Cattle Calls for a Different Breed of Camera Housing

A large-scale beef producer leverages a remote video auditing program at several of its North American processing facilities to ensure food safety techniques. A security integrator is called on to implement special measures to protect the IP-based camera systems from harsh environmental conditions.

Crews Work Demanding SchedulesA video monitor in JBS headquarters shows a plant worker processing cattle. Monitors like this are also located in all of the beef plants’ remote video auditing (RVA) viewing rooms.

The integration team consisted of an eight- to 10-person crew made up of a project manager, lead technician, and assistants who were Level 2 and Level 1 technicians. The crew was split into two teams that worked consecutive shifts during a plant’s overnight sanitation shift as well as weekends.

Along with the challenging environment in which the cameras were to operate was a second hurdle for the technicians:   Beef plants do not stop operating to implement projects such as the RVA program. This required the integrator team to work around each plant’s operating schedule. In many cases, technicians had to begin working on Saturday after the sanitation and maintenance work ended around 11 p.m.

The technicians would break out into two teams, covering two shifts. The first shift of four workers would run cables and conduit, install cameras and integrate servers beginning on Saturday night. The next shift of four to five technicians would pick up early Sunday morning and work until Sunday afternoon. 

Sometimes the team could tackle its work during the week after the sanitation and maintenance shift had deep-cleaned an area. On weekdays, the sanitation and maintenance shift began cleaning and repairs at 11 p.m. The technicians would have to wait until approximately 1 a.m. for an area to dry out enough to begin installation. Even then, there was still some steam and water present. The integrator team had to work very efficiently in each area because the maintenance and sanitation team would return a few hours later — prior to the start of the first shift of the day at 7 a.m. — to perform another light cleaning.

Solution Had to Solve Corrosion Issues

JBS contracted di
rectly with NetPlanner Systems for conduit, Ethernet cable, Moog Videolarm IP camera enclosures, camera brackets and power supplies, including an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). As the integrator team began its work, it realized some of the IP cameras were outside the 295-feet limit of Ethernet cabling and network hardware.

Most of the JBS plants did not have an Ethernet switch close enough to the desired location for a camera. So the integrator team added an intermediate distribution frame (IDF) and cabinet in some plants. JBS supplied the team with Cisco 3550 power over Ethernet (PoE) switches. The integrator team chose 24- or 48-port switches, depending on the size of the IDF and the expectations JBS had for growing the infrastructure beyond the 10 to 12 cables installed initially. The team of integrators put in place approximately 180 pressurized, polycarbonate plastic camera enclosures and Arecont Vision IP cameras. They also ran about 40,000 feet of Category-6 Ethernet cable and 40,000 feet of 16-gauge wire to power the heaters and blowers inside the pressurized camera enclosures.

A critical piece of the RVA program was ensuring the successful operation of the cameras, of course. Not all food plants employ the heavy cleaning and sanitation practices of large beef plants. But these practices ensure that workers and beef are safe and the food process creates a quality product. The design and integrator team believed protecting the equipment from the presence of dust, USDA-approved cleaners, high temperatures, steam and high-pressure water required a pressurized camera enclosure.

A few months after the integrator team installed cameras at the first of the eight plants, a challenge arose. High-pressure water, steam and cleaning agents were already corroding the powder-coated attachment leading up to the camera enclosures as well as the pressurized, polycarbonate camera enclosures. Corrosion was causing cameras to lose pressure, get wet and, consequently, go offline. The conduit and polycarbonate plastic camera enclosures were functioning according to the specifications they were built for, but the environment was affecting the equipment in a way nobody predicted.

“It’s difficult to set up a camera in the environment of the kill floor,” says Ruby.  “We believe Moog and NetPlanner came up with an improved design, so the system would not have as much potential failure.”

A JBS beef plant worker as seen from an IP camera mounted in a processing facility. Norcross, Ga.-based NetPlanner Systems provided all the camera system hardware as well as networking gear to an NVR for multiple facilities.The cleaning soda and high PSI was more than the plastic protecting the surveillance products could take; in the span of a few months, the enclosures were aging the equivalent of years, explains Sean Gaffey, technical sales engineer for Moog Videolarm. “NetPlanner contacted us to begin some R&D to solve the problem.”

Each dome also had a “pigtail” leading to the dome and camera inside. On top of the dome was a fixed pin connector with Ethernet and power cables running through it. Initially, the pigtail was only 12 inches long, and the integrator team’s conduit design made this a splice point with jacks, patch cables and wire nuts. Inside the conduit, moisture from water and steam were affecting the unprotected splice point. So Moog developed a 10-foot pigtail to put distance between the cleaning agents and the splice. The integrator team then returned to the plant, replaced the camera domes, swapped the 12-inch pigtails with new 10-foot versions and terminated and spliced the wire in a NEMA-rated box.

Moog engineers further studied the plant’s environment and performed additional tests on a camera enclosure from the Green Bay plant. The engineers designed and then recommended an IP67-rated, nonpressurized stainless-steel FusionDome to fit over the cameras. The dome included a 24VAC heater and blower with thermostat. And the dome’s anti-corrosive material could withstand the temperatures, high-pressure water and cleaning agents inside the beef plants. The dome also came preinstalled with a 10-foot pigtail with a potted or molded connector to resolve the earlier problem related to the splice inside the conduit.

By May 2010, the initial installation was complete. The integrator team went on to put in place the RVA program at JBS plants in Greeley, Colo., Souderton, Pa., and Brooks, Alberta, Canada. The ensuing work required an additional 30 to 40 cameras and camera enclosures per plant, as well as the accompanying cabling, conduit and networking gear. The price tag for installing the system at each plant was in the low-mid six figures.

“Since the initial reduction in our pathogen level, we’ve seen our numbers hold steady,” says Ruby. “Auditing the process with the RVA program helps us help our workers perform at their best.”

Bryan Lefebvre is an account manager with NetPlanner Systems, Inc. He can be reached at

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