Production Efficiency

Designing the Mechanical Buffalo Scissor Lift tractor 



Collecting fresh fruit bunches (FFB) is one of the most labour intensive tasks in our estates, especially because palm oil plantations are often on difficult terrain and notoriously difficult for trucks to travel through. To improve the efficiency of the process, Sime Darby Plantation’s R&D team partnered with the research team that leads on design thinking in agricultural tools and processes at MIT. 

Together with MIT, we conducted studies that showed the opportunities for productivity improvement that could be captured by simplifying the fruit collection process. In the previous process, one team of plantation workers collected the harvested fruit bunches, and another team manually gathered any fallen loose fruits. The fruit was gathered in three tonne bins, then aggregated in ten tonne bins and sent on to the mill. We found that combining these processes reduced the overall time in getting the fruit to the mills. 

So, working with MIT’s mechanical engineering teams, we designed a Mechanical Buffalo Scissor Lift, purpose-built for our estates. It’s compact, easy to drive, and agile, and can manage the conditions of the estate. It allows us to simplify the collection process, gathering the bunches and taking them directly to ten tonne bins.

In the areas where it’s deployed, it has resulted in halving the number of vehicles required to transport our oil palm bunches to the mill. And, because it speeds up the process, it also has the benefit of allowing less time for the build up of fatty acids that diminish the quality of the oil  before it arrives at the mill.
 
 

Through this project, we have been able to reduce the cost of fruit collection per hectare, created a safer and healthier environment for our workers, and made valuable improvements to the quality of our oil. And now we’ve licensed the design so that the manufacturer can produce it as an affordable tool to improve productivity among others in the industry. 

Innovating for continuous improvement across all our operational practices can have tremendous impact on productivity and therefore on yield for ourselves and, we hope, for the industry.
 


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