Take a look at how this manufacturer makes meat processing more efficient
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Take a look at how this manufacturer makes meat processing more efficient

Jul 07, 2023

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — Marc Sikkink credits time spent on a custom combining crew and rebuilding engines on other machinery with his grandfather in South Dakota for his interest in engineering.

"I knew that I wanted to get to know the combine very well and so that became a real focus of mine," Sikkink said. "And I think that's where that mechanical aptitude came from."

Sikkink turned that experience into an engineering degree from South Dakota State University and then a career with Hormel Foods at a few different processing plants. His last stop was the turkey processing plant in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, living a short drive away in Fergus Falls.

In 2017, he decided to venture out on his own, creating a manufacturing business to help equip the meat processing industry. His business, SCR Solutions in Fergus Falls, has expanded to work with other kinds of food processing and will be expanding again with the help of a state grant in Minnesota.

SCR started simple with stainless steel tables and stands. Sikkink said conveyors were the next logical step.


"It's a form of very basic automation, but if you aren't doing it with conveyors, you're doing it with people and shovels or box moving. And so conveyance is a big part of the operation in the plants," Sikkink said.

From there they expanded into machines that can lift and dump large loads and integrating things such as metal detectors, scales and machines with the ability to sort.

SCR doesn't make things such as saw blades, vision systems or robots, but integrates them to help make a meat processor get the most out of that piece of equipment and maximize yield.

"We've got a project going now, we'll take the hind quarter ... and we'll place the robot that positions that hind quarter perfectly so that the saw blade makes the cut in the optimal place to get the best yield on the ham, and then to generate as good of a secondary product as you can," Sikkink said. "So while we don't make the robot, we don't make the saw blade — we'll do the millwright work, set the equipment and do the integration between the conveyance before and after it and then handle those product streams once they're split. One has to go one way, one has to go another way. So that's our role."

With a recently announced grant of $160,000 from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, SCR Solutions will add 10,000 square feet to one of its two buildings in Fergus Falls, with a total project cost of $1 million. The project is expected to create eight jobs, roughly doubling its workforce, in the next three years.

"We certainly need the addition to house the additional staffing, we need additional staffing to grow the business," Sikkink said.

Sikkink said the expansion will help make his business more efficient.

Helping the food industry be more efficient is the foundation of SCR Solutions.


One of the meat processors that SCR helps make more efficient is Cloverdale Foods in Mandan, North Dakota.

Cloverdale has been around for more than 100 years and has significantly upped its meat processing capacity in recent years.

Plant manager Justin Brotzler said about five years ago, Cloverdale was processing about 600,000 to 770,000 pounds of meat a week. Now they are processing about 1 million pounds per week.

The company has gone from about 350 employees to about 500, not up with the "Big Four" meatpackers but well above the local meat locker.

One of its new product lines is "Tangy Snackers," a summer sausage snack stick launched in 2022.

"We just got into the snack stick business. They were able to design a nice work station conveyor for us that allows the product to stay organized and actually flips the product for easy inspection. That just creates way less manual work than trying to visually inspect each of them individually or flip them individually," Brotzler said.

Requiring less physical labor of employees helps Cloverdale retain workers, too, Spotzler said.


"There's less and less people that want to show up for a tough manual job everyday," Spotzler said.

Sikkink said SCR stands for safe, clean and reliable, standards prized in the food industry, not just meat processing.

SCR has moved beyond just the meat processing, working on automating systems for other foods, especially convenience items, such as frozen egg rolls and pizzas.

"Full-meal solutions is becoming bigger and bigger," Sikkink said. "One of the big projects we've got going right now is taking French loaves of bread, slicing them down … and putting the butter and garlic and then packaging those out.

"There's a lot of food production going on."