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‘Extremely serious’ failings at the meat plant say auditors

Issues with staff management and data collection also highlighted

Adherence to regulation at the Isle of Man Meat Plant is ‘poor’ with ‘extremely serious’ failings identified which reflect ‘very badly’.

That’s just one of the findings of an audit of the government owned facility which was carried out in September and October this year.

Auditors say the ‘multiple problems’ uncovered – in five overarching areas – include a ‘fundamentally flawed’ sales model and staff management and training programme.

That’s alongside factory processes which reveal an overall lack of attention to detail, absence of effective data collection or oversight and issues with staff availability and reliability.

Plant operation:

General examination of the factory in Braddan showed it was well-equipped and had the ability to easily carry out the processes for which it’s used.

The factory environment was described as pleasant - and above average in terms of space, airflow and lighting - with swabs also revealing a low level of contamination on product meaning produce is fully safe for consumption.

However the audit revealed several areas of concern where the factory is either underperforming or at a disadvantage when compared to similar facilities elsewhere.

The pace of work at the plant was described as ‘much too slow’ – so slow that slaughter runs, which should be completed in three hours, are taking almost all day.

Processing meat products is costing the factory around £850,000 per year and the number of animals being slaughtered per hour falls well below the expected speeds in commercial factories.

Pricing for cattle is said to be competitive unlike the pricing for cows which is said to be around £300 to £400 difference, per animal, with the majority of cows travelling to the UK for slaughter.

The lairage – where animals are rested on their way to slaughter – is said to be well maintained and promotes good animal welfare.However it was noted that it was difficult to keep clean and requires a lot of manual labour as it can’t be accessed by machinery.

Staff:

“Overall there appears to be a focus on command rather than leadership.” – Auditors

Staff management, and the training programme at the Isle of Man Meat Plant, is described as ‘fundamentally flawed’ with most employees lacking the required skill levels.

No long-term training or development programmes have been put in place and each department, with the exception of dispatch, is said to lack a strong manager to lead and train the team.

Fully staffing the factory is said to be a significant challenge which is ‘greatly exacerbated’ by the Island’s location meaning additional staff are not easily available.

Data:

The amount of management and financial information collected at the plant is described by auditors as ‘much too low’ and something which management has ‘little excuse’ for.

Auditors have called for this issue to be resolved ‘very quickly’ saying there are ‘wide gaps’ between the expectations of the information which should be available and the information which actually is.

The issue has been attributed, primarily, to the ‘attitude’ of the senior manager who was said to be either unaware or unwilling to collect the information required.

Sales:

“We believe that the single biggest challenge facing Isle of Man Meats is the driving of sales prices which are profitable for the plant and encourage farm production on the Island.” - Auditors

Isle of Man Meats is not sales or customer focussed with the sales model described as ‘fundamentally flawed’.

Auditors found no real oversight of pricing, or interest in driving sales, and a ‘general unwillingness’ to develop sales ‘almost that customers were viewed as a problem not an opportunity’.

It’s an area described by auditors as the weakest with sales labelled a ‘second class citizen’ which receives little focus.

In order for the plant to ‘thrive’ Isle of Man Meats has been encouraged to consider a ‘sales-focussed recovery’ which will require senior managers to grow relationships with customers on and off Island.

Lack of attention to detail:

Auditors say the operation of the business demands a real attention to detail and this does not appear to be in place with a ‘startling’ lack of proactive work to address the many obvious problems.

This lack of proactivity, auditors say, is the hallmark of almost every one of the plant’s activities and the end result is ‘poor prices, poor customer service, slow processing, high operating costs, unskilled staff, product damage and poor adherence to legal requirements’.

What next?

The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture has confirmed Minister Clare Barber has taken on the role of chair of the meat plant with immediate effect while a ‘turnaround plan’ is developed.

You can find out more, and view the full report, HERE.

Manx Radio has invited the minister to be interviewed – she will be joining us live on Manx Radio Breakfast on Thursday morning.

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