice, loading delays, and part loads increase the cost of hauling lambs.

“The possibility of setting up collection centres to reduce lamb journey times and ensure full loads, whether on shared premises or redundant farm buildings, was identified by the report.
Ian MacDougal, QMS Technical Projects Manager, said: “The report also highlighted few farms keeping meaningful records of lamb performance. By adopting technology such as EID for management purposes a huge amount of data could become available that could help identify why some farms or lambs are doing better than others.”

With funding from QMS, Farm Stock (Scotland) Ltd. and the Scottish Government Skills Development Scheme SAC Consulting will facilitate three regional training producer groups in central/southern Scotland over an eighteen month project.

It will seek ways to improve collaboration and communication in the supply chain, and improve productivity and profitability at all levels.


Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

November 2013


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