In 2016, the Costco Corporation realized it needed more than a basic system to manage its new poultry processing plant. They had previously outsourced chicken products to another company, but when those costs rose, Costco determined they would be better off creating their own processing plant. This new facility would allow them to closely manage everything, from the food that each chicken ate to packaging, freezing, and palletizing orders.
This new plant, Lincoln Premium Poultry, in Lincoln, Nebraska, was to provide most chicken products to the Costco stores west of the Mississippi River—and it had to be created from the ground up. For the retailer, this was a venturesome undertaking.
Products such as chicken thighs, breasts, and whole birds for deli rotisseries would need to be stored frozen, not fresh, so they could be held until a Costco store placed an order.
Orion was tasked with creating a case-wrapping solution that could operate in almost freezing temperatures. And while Orion’s equipment is engineered to function at temperatures as low as 34°F, the constant cold environment with temperatures between 34 and 38°F required additional measures to ensure longevity and durability.
The result was a customized “Cold Package” system with inclusions specially designed to withstand harsh conditions. For example, the wrapping film is composed of chemicals, its properties change depending on the temperature. In temperatures near freezing, a standard film can break, eliminating its effectiveness and purpose.
Orion provided the mechanical gearing to limit the pre-stretch capability of the film. If the film is stretched to 260%, which is standard, it would more than likely break in that cold of an environment. By changing the gearing to accommodate a 150% pre-stretch, the film will stretch and not break, saving on consumable costs.
Other “Cold Package” additions were made, including an 800-watt heater and thermostat for the control panel. In cold temperatures, the panel won’t operate, and the machine would be unusable. By maintaining a constant temperature, it functions properly, and production is maintained.
The system’s cables were upgraded to flexible, cold-temperature cables, which provide resiliency and flexibility in the cold, preventing the cables’ casings from cracking. Cold-temperature-rated lubricants and pneumatic cylinders finish off the one-of-a-kind Cold Package system for Lincoln Premium Poultry.
Orion builds the right machine for the customer. They understand their expectations and needs and create customized solutions.
They did this successfully at Lincoln Premium Poultry allowing it to process more than two million pounds of chicken each week, serving numerous stores in the western United States. Because of this success, Costco is now looking at replicating this system in other facilities as well.