Supply Chain Planning

Tyson Foods Expanding Smart Factories

Liz Dominguez
Managing Editor
Liz Dominguez

Tyson Foods has its sights set on transforming its supply chain this year, particularly through its widescale productivity program that includes creating more smart, efficient factories with myriad benefits across the enterprise. 

Donnie King, president and CEO, gave a glimpse into the company’s plans during the latest earnings call. Automation remains a key part of the initiative, which he outlined within five key pillars that include:

  • Transforming the team member experience
  • Growing with customers to service demand
  • Investing in digital and automation to drive operational excellence 
  • Restoring competitiveness in the company’s chicken segment
  • Leveraging financial strength to invest in the business and return cash to shareholders 

Overall, the company has invested nearly $600 million into the business in the first quarter to capitalize on projected demand growth over the next decade, reported John R. Tyson, EVP and chief financial officer.  A bulk of this is going toward new capacity and automation objectives. 

Recent innovations include automated sandwich hand-wrap and burrito assembly capabilities, an automated line to serve snacking production, and scaling chicken deboning automation. Additionally, the company is piloting a robotic tray pack machine that's showing “promising results.”

“We are expanding our smart factory program to digitize our plants to new sites, as well as exploring opportunities to digitize our processes,” said King. “Our progress displays how Tyson remains focused on optimizing our business processes, digitizing the supply chain, increasing automation, and aggressively managing SG&A across our operations.”

Other initiatives include improving inventory visibility by leveraging data analytics, implementing a direct plant shipment program to bring on new customers and categories, and driving efficiency in Tyson’s distribution network, including across transportation to reduce unnecessary miles. 

The company has zeroed in on digital innovation in recent years, also recently investing in Soft Robotics, a tech provider that is looking to alleviate labor shortages in food processing environments by marrying 3D vision and artificial intelligence with a patented soft grasping technology.

And as part of its productivity plan, announced in 2021, the company planned to open 12 new factories, from which a significant portion of funds are going toward automation and tech, as well as digitization and advanced analytics within the prepared foods sector.

Last May, during a webinar presented by CGT, Devin Graham, VP of cloud and infrastructure at Tyson Foods, shared key takeaways from the company’s experience with cloud transformations, which is looking to remove repetitive, manual processes in order to automate workflows and improve safety and quality across the business. 

In 2021, Tyson also invested in artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, accelerating investments in automation and advanced tech to make existing jobs safer and reduce costs. Tyson is using this tech to ensure shipments are optimally loaded and reduce freight costs, increasing customer service levels.

More Supply Chain Innovations