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Energy efficient upgrades drives savings

SMC Corporation Helps Fletchers International Exports Realises Real Savings

Fletcher International Exports has evolved into what can best be described as one of Australia’s greatest agribusiness success stories.

Founder Roger Fletcher established the business by purchasing mobs of sheep from sale yards and selling them on auction. While much of this private, family-owned business still revolves around lamb and sheep farming and processing, Fletcher has since developed a range of high-quality co-products, ventured into grain exports, and has purchased a company-owned train to assist with logistics.

Fletcher operates from two facilities in Dubbo (New South Wales) and Albany (Western Australia); combined, these plants process up to 90 000 sheep per week. Gabrielle Ryan, Project Manager at Fletchers, says that the industry is privy to various interwoven and uncontrollable factors. “We face ongoing challenges around climate conditions, livestock supply fluctuations, international markets and currencies, competition, geo-political factors and increasing operating costs”,

In addition, the notable increase in the average weight of a sheep carcass meant that Fletcher’s had to evolve to accommodate changing processing demands. Explains Gabrielle: “The more kilograms per animal, the more meat needs to be processed, packaged and refrigerated which in turn requires investment in additional capacity. Adding to this is the rise in ‘quick serve’ restaurants and changes to portion sizes”,

“To accommodate this, we have expanded and upgraded our facilities in terms of processing machinery, chilling, and refrigeration plants - all whilst keeping overheads front of mind.”

Energy Efficient Upgrades

Naturally, energy saving is a key driver for a progressive company like Fletchers and therefore working smart, mindfully and ethically remains top priority. “Our Dubbo plant is 32 years old, and we have spent the past few years identifying and analysing where we can improve on energy savings and enhance processes,” explains Gabrielle. “We had to renew our strategy and vision and invest to make a real change. Once we started seeing results, we wanted to find more ways to reduce our energy consumption.”

Fletchers turned to SMC Corporation Australia New Zealand (ANZ) to help them along their energy saving journey. SMC has spent years cultivating a customer-centric business where solutions are developed around customer needs - rather than the other way round.

Bill Blyth SMC Energy Conservation Group Manager heads up the energy saving task team and explains that they work closely with customers to find sustainable solutions based on exact requirements. “More than ever, solutions need to be efficient. Efficiency keeps us competitive”,

“Most of our work is focused around analysing and updating existing factories and processes.”

Speaking to the partnership, Bill says SMC has been collaborating closely with Fletcher’s for the past years to help bring their energy saving vision to life. “From our early discussions, it was clear that Fletcher’s wanted to lead the way in terms of efficiency. We knew that we were in it for the long-haul and that our vision wouldn’t be achieved overnight.”

He adds that every change requires resources and funding. “SMC worked closely with the team on site to understand the most cost-effective approach and to establish a plan that would see improvements introduced in an efficient and cost-effective way. In addition, SMC worked closely to support Fletcher’s with accessing Government funding for energy reduction projects.”

Realising Savings

Mick Toovey, Maintenance Manager at Fletchers worked closely with SMC throughout the two-year process. “Compressed air is costly,” he says. “SMC conducted a full audit on our air systems which gave us further insights into possible savings. In fact, our air compressor is now down from a 165kW compressor to a 110kW compressor following the improvements we have made.”

Mick says that the savings have been substantial. “We have saved around $65 000 per annum on our energy bill!”

Best of all, Fletchers has continued to increase their production without compromising on their bottom line.

Speaking to project highlights, Gabrielle says: “A highlight was the installation of metering across the site. This was a huge job, but it now allows us to understand our plant’s inner most workings in real-time. To give you an example, we installed over 30 water meters across site during the peak of the drought when our town’s water supply was sitting well below 1%. The metering enabled us to slash water use by 30% because we understood how and where it was being used. We now look at energy saving holistically and consider all aspects of the plant for potential savings.”

The new approach has put Fletchers in a strong position to cope with rising costs and increasing global competition. The company exports over 95% its produce to over 90 countries and sees more developments on this front in future.

Visit SMC at AUSPACK 2022 to find out more about their energy efficient offerings – stand E140

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