When the coronavirus epidemic broke out, it was good that Marel had built up an extensive service network and had experts available on all continents. “As a result, it was easier for us to help our customers keep everything going and thus ensure the supply of safe, quality food to consumers,” says Valdimar , Head of Product Development. “Our role in this important value chain is to ensure that our customers can operate at full capacity, and our international service network enabled us to perform maintenance and repairs in a normal manner, despite the disruption of international air travel and the closure of borders.”
Marels’ operations are growing steadily and the company has many interesting projects in the pipeline. In recent months, the delivery of a comprehensive system for large-scale salmon processing in Norway is on the rise. “We have had a very good collaboration with the fish processing company Inka in this project and exciting product development has taken place during the design and construction of the processing system,” says Valdimar. “For the first time, it is possible to let the salmon go through the processing in an almost automatic way. After decapitation and filleting, the fillets go into an automatic quality control system that evaluates each fillet and piece and the human hand does not come close unless the automatic quality assessment detects that minor defects need to be fixed.
Marel provides the entire processing system and the process is technologically advanced from start to finish: from the time the gutted salmon arrives at home until the robot arranges the pieces in consumer packages. “We deliver solutions that have proven themselves around the world in combination with new product development projects. We develop all our solutions in close collaboration with our customers and this project is a good example of that, “explains Valdimar. “With an automated quality control system where all final products are inspected and evaluated, Inka can assure its buyers that they are always getting quality products.”
Automation to ensure operational security
The new salmon processing should be able to create better conditions for the processing of farmed salmon in Norway, but due to high labor costs in that country, it is common today that after slaughter, Norwegian farmed salmon is sent for further processing in countries south and east of the continent. By automating the processing as the Inca has done, fewer hands are needed to process the salmon at the same time as maximum quality is guaranteed. “Instead of tedious and monotonous work in, for example, trimming and packaging, jobs will be created for specialists who monitor the equipment and ensure that all machines work as they should,” adds Valdimar.
The coronary heart disease epidemic has been a major challenge for the global food industry, and Valdimar says the constant supply of safe food has never been as important as it is now. It is likely that the epidemic will further accelerate technological progress in the food sector, as the epidemic has shown that a certain level of operational security lies in automated processing processes. Valdimar says that in the most technologically advanced sectors, such as fisheries and poultry farming, problems with the crown virus have been rare, but in the slaughter and processing of large animals – where the level of technology is lower – there has been a disruption of production due to group infections. “Manufacturers are faced today with the need to evaluate the benefits of automation based on more assumptions than before.”
More sustainability and new thinking in maintenance
The technological advances that have taken place in the fishing industry over the past three decades are like a fairy tale. Technology companies have consistently been able to develop new and ingenious ways to maximize quality, performance and utilization so that some may find it difficult to do much better. Valdimar says that Marels’ goals have not really changed in the 40 years that the company has been operating. From the beginning, Marels’ vision has been to transform global food processing with innovation and data analysis as a weapon to increase utilization and quality.
There is still a long way to go and various challenges await, and Valdimar Marel says, for example, that he now places great emphasis on ways to make processing more sustainable by minimizing the use of electricity and water in fish processing and maximizing utilization, whether in filleting, skinning, water cutting or weighing accuracy in a box. “Automatic cosmetics and cutting equipment will continue to make progress so that an increasing proportion of fillets can pass through production lines without human intervention.”Valdimar also says that it is expected that processing equipment will talk more together and collect data that can be analyzed in a haze. “The FleXicut water-cutting machine, for example, communicates with the front trim line and points out fillets or bones that have not been trimmed, and the data is used to” train “the trim staff and thus further improve processing.”
Data collection and analysis will also help a lot with maintenance. “Instead of approaching maintenance from a preventive perspective, it will be possible to use so-called predictive maintenance, where we use the Internet of Things (IoT) to assess the condition of components and switch them out at the right time, and thus we can minimize the chances of unexpected disruptions. “