After Shutting Down 4 Plants, Tyson Foods Debuts Advanced, Automatic $300M Poultry Processing Facility

Peyton Plankton
By Peyton Plankton
Tyson Foods' new high-tech automated Danville, Virginia poultry processing plant. Source: Tyson Foods

Tyson Foods, a major player in the food industry, recently marked the grand opening of its advanced $300 million poultry plant in Danville, Virginia, showcasing a significant step in its technological and operational advancements.

Located in the southern city of Danville, the sprawling facility covers 325,000 square feet and stands as a testament to Tyson Foods’ commitment to innovation in poultry processing. The grand opening of this plant, which focuses on producing fully-cooked Tyson-brand chicken products, comes more than two years after the Arkansas-headquartered company first announced its plans for the development of this state-of-the-art site.

One of the most notable features of the Danville facility is its impressive array of automation technology. It boasts 13 high-speed automated case packing lines and five advanced robotic case palletizing units, positioning it as one of Tyson Foods’ most automated plants in their extensive network. In a significant technological leap, the facility also introduces the “first at-scale integration of wearable armband devices,” a move aimed at enhancing worker health, safety, and productivity.

Tyson's new Danville facility boasts 13 high-speed automated case packing lines and five high-speed robotic case palletizing units. Source: Tyson Foods

Wes Morris, Group President of Poultry at Tyson Foods, emphasized the role of technology in elevating the company’s operational capabilities. “The combination of our team and technology at Danville will strengthen our ability to better meet demand for retail and foodservice fully cooked Tyson brand products,” Morris stated. He further highlighted that “The Danville plant incorporates the latest technology that brings real-time intelligence to our processes, products and workplace experience for team members.”

Wearable Tech at the Forefront of Tyson's New Automated Plant

Tyson Foods’ newly inaugurated automated facility in Danville not only signifies a leap in production efficiency but also showcases a suite of advanced technologies aimed at ensuring product safety and enhancing worker welfare.

Wes Morris, President of Poultry Group for Tyson Foods

At the heart of the plant’s operations is a sophisticated production inspection process, which includes the use of metal detection and X-ray vision grading. This high-tech approach is integral to Tyson’s commitment to delivering products of the highest quality and safety standards to its customers.

Tyson has implemented wearable armband devices at the Danville plant, marking the company’s first large-scale integration of such technology.

These devices are equipped with sensors that provide crucial environmental data to safety managers, thereby helping to identify and mitigate potential risks to worker health, safety, and productivity.

This initiative is supported by Tyson Ventures, the venture capital division of Tyson Foods, which has invested in cutting-edge wearable technology. 

In 2021, Tyson Ventures backed Iterate Labs, a company specializing in wearable technology. Tyson has also been an initial investor in Mentore, a smartwatch application.

Tyson Plans To Invest $1.3 Billion Into Automating More Facilities

In a broader strategy to modernize its operations, Tyson indicated in late 2021 its plan to invest $1.3 billion over three years in automation technology across its facilities. This initiative aims to enhance production capacity, efficiency, and value creation across the company’s operations.

The Danville plant isn’t just a technological marvel; it’s also a significant contributor to the local economy, creating nearly 400 new jobs.

Once fully operational, the facility is expected to produce around 4 million pounds of fully-cooked chicken products each week. Among the products to be manufactured here are popular items like Any’tizer Snacks and Chicken Nuggets.

This new addition to Tyson Foods’ infrastructure is part of a larger network that includes 150 facilities across four segments – beef, pork, chicken, and prepared foods – as reported in the company’s latest annual report.

In the fiscal year 2023, Tyson Foods, which also owns some of the world’s fastest growing protein brands, including Tyson, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, Ball Park, Wright, Aidells and State Fair, reported a staggering \$52.88 billion in sales. The protein processing giant has over 140,000 employees worldwide.

Tyson Shut Down 4 Plants This Year

The opening of the new plant is bittersweet to the Tyson employees that were laid off only a few months when the meat giant announced the closure of four chicken plants in the United States as part of its cost-cutting measures.

In August, Tyson Foods revealed plans to shut down its facilities located in North Little Rock, Arkansas; Corydon, Indiana; Dexter, Missouri; and Noel, Missouri. The operations from these sites will be transferred to newer locations, strategically closer to the company’s customer base. 

Tyson Foods CEO Donnie King explained the rationale behind this decision, stating, “The difficult decision to close four chicken facilities… demonstrates our commitment to bold action and operational excellence as we drive performance, including lower costs and improving capacity utilization, and build on our strategy of making Tyson Foods stronger in the long-term.”

Donnie King, Tyson Foods President & CEO

This announcement follows Tyson’s April declaration of reducing its workforce, including cutting approximately 10% of corporate jobs and 15% of senior leadership roles. The company also mentioned laying off corporate employees in Chicago and South Dakota who chose not to relocate to Tyson’s headquarters in Arkansas.

Further highlighting the company’s operational challenges, in April, about 150 employees at a Tyson Foods chicken plant in Van Buren, Arkansas, initiated a strike demanding better treatment. Subsequently, on May 12, Tyson permanently shut down the facility, affecting 969 employees.

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